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Building a Vinyl Fence

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With this how-to guide from America’s Fence Store, building a vinyl fence on your own is easier than ever. Follow our informative directions to learn how to cut, build, and install your vinyl fence at your home or business.

Objective:  By mastering this lesson, you will be able to build a vinyl fence that is both pleasing to the eye and functional.

Equipment:  Saw-zall, rubber mallet, drill with screw driver heads, screws, level, portable table saw with plastics blade, screw driver, color-safe cleaner, rags, emery cloth, notching tool, and vinyl glue

Key Questions:

  1. How do I cut vinyl?
  2. How do I provide for a slope in the field?
  3. How do build a picket fence?
  4. How do I build a solid or closed top fence?
  5. How do I install lattice?
  6. How do I hang the gates?

How do I cut vinyl? 

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Vinyl fencing is a rigid form of plastic.  Consequently, when you attempting to cut with a wood blade, you can expect the materials will crack and pop around the blade.  This will leave a very jagged edge with pits and cracks along the cut.  But, more importantly, this is a very dangerous endeavor, with vinyl pieces shattering and flying around that could cause an eye injury or severe cut.   The best way to cut vinyl fencing is to use a blade specially designed for cutting plastics.  Typically, this is a blade with smaller teeth spaced closely together. 

buildingvinyl-4.jpgIf you need to cut a pocket for a profile or to increase the size of a profile to provide for a slope; use a Dremel or Roto-Zip type tool that uses an abrasive tip or a tip designed to cut plastics.  Always use a straight edge clamped to the materials to run the Roto-Zip along when cutting.  It is almost impossible to control these high-speed tools by hand; and a slight deviation in your cut will be noticeable.

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How do I provide for a slope in the field?  

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Your typical vinyl fence will only slope 5%.  Over 5% slope, you may have to make some field adjustments in your post pockets, rail pockets and picket lengths.  First, start with your rail pockets to get the rails installed between the posts.

  1. If the slope is so severe that you are unable to get the rail into the standard post pockets, place the rail parallel to the existing grade and flush along the side the post. 
  2. With the rail in place, use the post as a guide and scribe a line down the height of the rail.
  3. Measure your line.  This measurement represents the height of the rail pocket necessary to insert the rail. 
  4. Using a straight edge, draw the taller pocket along the existing rail pocket.
  5. Using a Roto-Zip, carefully and accurately cut the larger pocket into the post.  You will need to clamp a straight edge to guide the arbor of your Roto-Zip to assure a straight cut.

Once the rails are in place, you may need to make special provisions to get the pickets in place. 

  1. If you have a picket fence, slide the rail through the top rail into the bottom rail.  If you are unable to keep the picket plumb, you may have to field cut the bottom of the top rail out to accommodate the slope. 
  2. Place the picket alongside the rail, aligned with the top hole. 
  3. Keeping the picket aligned with the top rail, swing the picket so that it is plumb. 
  4. Mark on the bottom of the top rail where the picket would need to come through to be plumb. 
  5. Using your Roto-zip, cut the picket hole larger in the rail to accommodate the plumb picket.
  6.  If you have a solid fence that uses the tongue and groove pickets, you will have to cut the pickets to accommodate for the slope.
  7. Trim each edge of the picket with a Roto-Zip or Skilsaw with a plastic blade.
  8. You may discover that even though you have cut one edge of the picket, the other square edge of the picket is not fully covered by the rail.  This is a result of a severe slope.  The only solution is to use full length materials and custom cut each picket. 

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buildingvinyl-8.gifHow do I build a picket fence? 

This is one of the easiest installations in fencing.  However, if you do not follow these important steps, you will find yourself returning to the project to repair or replace the fence. 

  1. Install the rails.  Make sure that both ends of the rail are fully notched. 
  2. Make sure that both notches slide into the post and release on the inside of the post, preventing the rail from being removed.  If this does not occur, the rail may slide out of the post over time.
  3. Installing the pickets.  Make sure that both ends of the picket are fully notched. 
  4. Slide the picket through the top rail into the bottom rail, locking it in place.
  5. Pull on the picket to assure that it does not come out.  If it does re-notch the picket. 

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How do I build a solid or closed top fence? 

Install your bottom rail similar to the rails on a picket fence.  The balance of the installation changes at this point.

  1. Install one side of the top rail. 
  2. Insert your first picket on the side where you installed the top rail.
  3. Slowly bring the rail down on top of the picket, capturing it in place.
  4. Repeat this with the remaining pickets.

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How do I install lattice? 

Lattice comes in 4’ x 8’ sheets.  It is cut in the shop to accommodate the selected fence style. 

  1. After completing the installation of the rails and pickets, place your lattice panel in between the posts and parallel to the top rail.
  2. Run a pencil along the edge of the post across the lattice. 
  3. Cut the lattice at the marks with a skilsaw. 
  4. Insert the lattice into the bottom rail.
  5. Much like installing pickets, insert one end of the top rail into the post and slowly bring the rail down, inserting the lattice into the rail slot. 

How do I hang the gates? 

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Once you buy or make a vinyl fence gate, the next step is to install or hang it on your fence. All vinyl gates are hung off of vinyl gate posts that have a steel insert inside.  The insert is an angle that covers two sides of the post.  This is necessary for both structural reasons and because vinyl hinges attach to the post on two sides. 

  1. When setting your hinge post, make sure that the one leg of the insert faces the opening and the other leg of the insert faces the side where the gate will swing out.  
  2. Screw your hinges to the gate post approximately 6” from the bottom and 6” from the top.  Be careful not to strip-out the material.
  3. Screw your hinges to the gate frame.
  4. Adjust your hinges by moving the nuts on the post side of the hinge.  This will allow you to adjust your gap spacing.
  5. Attach your latch. 

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© 2018 The American Fence Company. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only. Commercial use, copying or distribution is prohibited without express written permission from The American Fence Company.

© 2018 The American Fence Company. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only. Commercial use, copying or distribution is prohibited without express written permission from The American Fence Company.