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Fences have a variety of uses, and come in many different shapes, designs, and materials. The materials and shapes will be dependent upon the use of the fence. Fences have different purposes, whether they are used as a screen for privacy, to protect from wind, or to create shade from sun.

Wooden fences often make the most attractive and useful forms. Although, a new trend is creating fences of corrugated sheet metal because they can withstand rot. These also come in many colorful designs. This material is heavier, though, so it is often a good idea to build them in a zigzag pattern to stand up against the wind.

Most fences are prone to rot at the ground line. This is a place that experiences alternating wet and dry conditions, which can harm the life of the fence. Woods that withstand rot the best are California redwood, southern cypress, white cedar, red locust, and arbor vitae.

It is often recommended to paint the wood of a fence with preservatives to help prolong and protect the wood. This will only help if the paint actually penetrates into the wood. A post that has been machine-creosoted will resist rot, but a hand-creosoted post will not. You can do a fairly good job though by painting three coats of a good preservative onto a clean, dry and unpainted wood.

Commercial wood preservatives include pentachlorphenol, copper napthenate, and zinc napthenate. The copper is a greenish color while the zinc is clear. There are many places on the fence that are prone to rotting over others. For instance the place where the post hits the ground and any place where two boards are nailed together are more likely to rot. These places should be treated before the fence is put together. This allows the fence to last longer than if you wait to paint it until after the fence is up.

Fence posts need to be set deep enough into the ground to resist the winds, typically at least 2 feet deep or more. Heavy posts need to be set in concrete. The posts need to be tamped into place so they will not wiggle or shift. Any hardware that is used needs to be galvanized.

Fence designs include picket, post and rail, and a hurdle fence. If the desire is for screening and privacy, the louvered and lattice fences are even more popular options. If you decide on a post and rail fence, the posts need to be set at 10 foot intervals that have large slots cut into them. Then, the 11-foot long rails can be tapered to the flat ends that are inserted into the posts. The hurdle fence features split rails that are built into a split frame, and then nailed together. The end piece of each panel is the posts.

The traditional white picket fence features posts placed at 8 to 12 feet apart.  The rails need to be 3 by 4 inches and pickets that are 2 by 3 inches wide, and they need to be pointed at the top. Pickets need to be 2 inches off the ground at the bottom, and need to be higher than the top rail. A fence similar to the picket is the spindle fence, featuring round spindles that pass through holes in the rails.

When it comes to using fencing for screening there are many variations to choose from. You can alternate a broad rail with a narrow rail. The boards can also be applied vertically, staggering the boards on the side of the rail. Using a louver design by slanting the boards, will add a nice screen for privacy while allowing air and sunlight through.

A basket weave fence is a great idea that can be made from thin and flexible boards. It creates a total screening for your setting, as well as creates a beautiful backdrop for planting. This type of fence may be difficult to build on your own.