Building a fence doesn't change all that much if you decide to use post spikes. You still need to go through a lot of upfront work. However, you will likely still need step-by-step instructions to be sure you get everything right the first time.
Learn more about fence post spikes before getting started.
Step 1 - Get Ready
Determine where your property line is (you may want to get your lot surveyed) and check with your local municipality to see if you need a permit to build your fence. Also contact all your local utilities (water, gas, cable, telephone) and ask them to come out and mark where their lines run on your property. This is a free service, but you'll probably need to give the utilities two or three days to respond before you can start digging. Besides being required by law, it just makes sense because you sure don't want to dig into a buried gas or power line. The North American One Call Referral service (1-888-258-0808) can provide you with a listing of all your local utility companies.
Mark where you want to put each one of your fence posts—try to position them about eight feet apart—and then run a string from post to post find out if there are any issues because of existing rocks, shrubs, or trees.
Step 2 - Install the Posts
Start at a corner and drive the first spike into the ground at the marked location. It's easier to put a short section of fence post (five or six inches) into the metal box and hit it with the sledgehammer to drive in the post. This will protect the metal box and also make it easier on your hands when driving the spike in (metal on wood rather than metal on metal).
If you are using straight spikes, stop and check several times that the spike is going into the ground "straight." If you're using the adjustable spikes, this isn't as much of a worry, but you do want the post spike to be relatively straight into the ground.
Once the spike is in the ground and the metal box is the only thing visible, install the wooden post. Then, move to the next corner post and install the spike and wooden post there, again ensuring it's straight. Run a string between the outside of the two corner posts. This will mark your positioning for the remaining posts along that side.
Following the same process, install the posts between the two corners, keeping them straight and inside the string line.
Step 3 - Install the Fence Rails
Once the posts are in place, you can attach your fence rails. The easiest way to do this is to use specialized fencing clips (available at any home store). These clips nail directly into the fence post and have a "pocket" that the rails slide into.
Start by positioning the bottom rail a few inches above the lip of the meal box. Attach a clip to one post and put the rail in it. Hold the rail against the other post, and when it is level, mark the positioning of the clip on that post, and nail it in.
With the bottom rail finished, measure up the exact same distance on each post and attach the top rail. Measuring accurately will ensure that the top rail is parallel with the bottom.
Step 4 – Attach Fence Boards
Fasten your fence boards to the rails using galvanized nails. A compressor nail gun will make this job a lot easier, or you could use screws and a screw gun. Use a spacer between the fence boards before fastening them to be sure the gap between them is consistent. Also, stretch a string between posts to serve as a guide for the tops of the fence boards.
Finish off your fence by installing post caps to protect the open-end grain of your posts and give your fence a finished appearance.
As you can see, using fence post spikes doesn't turn building a fence into a simple afternoon project. However, they do eliminate some of the really heavy physical work involved with digging the holes and setting the posts in concrete. So, if building a fence is in your future, post spikes are an option you should consider.
Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer with articles published in both the United States and Canada. He has written on a wide range of topics, but specializes in home maintenance and how to's.