Galvanized metal fence posts are more sturdy than wooden ones, and they don't rot, so it makes sense to incorporate them into your wooden fence -- especially if you're converting your chain-link fence into a wooden one to get more privacy. Building a wooden fence with metal posts isn't as difficult as it sounds, because you can buy brackets that make hiding the posts and attaching the fencing a simple matter. The finished fence looks like it has wooden posts, but it will last many years longer.
The Key to the Conversion
The brackets you need to make the conversion are available at most home and garden centers as well as fencing suppliers. Some are manufactured by the same companies that make joist hangers, post holders and other steel connectors. Fence brackets fit around a standard 1 5/8- or 2 3/8-inch galvanized post. Some clamp in place by means of a tension bolt, while others simply fit over the post and are secured once the wood fencing is in place.
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Setting the Posts
If you're converting from a chain-link to a wooden fence, you don't have to worry about setting posts -- they should already be supported in concrete and spaced approximately 8 feet apart. If you're setting new posts, use ones that are long enough to allow you to sink them a third of their total length into the ground. Space them 8 feet apart or closer. The tops of the posts can be slightly lower than the finished height of the fence.
Wrapping the Posts
If you prefer the look of an all-wood fence, you can use special brackets that allow you to wrap the metal posts with lumber to completely conceal them. Secure the brackets to each post, then screw vertical two-by-fours to the wings of the brackets to box in the sides of the post. You can then cover the back of the box with one-by-six or two-by-six lumber. The front sides of the brackets will be covered by the fence planks. Cover the top ends of the post boxes with a horizontal decorative top rail or with individual post caps that are peaked to shed water.
Leave a 1-inch gap between the bottom of the wrapping material and the ground to allow water to drain and to prevent rot.
Install the Fencing
Whether you construct the actual fence before or after you wrap the posts, the brackets make the job a simple one. The fence rails -- typically two-by-fours attached with their faces against the brackets -- get screwed in place. Screw the fence planks to the rails, and -- except for the gate -- you're done.
Construct the Gate
To take advantage of the strength of the galvanized post on the hinge-side of the gate, you should attach the gate to it with the same gate hinges you would use with a chain-link fence gate. First construct a metal gate frame, using thinner steel pipes than you used for the posts, to reduce the weight of the gate. Assemble the frame pieces with galvanized steel corner brackets. Hang the gate frame to the post hinges, then drill holes through the top and bottom rail of the frame and attach wooden rails with carriage bolts. Finish off the gate by screwing fence planks to the rails.