High tensile fence has several advantages over other types of fence. It is easier to work with than barb wire, (something I consider a curse upon the earth after having wound up what seemed like miles and miles of it) and easier to construct and maintain then woven wire. It is also cheaper to build.
There are a couple things to consider before beginning with your own fence. One pertains to fencing in general, the other to high tensile in particular.
1. While a fence may appear to be made of metal and wood, with a little plastic thrown in, it is mostly made of blood sweat and tears. And I mean that very literally . In my fencing career I have gained scars from the wounds, lost weight while still eating huge meals of very fattening foods, and sat down on the dirt and bawled out of pure frustration. Unless you are paying someone else to build your fence , plan for these three things to be a big part of your life. Do not undertake this if you are not willing to work very hard. You will go to bed at night with every bone and muscle aching, only to wake up and do it all again the next day and the next.
Enough with the Johnny Raincloud though. It is very worth it in the end. You’ll be glad you did it.
2. High Tensile is a mental barrier not a a physical one. This fence will only keep your animals in if you keep it properly maintained. Trim weeds regularly, tighten wires as needed, and walk the fence often to check for shorts like trees branches. Test it to be sure you have a strong currant. The animals can easily plow though the fence if they want to. Make sure they don’t want to. And put them where the grass is. They’ll stay in much better if they have plenty to eat. We had a sheep who could not be kept in the fence because when she was a lamb, we put her out in a field with fence that was not hooked up to the electric. She got so used to going through, that even when the electric was on, she continued to be a nuisance. You will need to train the animals by making sure the fence is very hot their first time out.
So while high tensile is the most affordable option for fencing, it does require quite a bit of time both while building and throughout it’s lifetime.
Now to meat of the matter.
We use metal t-posts in between the braces. In flat country, you can go great distances between posts, but here in the hills of Kentucky we put them closer together, about seven or eight steps (12′-15′) apart. You don’t want them too close, because one of the advantages of high tensile is the “rubber band effect”. If a tree falls on the fence, the wire will stretch down to the ground, but spring back up, unbroken, after the tree is removed. If the posts are too close together (or if the wire is over tightened), you lose this handy trait.
There are some points we have discovered along the way, that make for a straighter, stronger fence. It is sometimes hard to remember them all, and so not every brace we build is perfect, especially at the end of a long day.
- Build the braces two at a time. Set the corner posts, then stretch one of the lower fence wires, complete with insulators and a wire strainer, and tighten it just enough to get a straight line, but not so much much that you can’t pull it back out of the way while the inside post holes are being dug. This way, you can be sure the inside posts are set in the right place, so that the brace is pointing the right direction, and the wires will not be putting pressure on the inside post once they are tightened.
- Set the posts with gravel. We used to use the dirt from the hole, but gravel is much faster and much more secure. Dirt must be carefully tamped down with a thin stick, gravel can simply be shoveled in.
- Don’t set the inside post until the horizontal brace is up. This way you have more wiggle room to get everything to fit.
- Staple all the insulators down before you tighten the wires, or it will be hard to position them, and they may split.
- Make the cross wire run in a figure eight. This way it interferes less with fence wires. Make sure the strainer ends up on the back side of the brace for the same reason.
- Slide on extra sort insulators in case one breaks or you need to slip them between the cross-wire and fence wire to keep them from touching. This happens most often on the top and bottom wires, as the figure eight is wider at these points.
- Use a “Story Stick”, a stick with the desired position of the fence wires marked on it, to figure out where to drill the holes for the brace pins. The horizontal brace should sit between the top two wires. When using the story stick, make sure it sits on level ground. This may require digging away some of the dirt or gravel around the base of the post.
- Make sure the cross-wire is slanted the correct way. We once did several incorrectly, so that they were pulling the corner post over, instead of bracing it back! Oops. Just remember it should be UP on the inside post, and DOWN on the corner post.
- When you pound in the metal t-posts, start in the middle of a stretch, not by a brace. This will make it straighter. If you work end to end, its is more likely they will get slightly out of line. Start in the middle, then go to the middle of each half, and so on.
- PUT THE WIRE STRAINERS IN THE MIDDLE OF A STRETCH, NOT BY A BRACE. That way, the tension is equally divided on each side of the wire strainer. Also realize, the fence will stretch over time, and every year you will tighten it more, so leave room for the wire strainers to move quite a bit. Don’t pound in a metal post right by them.
- Wire cutters
- Strainer handle for tightening all wires
- Post hole digger
- Fencing pliers for pulling out staples that were nailed in wrong. Believe me it will happen.
- Cordless drill with 1/2″ bit long enough to drill through the 6″ inside brace post.
- Chainsaw. This will only be needed if you have to adjust the length of the horizontal brace. If the hole for the inside post is carefully dug, you should not need to trim the horizontal brace.
- Spinning Jenny, for dispensing the roll of wire
How to estimate the cost:
Each corner brace will cost about $105.20
3 6″x8′ posts, $42
2 4″x8′ posts, $14
8 wire strainers, (one for each cross-wire, and one for each fence wire) $24
12 long insulators, $12
24 short insulators, $2.40
18 Staples, $1.80
2 10″ brace pins $2.00
2 5″ brace pins, $1.00
Each end brace (for gates) will cost about $87.50
This is assuming you buy the wood posts. We save a lot of money, (and have a rip roaring good time!) by cutting our own cedar posts.
Now, what is a little more difficult to figure; wire will cost about $ .03/foot.
So, figure out how many feet of fence you need (x), and multiply that by 6, since you need six wires: 6x=a Multiply a by .03: .03a =b
You will also need one 6′ metal t-post and six clip-on insulators ($5.21) for every 12-15′ feet of wire. We’ll say 12, to make things simpler.
To figure the cost of t-posts plus insulators, divide x by 12: x/12 = c
and multiply c by 5.21: 5.21c = d
So the wire, t-posts and insulators will cost b + d = e (for Exhausted. That’s how I feel after all that math. Yuck.) The last time I had to use Algebra was for learning how to knit a custom heel on a sock. When in school, I firmly believed that crap would never be something to use in (my) real life.
Okay, to estimate the whole total cost of the fence (drum-roll), you need to draw a picture, so you know how many corner braces and end braces you need, and then figure out how many feet of fence you need, and just add up the cost from there. Let me refresh you on the numbers:
Corner Braces, $105.20 each
End Braces, $87.50 each
Wire, $.03/foot times 6
T-posts and clip-on insulators, $5.21 for every 12 feet of fence.
So this example, which has four corner braces and one end brace:
would cost $802.77
A handy tool you can use is Google Maps. Here you can estimate how may feet of fence you will need.
This is the new pasture we just finished building last week. Using the numbers I gave you above, a pasture this size (and shape!) would cost $2335.93 if you bought the posts, and $1663.93 if you cut your own posts. This is reasonably close to what we spent, so I think my calculations are pretty accurate, and you can use this info to be sure you are prepared for the expense of building. Happy fencing!