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Build A Wooden Picket Fence With Your Own Two Hands (Step-By-Step Guide)

Building a fence has widely considered to be one of the most sure-fire ways to increase the value of your home. 

 

Wooden Picket Fence

 

A recent survey by SunTrust indicated that 33% of millennials’ decision to buy their first home was influenced by yard space and their ability to have an area for their pet

 

With Millennials being the largest group of current first-time home buyers, the idea of a white-picket fence dream home isn't going away any time soon. 

 

Not to mention an outdoor fence can be one of the easiest way to increase privacy and protection for your yard. 

 

With that in mind, let's get started!

 

Preparation

You've decided to build a fence, the first decision you'll need to make is the type of fence you'd like. 

 

Generally speaking, you can choose from wood, chainlink, aluminum, vynl, and wrought iron.

 

Each type has it's own advantages and costs considerations. 

 

Unsure of what type is right for you? Homelight has a great article which goes over each type of fence, its cost estimates and advantages

 

For the sake of simplicity, this article will go over how to build a wooden picket fence, but the concepts here should help regardless of your choice. 

 

Materials Required

 

When selecting your wood, we recommend cedar, as it can last upwards of 40 years if properly maintained. Pine, cedar, and even redwood are also valid options. 

 

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: One Day Or Longer

 

Step 1: Plan Out Your Fence

For starters, you'll want to identify where your property line ends. You can do this by contacting your local assessor. Map out this area with marking flags every 8 inches or so to have a visual understanding of the area you're working with. 

 

Next, identify how tall your fence can be according to local regulations or your home association. Fencing law is regulated by your local city or county regulatory authority, so do your research.

 

Contact your neighbors to discuss your plans to build a fence to circumvent any future disputes on the front end. Make sure to go over details of your fence including height and placement. 

 

When buying materials, keep in mind that roughly 1/3rd of your fence posts are going to be buried. So if you want a 6-foot high fence, you're going to want fence posts to be around 8.5-feet, as 2.5-feet of the posts will be buried.

 

Measure out the length of your fence perimeter in terms of linear footage. Divide the linear footage of fencing by the panel length (in feet) of the style fence you selected. This will determine the total fence panels and posts you need. Remaining footage will require a partial panel. Add two to the number of panels to determine how many posts you will need.

Measuring Pickets For A Fence

 

To determine how many pickets you will need, you'll want to start by taking the width of the picket and adding the spacing between each one (in inches). So if you have a 6-inch wide picket and you're planning a 2-inch space that would leave you at 8 inches. 

 

Now take your linear footage and convert that to inches. Divide that number by your total picket width and you're left with how many pickets you'll need. For example, if you have a 50 foot perimeter and 8 total inches for each picket you'll take 600 (50 x 12) and divide it by 8 which equals 75 pickets. 

 

Step 2: Set Up Your Fence Posts

Begin laying out the fence using plywood batterboards on each of the corners. Using a string (typically masons line), tightly run a line along the perimeter of the fence. 

batterboard layout

 

Start by running lines parallel to the house and then connect them with perpendicular lines. You'll want these lines to be as straight and tight as possible. 

 

Now measure out every 6- to 8-feet starting with your line parallel to the house and then moving on to the perpendicular lines. Mark these areas with marking flags or spray paint as they will be your fence post locations. 

 

Step 3: Dig Your Fence Post Holes

Using an auger begin digging post holes. You can do this manually using post hole digger, but ultimately you're looking at a lot more labor. 

 

The beauty of an auger is how short work you can make of a cylindrical digging project. These equipment can come in many forms, including a one- or two-man portable auger as well as a dingo attachment. 

 

As you dig, your post holes will need to be at least 1/3rd deep as the fence post is tall plus 4 inches for gravel. The gravel is used to ensure a flat, flush area for when you begin pouring concrete. Start filling each hole with 4-inches of gravel, level the gravel out and lightly compact them.

 

 

 

Step 4: Place Posts and Concrete

Begin mixing concrete with your concrete mixer, following the instructions included. 

 

Once the concrete is ready, set your fence post level on top of the gravel, vertically centered, and begin pouring in concrete. Fill the hole to within 4 inches of the grade. Use a level to make sure your fence post is vertically level and adjust accordingly. 

 

Slope the concrete away from the fence post so that water and debris will run off of the concrete rather than settling on the fence post.  

 

Once settled, fill the remaining area with dirt. Using wooden support braces, brace your fence posts, ensuring that it doesn't move as the concrete continues to solidify. 

 

Step 5: Connect Fence Posts with Rails

After your concrete is completely settled and cured you're ready to start connecting the fence posts. 

 

Begin connecting each post with wooden fence rails, with the widest side face down on the fence post. We recommend deck screws, but you can also use a nailgun and nails for a faster, albeit less secure, result.

 

Each fence post should have at least two rails, one at the top and one at the bottom. The maximum distance between rails is 4-feet, with up to 6 inches of space between the top of fence panel area and the bottom of the fence itself. 

 

If your fence is taller than, say, 6 feet, you may want to add a 3rd rail in the middle. Measure out your area beforehand and mark on the fence post where each rail is to be placed. 

 

Go all the way around the fence perimeter with this method until every fence post, excluding the gate, is connected. 

 

Step 6: Add Fence Pickets or Panels

Once the fence rails are in place you can begin attaching pickets. 

 

Defer back to your original spacing distance from the planning stage of this project and begin drilling your pickets into place with the desired spacing in between each one. 

 

Here it is very important that each picket is vertically centered, because a small deviance, especially early on, can leave you with a lop-sided or even fence. 

 

We recommend starting by lightly drilling a guiding screw to attach the picket and then using a mason's level to guide additional screws for each picket.

 

Step 7: Finishing Touches

Congratulations! At this point you should have a functional fence.

 

If any areas don't seem right defer back to previous steps to ensure you didn't miss anything. As with any project, going slow is smooth and smooth is fast. 

 

Otherwise, you're good to place your fence post caps if you'd like and begin painting. 

Copper fence post cap
Stay tuned for future DIY blog posts and as always, if you need to rent equipment in the Asheville, NC area give us a call!