How to Build a Privacy Fence

The thought of building a privacy fence can be a little intimidating if you have no idea what you are doing. It’s really quite simple and if you are brave enough to try it you will save a bundle of money. Not only will you save money on material but you will save thousands of dollars on labor. Fence building companies overcharge for material and absolutely rip people off on labor. Honestly the hardest part of building a fence is digging the holes for the posts.

To start, you need to get good material, a good cedar post and cedar pickets are easy to find, but you need to find the quality. Most people will tell you that buying high quality cedar for a fence is a waste of money but it’s not. Here’s what you need; a full sawn appearance grade cedar post which is normally 4×4, then you need #2 full rough cedar 2×4, enough to have a three rail system around the whole fence. A three rail system simply means that you will be attaching the pickets at three spots on every picket. A two rail fence will last you a quarter of the time as a three rail fence. You then need to buy a quality picket, just remember the thicker the picket the better, also look for knots, knots are bad in pickets. High quality material will give you a fence that will last as long as you need it to. There is a cedar grade called “fence grade”, don’t use it, it’s crap and you will regret it, to prove it, if you look around your neighborhood and see the fences that look like the wood is just falling apart, that’s fence grade.

OK, you dig your holes, us a motorized post hole digger, dig the holes at least 2 feet deep. The holes need to be no more than 8 feet apart. You cut yourself 3 blocks (6″ long pieces) and place them an even distance apart on each post, in other words, one 6 inches off the ground, one 3 feet up from there and then the final one 3 feet up from there. Screw or nail these blocks into the posts, this is what you set your rails on. Measure the distance between the posts and cut your rails to fit, put them on the blocks and then screw them diagonally in the block and post. Once you have done this you are ready for the pickets.

The pickets are the easiest part once you get started. First place a picket at each end of the fence and nail them into the rails where you want them. Then get some string and stretch it from one end to the other on the top of each picket, this will give you a guide to place all the following pickets. Check for level every so often and if you get off a little just gradually adjust the next few pickets to get yourself back to level. You’re done, except for staining. I would recommend staining the fence as soon as possible, using a sprayer is the most efficient way of doing this. There is one and only one product I would recommend for this and that is Penofen, it’s expensive but it will give you at least 4 extra years without re-applying. Now you’re done, drink a beer….

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