This guide has been updated to industry specifications in 2021.
How to Build a Wooden Fence That Will Last a Longtime
Installing a new fence can be a very daunting task. This is a step-by-step guide to help you Do It Yourself. It is crucial to use the right materials to build the best wooden fence in the neighborhood. Use metal posts instead of wooden 4 by 4's. Metal posts with proper foundations are designed to outlive all of us. For pickets and planks, use cedar wood instead of pressure treated wood. Cedar naturally absorbs moisture and can last for 20 years or more with regular pressure washing, cleaning, and staining.
Tools1. Spade Shovel
2. Post Hole Digger
3. Pencil Point Digging Bar
4. Wheel Barrow
5. Miter Saw
6. Cordless Impact Wrench
7. Measuring Tape
11. Knife Sharpener
12. Steel Stakes and Tie Downs
CAUTION: Please practice extreme care. Check with your local authorities for gas, oil, water, electric, or other below ground utility lines before digging. Always use safety glasses, safety gloves, knee pads, and a lot of common sense.
CALL BEFORE YOU DIG.
Materials1. 2-3/8 by 2-3/8 8 ft. Metal Tube Post
2. 2-3/8 Grip Tie and Cap
3. 1-1/4" Deck Screws
4. 2 x 4 x 8 Lumber
5. Appropriately-sized Pickets
6. Fast-setting Cement
7. Wood Stain
Step 1: PlanningBegin by taking photos and detailed notes of the existing fence line's location. This is very crucial, as this will be your only guide moving forward. If you are building a new fence, mark where you want your fence to start and end. Make a rough sketch of the completed fence's shape and a general idea of how you want it to look like. Use your imagination. You can add more complex and interesting twists, like following the contour of a tree branch, working around a physical barrier, a waterway, etc. This guide will only focus on building a simple fence line that you won't need to touch for a very long time.
Step 2: MarkingUse the spade to mark where you want your first post to stand. Maintain a gap of 7-3/4' to 8' between every fence post's center. Repeat this step until you have completely marked the entire fence line.
Industry TipYou may mark your first post and directly proceed to step 3 and 4. Then, repeat the steps 2-6 for each and every fence post until you have completed your entire fence line. This makes it easier to make adjustments especially if you are not used to carpentry. Note: when digging near utilities or foundations, always call in for safe dig and only dig by hand for safety.
Step 3: FoundationRemember, take your time and be consistent. Some areas are much more easier to dig than others. Use your spade to start digging the marked locations. If the soil is too dry, consider watering until moist. Use your post hole digger to remove soil debris. Use a digging bar or pick to remove rocks or to break through boulders. Repeat until you have reached 24" in depth. For areas with considerable water overrun, such as those found in uphill/downhill slopes, consider adding another 6" to add gravel as extra drainage. Do not shortchange yourself. You have gone this far. Go by the book, and you will be pleased with the results. For fences taller than 6', you will need to dig deeper. As a general rule, the foundation's depth tend to be 1/3rd of the total height of the fence above ground. If tree roots are on the way, use your digging bar to breakthrough them. Note that moving the post to another area usually do not help. It is not uncommon for trees to have multiple main root lines not too far from where you have already dug.
Industry TipCheck for post foundation alignment by either using a laser or a fish line. If these tools are not immediately available in your tool box, you may also eyeball the holes to get the approximate alignment and simply make small adjustments to line up the posts when you start setting them up. Also, make sure your spade, post hole digger, and pencil bar are sharp. They do get dull after a couple of holes.
Step 4: Set-up PostsPlace your post in the center of the hole. Should your post alignment be off, consider digging some more on one side to correct the alignment. Take your time. Preparation is key for a successful fence project.
Step 5: Mix CementOpen a bag of concrete and put it in your wheel barrow. Water and mix until you get a muddy texture. Avoid over watering as this will weaken the concrete. Make sure to mix the concrete thoroughly using your spade before pouring in the hole. Should you have added an addition 6" of drain, make sure to put the gravel in first, then compact the gravel using a piece of wood for even footing.
Industry TipOnly open a bag you know you will use. Fast setting concrete may dry up in as little as 5 minutes. If it ever dries up while still in the wheel barrow, add more water and re-mix thoroughly.
Step 6: LevelingLevel the post by making sure you have center bubble all the way around (front, back, and sides). For posts higher than 6' above ground level, tie down using stakes to maintain desired leveling. For 6' posts or shorter, the weight of the concrete is enough to hold it in place. Make alignment adjustments as needed before the concrete dries up.
Step 7: CuringLet the concrete cure for 4-6 hours. Note that even fast setting concrete will have a hard time curing during wet and cold weather. If the weather is colder than 60F, consider waiting for a couple more days.
Step 8: Grip Tie and CapInstall grip ties a foot above ground and at the very top of the fence post. Tighten up until snug. Place two or three levels. If you're going with three levels, place the third grip tie exactly in the middle of the top and bottom grip ties.
Step 9: PlankInstall your planks by screwing one side first unto the grip tie and then the other. Use two or more planks between posts. Screw in 2 screws per side or 4 screws per plank.
Step 10: PicketPlace the first picket a quarter inch above ground. Screw in your first screw. Level to center bubble before screwing in your second screw. Install 4 screws per picket. Repeat the steps until the entire fence line has been completed. You may maintain an eight of an inch gap between pickets by placing a nail in between or by eyeballing the gap. The gap, however, is not necessary. Your fence will be fine with or without it.
Step 11: StainingUse your roller and carefully stain with even strokes. Thoroughly saturate one area before moving to the next. For best results, stain both front and back of the fence line. Repeat every 2-3 years.
Follow these steps and you will be on your way to a great looking fence that will last a very long time.
We hope our article has helped you better understand how to properly install a wooden fence that will last a long time. If you need professional lawn care assistance in Austin or around Travis County, please don't hesitate to contact us at 844-50K-LAWN (844-505-5296).
DISCLAIMER: This general guideline is meant for educational purposes only. We will not be responsible for damages caused by you for following any of our suggestions. Every situation is different. Please consult 50K Professional Lawn Services LLC for professional help.
50K Professional Lawn Services LLC. 844-505-5296. Austin, Texas.