How to Fence Your Home


The American dream of home ownership conjures of images of Norman Rockwell or Tom Sawyer whitewashing the family’s picket fence and perhaps, a rose garden and a little dog in the yard. Truly, a picket fence gives a home charisma and improves its curb appeal. There are many fencing options for adding allure to your home its value, including various materials (wood, vinyl and iron, etc.) depending on the desired effect – i.e. privacy or just decorative.

Now let’s build that wooden picket fence of your dreams.

You will need some basic materials including wooden posts (generally 4’’ x 4’’ x 8’, depending on your desired height), some 2×4’s (6 to 8 feet long), posthole diggers, 1’’x4’’ picket boards, galvanized nails or screws (2’’ is good), a hammer, string, level, cordless drill, circular saw, stakes, fence post concrete, spray paint and for your safety, gloves and eye goggles.

For any successful project, the most crucial component is the infrastructure – in this case it’s the fence posts. Any degree of leaning or unevenness in height is going to show in the final product. Also, depending on where you live and the scope (price tag) of your fence, a building permit may be required. So, do check with your local jurisdiction before starting any home improvement like this. And make sure you know your precise property line location and any relevant restrictions, especially if your fence will straddle a neighbor’s yard. In many cases, the family next door may actually share in the cost and construction of a great-looking fence.

Now, mark the four corners of your fence with wooden stakes and tie the string along the stakes, charting the perimeter of your new fence. Make sure that the string is completely horizontal using a level. Then, spray a marking at each position where you will dig a post, generally in 7.5 foot intervals.

Dig your corners first. You man need a shovel for particularly hard ground. As a rule, the hole should be deep enough to accommodate a third of your post to keep it secure and below the frost line.

For good drainage, you will need two to threes inches of gravel in the bottom of the hole around the post. Using the level, check that the post is plumb, then pour the concrete in the hole to just a couple inches above ground level and slightly askew outwards to divert any rain water. With a garden sheds hose, fill the hole with water until the concrete completely absorbs the water. This may take two or three waterings. After your posts are in the ground, run a string along each post and check for alignment before the concrete dries, making adjustments as needed. You will eventually want to cover the cement with soil to make the fence look more natural.

Next, measure, cut and attach two 2×4’s between each post. These will support the picket boards. Measure each span individually, because they will fluctuate from post to post. Attach the boards by toenailing them to each post, one near the bottom and one closer to the top. Be sure that you use only galvanized screws or nails for all exterior projects. A screw or nail gun would be very handy for this step, but a hammer or drill will suffice,

Measure the span again and calculate how many picket boads will fit, keeping in mind the additional space you will leave between the pickets. A spacer (wedge of wood or a small bolt) can be used to keep the spacing uniform. Remember to keep the spacing small enough to prevent kids or small animals from getting their fingers or limbs stuck in between.

When all of the pickets are secure, you are now ready to “finish” the fence. For a natural look, a weatherproofing stain can be used. Or one can stay with the traditional white-wash look or apply any exterior paint color that fits with your home and neighborhood.

Now, sit on the porch and admire your handiwork. Your neighbors and passers-by certainly will.