How to Install a Wood Fence
Fences are one of the ultimate landscaping features for homes because they can be both practical and stylish. A wood fence is a great way to keep the kids and pets contained outdoors, for example, but it can also complement your home’s exterior look and make your yard more attractive. At the same time, fencing can shield some unsightly nearby features from your line of sight. That’s a win-win-win for homeowners. Use this step-by-step guide to install a wood fence in your yard.
Tools and Materials
Before starting your installation, take a look at this list of tools and materials you’ll need to add a fence to your yard:
- Yard stakes
- Posthole digger
- Nails or screws
- Lumber (see Step 2)
- Stain or paint (optional)
Step 1: Determine Lot Size/Shape
Before you get your lumber, you’ll need to determine how big your fence will be. To do that, plot out your fence by placing small stakes into the ground. Run a taut string along the stakes, tying it off at the corners. Measure how long your fence will be along each edge. Leave the stakes and string in place to guide you when installing the fence.
Step 2: Purchase the Lumber
Not all wood fences have to look alike. There are plenty of ways to put your own personal touch on your wood fence. Here are some styles to consider when purchasing the lumber for your new wood fence:
- Post shape: Adding square or round posts along your fence breaks up the monotonous look and adds a stylish touch.
- Spacing: For more privacy, go with a tall, solid fence design. If you don’t want to block the view, choose fencing panels that feature spaced pieces or a shorter fence.
- Panel style: Some fencing panels are very simple and traditional, while others have fun flourishes at the top or other stylistic touches.
With these considerations in mind, determine how many fence panels and fence posts you’ll need. Panels often come in lengths of 6 or 8 feet, so you’ll need to determine how many are needed along each side of the fence.
Step 3: Install the Posts
Based on the size of your fence panels, plot out where you’ll need to install posts along the fence line. Then, use the posthole digger to create a hole that is about 6 inches deeper than needed (about 1/3 of the post should be in the ground). Keep in mind that corner posts and gate posts should be set about 6 inches deeper than line posts.
Backfill each of these holes with 6 inches of gravel. Then, insert the posts, starting with the corners. Use a level to make sure each post is aligned properly. Brace the posts to keep them straight while being installed. Fill the holes with concrete to set them in place. Wait one to two days before moving on to the next step.
Step 4: Attach the Fence Panels
Align the panels between posts, using the level for guidance. Nail or screw each panel to the posts, attaching them through the top and bottom rails on the panel.
If you have to attach two panels without a post in between, make sure to add a cleat at least three feet long across the rails where they are joined. This provides additional support when a post cannot be installed in certain areas.
Step 5: Install a Gate
If your fence will have a gate, assemble a gate frame that is about 1 inch less than the distance between your gate posts. This frame should be a few inches shorter than the rest of the panels since the gate will need to hang above the ground a bit to function properly. Add a piece of lumber diagonally across the frame to make it sturdier. Cut a fence panel to the appropriate size and attach it to the frame.
Using long screws, attach heavy-duty hinges and a latch to your gate, then attach the gate frame to the hinges. Test the gate to ensure that it clears the other post and is high enough off the ground.
Step 6: Finish Your Fence
You can leave the wood as is for a more natural look or apply a stain to darken it and emphasize the wood grain. Alternatively, you can add paint to match or complement your home’s exterior. You can also consider adding a waterproofing sealant to prevent moisture and rain from soaking into the wood. You can also add some ornamental features at this point, such as post caps.
When adding a fence to your yard, there are other things you’ll need to take into account besides the step-by-step instructions listed above. Here are some things to keep in mind when installing a fence:
- Talk to your neighbors: It’s best to discuss your fence with your neighbors before building the fence, not after. You may not need their permission, but getting their approval beforehand can help you avoid tensions in the future.
- Check the rules: You may need to get permission from your local government in order to add a fence to your property. In addition, find out exactly where your property lines are before starting to ensure that you don’t encroach on land that isn’t yours. If you live in certain areas, you may be required to make the posts only visible on the interior.
- Think about security: If your fence is being added as a security feature, you may want a more durable lock on your gate and higher fence panels. You should also consider what fence height and type is best if you want the fence to keep kids and pets contained.
- Don’t forget about maintenance: Find out how often you’ll need to reapply your sealant, stain, or paint in order to keep your fence looking sharp and protected from the elements. Keep an eye out for potential repairs; wood fences are susceptible to warping, but individual pieces are easy to replace.
Now that you have this guide handy, it’s time to tackle your DIY fence installation.