How to Build A Wood Fence

Read this step by step guide on how to build your own wooden fence! This article empowers you with everything you need to know to DIY a wooden fence for your property!
Renee Lewis
Renee Lewis
Last Update:
May 25, 2023

Having a wood fence built is an easy way to mark your property lines, increase privacy in your backyard, and keep pets and small children inside. More and more homeowners are realizing they can build their own wood fence instead of paying for labor on top of materials and having it installed for them.

If you are considering getting a new wood fence, you probably researched the costs of having a fence installed versus getting the materials and tools you would need and just building it yourself as part of a home improvement project.

And although there is a learning curve involved if you have never done this type of work before, this is a project most people can learn how to do on their own.

However, you will need to be willing to invest time into learning the process and parts of a fence as well as money getting the materials and tools. Below is a step by step guide to building your own wood fence!

What You’ll Need

One of the first steps in the process of building a fence is to decide what type of wood you want to use in your fence. Once you’ve decided on the type of wood you want to use, you will need to decide on the type of fence you want to build, get the wood pickets and posts to get started.

You will also need other materials.

Bulleted list of materials

If you are going to build your own fence, here are the fencing materials you will need to have on hand. If you need to purchase these materials, you can visit our curated storefront with everything you need for fence DIY in one place!

Planning Your Wood Fence

As excited as you may be to get your new wood fence up, being careful with your fence plans before you get started is always a good idea to avoid problems later in the process. You will need to plan a fence design and decide on the style and height you want first.

Step 1. Choose the Fence Style and Height

Choosing your fence height usually depends a lot on whether it is for the front yard or backyard. In many cities, there are municipal regulations limiting how high a front yard fence can be. This is why many people with front yard fences opt for a three or four foot tall picket fence.

For the backyard, fences are usually taller. That is because most of the time if you want privacy from your neighbors and live in the city this is the best way to achieve that. Six feet is the usual height for a backyard fence. Common styles to choose from include wood privacy fences, side by side with dog ear fence pickets, shadowbox fence, and horizontal wood fence. Different wood fences can offer a variety of color options to suit your style preferences as well.

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Step 2. Determine the Fence Layout

Once you have decided on what type of wood you want to use, and your fence height and fence style, you can move on to actually starting the process of building!

This begins with creating the layout where your fence will be by marking the boundary of your property. This is a good time, if you haven’t already, to communicate your plan with your neighbors to make sure there will not be any arguments over where the property lines are. If there are, you can check with a land registry service.

After you have the property lines established you can stark marking the fence line with your stakes. Be sure that you make a straight line here and stake out the corners of the plot. Once you have the corners staked out, tie a string around each stake using a square to ensure that the stakes are level and the corners are at 90 degree angles.

This is the part of the process of building a wood fence where it pays off to take your time and carefully check your markings and measurements. Anything that is off now will be much harder to correct later.

Step 3. Check Local Regulations and Acquire Necessary Permits

Another important piece of the groundwork that will set you up for a successful fence building project is to make sure you are allowed to build one where you want it. You should be sure to check local planning laws and local building codes to make sure you do not need any special permissions to move ahead with the project.

Here is where you double check to make sure your planned fence heights are allowed where you have them staked out.

Find out if you need a building permit to build the fence you want. Next, contact your local “Call Before You Dig” number to make sure that there aren’t any gas, water, or electricity lines in the way of your fence project. You will have to dig as part of building your fence, so you need to know you are not going to run into anything.

Installing Your Wood Fence

Now that you have laid the groundwork, pun intended, for your new fence, you can really get started with the construction part!

Step 4. Gather Necessary Tools and Materials

Earlier in this article, we provided a list of the necessary materials you will need for your wood fence project. In addition to what is listed there you will need some tools as well.

You will have to make the decision on whether you are going to use nails or screws to attach your pickets and fence rails to the fence posts. So you will need either a hammer and nails, or a screwdriver and screws. A nail gun or nailer can always speed up the process as well.

Step 5. Dig Holes for the Fence Posts

As part of staking out the perimeter of your fence, you have already marked where your corner fence posts will be. Now you need to mark out where the remaining posts are going to be.

The main rule here is to be sure that the distance between post locations is not more than eight feet. If you have a fence length that is 40 feet long, then you’d want to divide that by eight which means you will need five posts and evenly spaced.

Now that the post locations are marked, you need to use the post hole digger to create the holes. The golden rule here is that the hole should be deep enough to bury about a third of the post underground.

Step 6. Set the Fence Posts

Once you have your post holes dug out, it is time to prepare the holes for the posts. Put a few inches of gravel in the bottom of the hole to help with stability and drainage. You are ready to position the posts in the post holes, and use your level to make sure they are level and the angles are even.

Now you can pour in the concrete to cement the posts into place. This is a two person job - at least. You will need one person to hold the post in place while you pour in the dry concrete mix. Fill it up about two thirds of the way, add water on top to ground level and stir.

It is a good idea to check once again that your post is straight using your level before the cement hardens. Once you are sure it is correct, you can brace the post with your stakes. Next, move onto the rest of your posts and repeat until you have all of your posts in place.

Step 7. Attach Fence Panels

Now that your posts are up and stable, you can start adding your fence panels - the real meat of your fence! If you are using pickets instead of panels, at this point, you will need to attach your top rail, middle rail, and bottom rail to the posts. Make sure these are level and evenly spaced!

Nail or screw the boards into place. Similar to the process of setting your posts in the ground, you should take the time to make sure the top of each fence panel is flat and that all your fence panels are the exact same height.

Step 8. Install a Gate

Most of the time if you are installing a fence for your yard, whether front yard or backyard, you will want to have a gate to get in and out.

Fence gate kits are easy to find, and will come with the hardware you will need for the gate.

Step 9. Staining and Finishing

Now that you have your fence up, you will want to put the finishing touches on it. This will add years to your fence’s lifespan and you can even change the entire look of your fence with the right stain.

This is a step that you will want to repeat over the years in order to get the most life out of your fence. Painting or staining your fence as it starts to wear away is important maintenance.

Wooden Fence Building Tips

The most helpful tips for building a wooden fence by yourself is to make sure that the groundwork you lay out for your fence project is correct and precise.

Take your time making sure the posts are level and square 90 degrees at the corners. Make sure each post you set is level with your level and each fence panel height matches the ones next to it.

Another important tip to keep in mind is to get materials that will last and stand up to the weather you have in your region. Pressure treated wood will stand up better to rot and termites than untreated wood. Using a preservative wood stain will also help your wooden fence last longer.

DIY Fence Installation FAQs

Sometimes you are not ready for all of the details involved in building your own wood fence and you just want to get the cliff notes. Here are some of the top lines for you if you want to get the gist of what it takes to build your own wooden fence.

Is it hard to build a wood fence?

You do not need to be a master carpenter to put up a wooden fence. The keys are to choose good quality materials and carefully measure and stake out your planned fence route. That being said, fence building can require specialized tools that can be difficult and dangerous to operate if you don't have any experience. DIY fence construction can save money in the short-term, but may mean your fence is not as sturdy or high-quality as one built by experts.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of building a wood fence?

Advantages to building a wood fence are that there are a ton of styles of wooden fences to choose from. You can add elements like lattice or kickboards as well. Additionally, there are different types of wood and different stains to give your wooden fence a unique look. A wooden fence will provide a great deal of privacy for your yard.

Disadvantages to building a wooden fence include the fact that it is a bit more labor intensive compared to other types of fences, like chain link fences, to install. With wooden fences, each fence board needs to be nailed to the rail or post individually. Whereas other types of fences, like chain link fences or vinyl fences, can be put up in large rolls or panels. Materials may also be more expensive for a wood fence, and they must be maintained for their longest lifespan. Metal fences will also last longer than a wooden fence.

How far apart should wooden fence posts be?

You do not want your wooden fence posts to be further than 8 feet apart. So if you have a 40 foot long side of your fence, you would want to divide 40 feet by 8 feet and evenly space out your posts every 5 feet.

If it does not divide evenly, then put an extra post in so that there is no span longer than 8 feet without a post for support.

How much does it cost to build a wood fence?

The cost of building a wooden fence by yourself is really just the cost of materials. Many price estimates include labor. To estimate how much it costs to build your own wooden fence you need to look at the materials and add up those costs.

For a cedar fence, a 6 foot tall cedar picket is $3-$4. Adding a gate costs an average of $300. If you would like to add decorative features like post caps, that will cost you from $5-$50 depending on the materials. Adding kick boards to the bottom of your fence can cost between $3-$13 per linear foot. Staining, sealing and painting is another cost to consider. These cost between $1-$4 each per linear foot.

Overall, cost estimates for building your own wood fence range from between $5 and $15.

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