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Wood fence construction advice


dorkshoei's Avatar
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10-09-17, 12:08 PM   #1 (permalink)  
Wood fence construction advice

Previously I've always built fences using 2x4 cross members using FB24Z type metal brackets/hangers to attach to the posts. I've never been really happy with the visuals.

For the back yard of our new house I wanted to instead construct this style of fence, single run of vertical boards (visible from both sides) with six horizontal boards (three each side) and a cap board. See picture.

I have a few questions on construction.

1. I'm assuming the entire panel is constructed then secured in place between the posts?
2. The examples I've seen in person there are no visible screws securing the vertical boards to the horizontal, I'm assuming it's brad nails through the horizontal, perhaps from front and back?
3. What is the method of panel attachment to the 4x4s since there are no brackets? Brad nails through the horizontals into the 4x4?
4. The examples I've seen, the boards look tightly packed, sometimes even flush which has surprised me as I'm used to leaving room for expansion/contraction.

I'd appreciate any tips from people who've constructed similar. Also what would be a cost-effective wood for the panels. Obviously posts will be PT.

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Last edited by dorkshoei; 10-09-17 at 12:26 PM.
 
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10-09-17, 01:00 PM   #2 (permalink)  
1. The fence panels can be built in place or fabricated separately. Sick building in place can better accommodate off spacing between your posts and other imperfections but building the panels flat in a shop beforehand would certainly be faster and easier, if you have the manpower to handle the heavy panels.

2. All I have seen have nails or staples holding everything together.

3. How you attach the panels to the post is sort of the tricky part. Simply toe nailing isn't very strong. I did one fence by boring horizontal holes in the posts and inserted rebar pins. The fence panels then had a hole bored in the cross members that slid over the protruding rebar (mortise and tenon but with rebar and a simple drilled hole). It was strong and there were no visible fasteners. Getting everything to line up correctly can make it "fussy" to install like that. Or you can do a wood mortise and tenon joint but I'd consider going up to 6x6 posts since it sounds like your fence panels are going to be three boards thick.

4. I would install the boards touching with no gap. The wood will shrink with time and gaps will open. If you start with gaps you will end up with slightly larger gaps.

Here in the east the only real choice for wood is pressure treated. Redwood is crazy expensive here. In the northwest you might afford redwood which would be more attractive.

 
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10-09-17, 01:19 PM   #3 (permalink)  
The fence panels then had a hole bored in the cross members that slid over the protruding rebar (mortise and tenon but with rebar and a simple drilled hole). It was strong and there were no visible fasteners.

Assuming the posts go in first and concrete has has setup and panel is attached later. The above seems tricky to achieve at both ends, one end no problem. Maybe I'm missing something? I too was worried about just toenailing them.

Yes, three boards thick at the cross supports .... I'd not considered 6x6. I'd assumed 4x4 would suffice, which it looks like is what's used in picture.

I was considering cedar. Standard 6'x6"x5/8" cedar boards are like $2 each in standard grade but I need something better than this where the boards are smooth finish and actually straight

 
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10-11-17, 05:03 PM   #4 (permalink)  
Yes, doing a mortise and tenon with the wood horizontals inserting into the posts can't be done if all the posts are set beforehand. If using rebar "pins" the fence can be assembled with the posts in place. Just start at one end and the last post in the line you'll see the holes for inserting the pins, but that doesn't have to be visible on the first post.

I rarely use concrete for posts. I set the post in the hole and compact crushed stone around it. When done properly it's rock solid and still allows water to drain away from the wood to prevent rot. The big benefit is you don't have to wait for concrete to cure. The post can be rock solid in just a minute or two.

Cedar 5/8" thick boards could be used with a 4x4 post but I'd consider putting the posts closer together. 1 7/8" panel width isn't a lot and it might be a bit floppy if you try going 8' between posts but 6' might work.

 
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10-13-17, 11:59 AM   #5 (permalink)  
Yes, doing a mortise and tenon with the wood horizontals inserting into the posts can't be done if all the posts are set beforehand. If using rebar "pins" the fence can be assembled with the posts in place. Just start at one end and the last post in the line you'll see the holes for inserting the pins, but that doesn't have to be visible on the first post.
Ah I see. Good suggestion. Could always just plug with a length of dowel at the ends.

it seems easiest to just drill a single hole through the post (at top and bottom) and drill a single matching hole into the corresponding location in the edge of the end vertical board. Drilling into the end of the horizontals would require twice as many holes and much more precision to ensure everything lines up.

I was wondering if it's not better to use stainless rod rather than rebar, to avoid any rust bleeding. Something that is 1/4 or 3/8 diameter would seem ideal, though I guess you could go 1/2" as the end 5/8" vertical board will be sandwiched by two horizontals at the drilling location.


I rarely use concrete for posts. I set the post in the hole and compact crushed stone around it. When done properly it's rock solid and still allows water to drain away from the wood to prevent rot. The big benefit is you don't have to wait for concrete to cure. The post can be rock solid in just a minute or two.
Interesting. OK. I'll try this. What width hole do you recommend for a 4x4 and how much post depth do you suggest sinking?

Cedar 5/8" thick boards could be used with a 4x4 post but I'd consider putting the posts closer together. 1 7/8" panel width isn't a lot and it might be a bit floppy if you try going 8' between posts but 6' might work.
OK. I'll do this.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful answers. Really appreciated.


Last edited by dorkshoei; 10-13-17 at 12:29 PM.
 
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10-27-17, 12:45 PM   #6 (permalink)  
So I have the posts up for the back run. I ended up having to space the posts 7' apart, 5 posts total including the end posts. Adding a 6th post would have resulted in a panel width of under 5 1/2' which looked 'weird' to me.

In the attached picture it looks like they've used 4" for the vertical and horizontal boards. I'll be using 4" for the cross members (blue arrow in picture below) and topper board but I'm still deciding on whether to use 4" or 6" for the vertical boards. 6" is cheaper (maybe; see below) but I prefer the aesthetics of the 4" wide.

4" (3.5x0.75) is tight knot @$0.69/ft. 6" is available in #1 (5.5x0.75) and #2 grade (5.5x0.625). I was planning on using #1 if I go 6" wide, that's $4.29 for a 6' and $7.49 for an 8'.

Initially I thought that all the boards were 6' high and the taller ones were just an additional small piece and the join was hidden behind the cross member (blue arrow). Looking closer at the coloration of the boards, it looks like the alternate full height boards (red arrow) are a continuous 7' and the others 6'

This is possible using 4" as they come in 12' and 14' lengths. 6" wide forces 6' or 8' so I'd have some waste. I need to do the math.

I was more curious if using a continuous 7' makes the fence stronger. My concern is to minimize long term bowing of the cross members. Of course a 6' span vs 7' probably helps the most here and I've already sunk the posts at 7'

Also, what is the best way to secure the cross members? I was planning on having identical cross members on each side (so 6 total per panel). Looking at a neighbors fence similarly (professionally) constructed I don't see screws, so I'm assuming brads or crown staples (I have guns for both).

Your advise has been really helpful so far, so hoping you have some suggestions on the above. Thank you!

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