Building a Picket Fence

Building a picket fence is rewarding. It takes quite a bit of time and effort but only requires basic carpentry skills.

Step 1 - Plan Your Picket Fence

Make sure to check the building codes for any restrictions on building fences in your area. You should also determine whether a permit is required to construct your fence.  Your local officials can help you with this process.

Make sure your fence is on your property by double-checking property lines. 

For this project you will need fence posts, concrete mix, a shovel, gravel, wood for rails, fasteners, pickets, nails and paint or stain.

Step 2 - Lay Out the Fence Posts and Rails

Start by deciding where the end and corner posts will be located and mark the locations with either 1x2 or 2x2 stakes. Stretch lines between the stakes. Sink the end posts and locate where any line posts and gate posts will be placed. Stake these locations.

Step 3 - Dig Post Holes

You should set fence posts 24 to 30 inches into the ground for maximum durability. End and corner posts should be set deeper than line posts. Make holes larger than the post to allow you to make the posts plumb. Start with your end and corner posts. Set the first post and place additional line posts 6 to 8 feet apart. 

Step 4 - Set Fence Posts

Set your end and corner posts in concrete for best performance. Line posts can be set in dirt unless you anticipate heavy use of the fence.  Place about 2 inches of gravel in first post hole and make sure the post is plumb in both directions. Fill hole with concrete. making sure to tamp it down. Set the next end or corner post in the same manner. Make sure the two posts are the same height by stretching a line between the two. For the dirt filled posts do the same with the gravel and then simply fill with dirt.

Step 5 - Prepare Rails and Pickets

Cut the rails and measure the number of pickets you will use. You can purchase pre-made pickets at your local hardware or lumber store.  The number of pickets depends on how far apart you would like your pickets. Once you have the rails and pickets gathered, stain or paint.  Once the rails and pickets are stained or painted you may begin hanging your rails. Fasteners are the easiest way to hang rails. Make sure they are weather resistant. Place the bottom rail about six inches from the ground. The top rail can be placed along the top of the posts or down a few inches. 

Step 6 - Install the Pickets

To assemble the pickets on the fence, determine the spacing you would like between the pickets and create a spacer board with a cleat nailed to one end that will hang on the rail while attaching the picket to the fence. The pickets can be nailed to the sides of the posts and rails. Take your time to make sure the pickets are square.