How to Build a Post and Rail Fence
Building a post and rail fence can be accomplished by two people if the materials are bought ahead of time, a plan has been written down or drawn out, and if the correct tools are on hand. The most difficult aspect of this job is digging the post holes and dealing with the sun, especially if it is a hot and sunny day. The materials can be purchased and delivered by home improvement stores and are not very expensive.
Step 1, Measure and Record Fence Requirements
With a tape measure, take a total measurement of the total area of the proposed fence installation and write it down. From this total measurement, decide how many fence posts, bags of cement and fencing rails will be needed to cover this area. Once the list of materials is compiled, order or purchase the required materials and set them out at approximate locations.
Step 2, Install First and Last Post
Using a post hole digger, dig a hole for the first and last posts. Dig the hole approximately 1-1/2 to 2 feet deep, but only slightly wider than each 4 by 4 post. Ensure that each post is straight by applying the level to the front and right side of each post. Hold the posts level, fill the hole half way with rocks and check to see that it is still level. Fill the hole with water, let it set for several minutes and then pour in as much concrete as necessary to fill the hole. Tamp the top of the concrete so that water flows away from the hole.
Allow the concrete in the post holes to set up firmly before moving on. When the concrete is set up, tie a string tautly from the first to the last post. This string will be used to ensure the rest of the posts are set in the correct positions and at the exact height of all the others.
Step 3, Install Rails
Install the first rails into the slots on the first post. Place a second post where the rails end, take a measurement and dig the next hole. Repeat the procedure for installing each of the rest of the posts as done in the first and last post, remembering to place the rails between posts to determine the position of succeeding posts.
Step 4, Final Finish
Post and rail fences can be built with cedar or treated lumber, painted or finished with whitewash or varnish. The posts can even be topped with finials to add a bit of charm to them if desired. However, most people desire to let them age naturally.