How to Build a Split-Rail Fence

Regardless of any experience you may have had in fence building, you can build a split rail fence. All it will take will be a few of the most basic tools and materials and some information such as you'll find below.

Tools and materials you'll need:

  • Measuring tape
  • Posts
  • Rails
  • Sand (or gravel)
  • Post hole digger (or pick and shovel)
  • Hole saw
  • Twine
  • Carpenters level
  • Planer

Step 1 – Planning and Measuring

Decide where you'll want your fence placed Use a measuring tape to determine the length of your rails. Then, use your tape to measure the distance of your intended fence. Next, run a length of twine along your proposed fence line. Finally, determine the location where you will place your posts. There should be a space between each post that is the same length as the length of your rails.

Step 2 – Preparing Your Posts

In preparing your posts, keep in mind you'll likely have at least 2 types of posts:. line posts and end posts. If your fence will include a right angle section you'll need corner posts. With your hole saw make 2 holes in each line post, one at the top and one at the bottom. Make these holes completely through the post. Make holes in your end posts only halfway through the post on the side where the rail will fit into the hole. For corner posts, make 4 holes partially through the post, 2 on each side of the post where a rail will fit. Make holes on the right hand side of the corner posts at right angles from the left hand side of the post.

Step 3 -  Digging Your Postholes

Dig all postholes to the same depth, and deep enough that 33 percent of your post will be imbedded in the hole when the hole is filled. This should include leaving a space between ground level and your bottom posthole of about 12 inches, and should allow for 6 inches of sand or gravel to be filled in the top of the hole after your post is planted. 

Step 4 – Plant Your Posts and Insert Rails

Beginning at an end post, plant your post using the guidelines above. Be sure the rail holes you've cut into the post are turned toward the rail, so the rail will fit into the hole. Use a level to be sure the post is plumb. When you've partially filled the hole with soil taken from the hole, tamp the soil around the post. Then, pour sand or gravel into the top 6 inches of your hole. Insert 2 rails into their holes, one in the top hole, one in the bottom hole. Have someone hold these rails up until the next post is inserted into its hole. Insert the top and bottom rails into this post's rail holes, then plant the post, using the same procedure as with the first post. Continue using this procedure until all your posts are planted and all rails inserted.