picket fence

With preparation, you can build a fence in as little as one day. ATTRIBUTION: Wikimedia Commons – Leon Brooks

Fences can provide privacy, shade, and a barrier between properties. They can also add aesthetic appeal and value to a home. Depending on the size of your property, a fence can be built in as little as a single day. While I chose to build my fence out of western red cedar due to its resistance to rot, moisture, and insect infestations, there are many other options, such as white oak, pressure treated pine, and black locust. If you need to build a fence fast, follow these basic steps.

Step 1: Plan a Layout

Before you can build a fence, you need to determine where your property line is. You may need to hire a land surveyor to retrieve this information, as not all cities keep detailed records of property boundary lines. Once you’ve targeted the location of your fence, mark the corners with wood stakes. Run a line of string tautly around each stake to form the shape of your fence layout. Use a square to ensure that each “corner” is squared, meaning the two sides form a 90-degree angle.

Step 2: Dig Holes

Fence posts are generally spaced 6 to 8 feet apart. Starting at one corner, begin measuring for each fence post and marking each location with a wood stake. Using a post hole digger or auger, dig holes for the posts. The depth of the hole should be at least 1/3 of the finished post-height above ground and 3x the width of the post. For example, an 8-foot fence would need a minimum post depth of 2-feet, 8-inches.

Step 3: Set the Posts

After the holes are dug, add 3-to-6-inches of gravel to the bottom of each hole. Place a post into the first hole and use a square and level to ensure that it’s properly aligned. Create a concrete footing by pouring instant concrete around the post until the hole is approximately two-thirds full. Add water to fill the rest of the hole and stir the concrete and water mixture together. Allow the concrete to set following the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Step 4: Attach Rails

Once the concrete has cured, you can begin attaching the rails. These horizontal support boards reach from post to post. Depending on the size, weight, and style of your fence, you may just need top rails and bottom rails. In some instances, additional center rails can be added. Start at the upper rail, followed by the lower rail. If needed, follow-up with a center rail for extra stability. Use decking screws or another appropriate fastener to attach the rails to the center of the posts.

Step 5: Install Pickets

With the rails secured, it’s time to add the vertical fence boards or pickets. There are several ways to do this depending on the style of fence you want. One of the easiest is to create a board-on-board fence. To create this type of fence, secure each picket to the rail using a nail gun. The fence boards should alternate on the sides of the rails, overlapping by a minimum of 1-inch on each of the boards. If you prefer more privacy, the fence boards should be butted tightly together or slightly spaced at ¼-inch apart to allow space for the wood to expand and contract.