How to Build a Privacy Fence

Properly installing a privacy fence takes some thoughtfulness as well as old-fashioned hard work. Steps to successfully build a good, stable fence include preparation, design and layout, and finally, installation. Read on to find out step-by-step how to build a privacy fence that lasts for years to come.


Contact your local building inspector to find out whether or not a building permit is needed before you begin. You then need to get in touch with local utility companies (gas, electricity, cable, etc.) to make sure digging along where you want your fence line does not interfere with underground pipes or cables.

Finally, it is always smart to discuss with neighbors whose property adjoins yours any plans you have about building a fence. Fences affect not only you, but them as well, and keeping on good terms with neighbors is always a good idea.

Designing and Laying Out the Fence

Measure at least twice to correctly determine by linear footage how many panels, fence posts, and gates (if needed) you need. Try to use as many full panels as possible. If you just cannot use a full panel for part of the fence, put partial panels, if possible, somewhere toward the rear and farthest from the house where it is not so noticeable.

Determine your property line and drive stakes into the ground at corners and at the end of fence lines six inches inside that border. Use twine stretched tautly to mark. Mark with stakes the locations of your end and corner posts, your posts for the gate(s), and the fence line posts.


Set end posts first, one third of their length in the ground. Set corner posts next, setting these and gateposts one-third of their length plus another six inches deeper. Dig holes ten-to-twelve inches wide and six inches deeper than above using gravel to backfill the extra six inches for water drainage. Tie twine between posts to ensure levelness. Use two-by-fours nailed nailed to the posts and to stakes for bracing.

Mix cement in a bucket or wheelbarrow according to package directions and fill holes, tamping around the wet cement to eliminate any possible air pockets. Fill the holes to where they are overflowing and shape the cement so that it slopes downward from the posts to prevent water collection. Let cement set for 24 hours. Re-run the twine from corner post to corner post at the top at the height you want and mark each one. Cut at the mark and finish with appropriate finials, if desired.

Pre-assembled fence panels, obviously, go up much faster than individual pickets. Pre-drill nail holes to avoid splitting the wood when nailing to posts. If using loose, individual pickets, nail three or four to the backer rail and check for plumb. Continue in this manner for entire fence.

Attach two-by-four-inch backer rails to the posts by putting a board beneath a pre-assembled panel and using it as a lever to adjust to the correct height, nailing it on, and then using this to attach rails parallel to one another at equal distances along the panel. Use two rails for short fences, three rails for those up to six feet, and three rails for fences eight feet tall. Stain, paint, and/or apply a waterproofing sealer to your fence and you are done.

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