How To Build A Picket Fence

You can build a picket fence in just a couple of days to enhance the security and privacy of your yard. Traditional dog-eared pickets are usually made of cedar, redwood or pine. Pine is less expensive, but redwood or cedar are more weatherproof and will hold up longer.

To build a picket fence, you will need:

  • Pickets, about 27 for each 8 foot length of fence. If you can, buy at least 30 per section so that you can return those that you may find to be cracked or split.
  • Posts, two each for each 8 foot length of fence. Metal posts are the most common, but you can also use wooden 4 x 4 posts.
  • If you are using metal posts, you will also need one cap per each post, and three fence post hangers per post.
  • 2 x 4 boards for support rails, 24 per 8 foot length of fence.
  • Screws and and screwdriver. Deck screws are best. (You can use a hammer and nails to attach your pickets to the supports, but screws will hold longer. You will still need screws to attach the post hangers.)
  • Quick setting concrete, 1 bag per post.
  • Posthole digger.
  • String level.
  • Chalk marker or water soluble spray paint.
  • Carpenter's level.
  • Saw.
  1. Lay out your fence line. Make sure that you are within your property boundaries. The string level or a chalk marker is useful to make a straight line. Or, you can just use any sort of rope or string, pulled taut, to make the line and then mark it with the spray paint.
  2. Dig the post holes. A depth of 24 inches deep and 10 inches wide is ideal. Mix a bag of quick setting cement and pour into the hole, then set your posts. Check with the carpenter's level to make sure you have it straight in all directions so that your picket fence with be straight.
  3. After all posts are set in concrete and the concrete has set, attach the rails (horizontal 2 x 4 boards) to the posts with the hangers. If you are setting an 8 foot picket fence, the rails should be two feet up from the bottom, four feet up from the bottom, and six feet up from the bottom, making three rows of rails. Saw the boards to fit between the posts. Check the level as you set the rails.
  4. Attach the pickets. Put up a picket on one end and another at the next post. Stretch the string level between pickets to keep the top of your pickets lined up nicely. Depending on the level of privacy desired and the humidity in your area, you may space the pickets the width of a nail apart, or you may want to butt them right next to each other. Look at picket fences in your area to see what is commonly done and which look appeals to you. Check the plumb of the pickets with the carpenter's level every few pickets to make sure you aren't getting them crooked. Attach the pickets to the rails at all three locations with two screws.
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