How to Build a Wood Privacy Fence in Your Yard
By: Danny Lipford
Building a wood privacy fence around your yard isn’t that difficult and can make a great DIY home improvement project. Here’s how to go about it.
Before erecting a fence in your yard:
- Check your local building codes and neighborhood association covenants for any rules and regulations regarding the height, design, and materials that can be used for a fence in your area.
- See if a building permit needs to be obtained before constructing a fence in your area.
- Check the location of the fence against an official survey of the lot to make sure the fence is on your property. When in doubt, consult a surveyor to check and mark the boundary lines for you.
- Call 811 to have the utility companies come out and check to make sure there aren’t any buried lines where you’ll be digging the fencepost holes.
- Circular saw and/or handsaw
- Hammer, nail gun, and/or cordless drill
- Posthole digger or gas powered auger
- Safety glasses, earphones or plugs, and dust mask
- Posts: 4″ x 4″ x 8′ pressure treated fence posts (1 post per 8′ of fence)
- Rails: 2″ x 4″ x 16′ pressure treated boards (1½ boards per 8′ of fence)
- Fencing: 1″ x 6″ x 6′ pressure treated boards (18 boards per 8′ of fence)
- Rail Fasteners: 3″ rust resistant nails or screws (9 per 8′ of fence)
- Fencing Fasteners: 2″ rust resistant nails or screws (108 per 8′ of fence)
- Concrete: Dry concrete mix (about 1½ 40-pound bags per 8″ of fence)
To build a wood privacy fence in your yard:
- Establish Fence Line: Pull a string between each end of the fence to establish a straight line where the fence will be located.
- Mark Post Location: Mark the location of each fence post at the desired intervals (usually every 8’) along the string line.
- Dig Postholes: Dig 2’ deep holes for the fence posts using either a posthole digger or gas powered motorized auger (available to rent at tool rental centers).
- Establish Post Height: Pull a string even with the top of the fence posts, and place 4” x 4” pressure treated posts rated for ground contact in the holes.
- Plumb and Align Posts: Align the top of each post with the string. Make sure the post is plumb in all directions, and in a straight line.
- Set Posts: Pour dry concrete mix in the hole and wet it down, or mix up dry concrete mix and water in a wheelbarrow and pour the wet concrete in the hole.
- Check Posts for Plumb: Check each post again for plumb. If needed brace the posts in position until the concrete sets.
- Attach Rails: Once the concrete has set, attach 16’ long 2” x 4” pressure treated wood stringers (rails) to the posts near the top, bottom, and middle using galvanized or stainless steel nails or screws. Stagger the joints in the rails so they don’t all end on the same post.
- Attach End Fence Boards: Attach a vertical fence board plumb and at the desired height to the rails at each end of the fence with galvanized or stainless steel nails or screws.
- Establish Fence Board Height: Pull a string tight between the end boards of the fence to act as a guide for the remaining fence boards.
- Attach Fence Boards: Cut each vertical fence board to length and attach it to the rails even with the string. If the fence boards aren’t kiln dried, butt the boards tightly together, since they will shrink a bit when they dry. If the boards have been kiln dried, use a nail as a spacer between each one to allow for expansion when the wood is wet.
- Fences: Surrounding Your Surroundings (article)
- Fencing Options for Your Yard (video)
- Choosing the Right Fence (article)
- Installing a Fence (article)
The first step to installing a fence is establishing the route it will follow, which should be entirely on your own property, so make sure you check an official survey. Pulling a string between two points is the best way to create a straight line. Along that line, measure and mark the post locations every eight feet.
Before digging the holes, be sure that the location is directly below the line using a level. If you have many posts to dig, renting a motorized auger may be a good investment. As a general rule, you want a 24-inch deep hole, so you can use 8-foot pressure treated posts and have 6-foot left above the ground.
When you set each post and add the concrete around it, you’ll want to check it for plumb in both directions before the concrete sets. Some posts may require bracing to maintain position.
When the concrete is dry, you’ll add the stringers. These are the three horizontal, pressure treated two-by-fours to which the fence boards will be nailed. By using 16-foot boards, you can bridge two posts. However, it’s a good idea to alternate the location of the seams by starting one run with an 8-foot piece. This way no post has more than two stringers seamed on it.
To prepare for the fence boards, set one board on either end of the run so it is plumb, or perfectly vertical, and at the desire height. Then pull a string across the top of both boards. As you install the fence boards this string will guide the height at which you set them.
Since pressure treated wood will shrink slightly as it weathers, it’s best to install the boards tight against each other. Ever so often you’ll want to use a level to be sure the fence boards are still plumb and make adjustments as necessary.
Finally, whether you use a nail gun or a hammer, be sure all of your nails are galvanized, so they’ll last as long as your fence.