Before getting into the nuts and bolts of learning how to build a wood fence, your first priority is choosing what type of fencing you want. Rail fences, built on a design using horizontally placed boards, provide little more than visual barriers. Of course, planting a hedgerow of shrubbery or trees might alleviate the privacy problem but could take years to become successful for screening purposes.
Privacy fences – fencing constructed with pickets fitted one against the other and placed vertically – take longer to construct but offer obvious advantages to rail fences or another type of fencing that allows your property to be viewed from the outside. Once you’ve decided on this, you can then move on to the next point of concern: property lines.
No matter how much you know about how to build a wood fence, where to place it should rank near the top of the list. Call your county property assessment department to get a copy of your plot, which includes property lines. Even a written agreement between you and your neighbors doesn’t hold as much weight in any possible future conflict, so obtaining these legal documents can save you a boatload of potential worry, costs, and even animosity between you and those living next to you.
What’s next on the agenda before you launch into learning how to build a wood fence? Call your local building inspector! You need to make sure any fence you build meets the codes established for your locale. Neglecting this step could result in having to tear your entire fence down and rebuild it! Save yourself some potential grief and find out this information first – before you invest money, time, and effort.
So does learning how to build a wood fence mean spending some time on planning and preparation? You betcha! Before you hammer in that first nail, you need to know what kind of fencing you want, whether or not where you plan to build encroaches on your neighbor’s property, and that the fence you build meets the rules and regulations of your area’s building codes. But after that, you’re good to go.
The first thing is setting the fence posts. When you dig the holes for the posts, make sure that about one-third of the post is in the ground; this way it will be sturdy and won’t blow over in a high wind. Before setting the posts to soak the part going into the ground with waterproofing paint and let it dry before putting them up.
To reinforce the posts, even more, you can set them in cement; after putting the post in the ground, pour cement around the pole. Mound the cement up on the post so water runs off of it and away from the base of the post to help to prevent rotting. When you are putting the posts in making sure your holes are straight down into the ground, not at an angle.
You can check each post with a level and use rocks or gravel to hold it straight while waiting for the cement. Once it is aligned in the ground you can nail a couple of braces on it to help hold it up while you pour the cement. Make sure the corner posts are secure; they have the weight of two different directions to support them. On the top of the posts, a cap or slightly rounded top will keep water from settling in the pole and rotting it.
Starting the Fence Rails
Now you are ready to start the rails. Measure the distance between posts and cut your rails accordingly. They should all be the same length but measure between the posts to be sure. Once all the rails are cut and laid out, measure from the ground up to place the first rail.
It would be a good idea to cut a stick the height of the rail so you don’t have to measure every time and the rails will all be the same height. Before nailing or screwing the rail in place permanently check it with a level to make sure it is straight.
What Type of Fence do you Want?
With this much in place, you can either leave the fence as a split rail or you can decide for more privacy and go with a picket fence, a stockade fence, or anything in between the two. A stockade fence is private, a picket fence is more a decoration since the pickets are placed a couple of inches from each other and nailed or screwed to the rails you have already put up.
The stockade fence is the ultimate privacy fence. You put the slats together so there is no outdoor space between them and screw them in place. A word of caution, make sure the first slat is absolutely straight or you will have a very odd-looking fence. Also, watch the height; in most places, anything over six feet is not allowed.
Protecting the Fence
Once the fence rails are up, you might want to use a waterproofer on the wood or paint it before you go any further with it. It will keep the wood in good shape for a long time that way. Once that is dry, then you can put up the picket fence or stockade if you want to and paint that with waterproofing as well. You can use regular paint over that if you want more than the natural color wood.