Fences provide a look to a landscape as much as they do a function. The most up-to-date look for fences is when the boards run side-to-side, or horizontally, instead of the more common vertical orientation. One byproduct of this sleek look is that these fences are easy and straightforward for do-it-yourselfers to build. Once you get the posts properly set, it's just a matter of face-nailing the fence boards in even, level rows.
Basics of Building a Horizontal Fence
A horizontal fence keeps many of the elements of a vertical fence, discards a few, and tweaks some measurements.
With a vertical fence, two fence posts are installed in concrete about eight feet apart. With a horizontal fence, the posts are moved two feet inward. Now at six feet apart, the possibility of the horizontal fence boards sagging over time is reduced.
For vertical fences, 6-foot fence boards are nailed vertically to stringers, 16 boards per 8-foot section. For a horizontal fence, these fence boards are simply rotated to their sides, 90 degrees. You'll use only 12 instead of 16 because the span is shorter. As long as the fence posts are perfectly set, there is no need to cut them. The fence boards are face-nailed to the fence posts.
Nail heads do not need to be covered up. But if you do wish to cover them for a more polished look, you can add trim boards over the nails. Fence boards can act as trim boards.
Best Wood For Horizontal Fences
Because horizontal fence boards can sag over the long-term, it helps to purchase high-quality hardwood fence boards. Ipe, tigerwood, and cumaru are a few of the hardwoods from Brazil or Indonesia that are often used for horizontal fences.
If you are trying to keep your horizontal fence within a budget, you may want to consider a softwood. Ipe runs about $280 to $350 per 6-foot by 6-foot panel—fence boards only. Western red cedar fence boards cost around $30 to $60 to cover the same area.
Softwood fence boards are prone to sagging if they absorb water for a long period of time. While some softwoods are left untreated for vertical fences, it is crucial that they be sealed for horizontal fences. Regular sealing will help preserve softwood fence boards.
Equipment / Tools
- Circular saw or hand saw
- Measuring tape
- Post hole digger
- 12 Fence boards, 6-foot by 6-inch by 1-inch nominal
- 2 Pressure-treated four-by-fours
- 1-3/4-inch (5d) galvanized nails
- 2 Fence post caps
- 4 bags Quick-set concrete
- 2 bags Gravel
Locate the Fence
Call 811 ahead of time to have any underground utilities located and marked with washable paint. The fence should be located on level ground. Mark the location of the fence post holes with stakes. They should be placed exactly 6-1/4 feet away from each other.
Clear the Fence Site
The ground around the fence should be clear, level, dry, and free of brush. Clear brush and debris with a rake. Level out the ground with a shovel.
Dig the Post Holes
With the post hole digger, dig two holes for the posts. Generally, the posts should be set about 20 inches deep or to the depth specified by your local code.
Add the Gravel and Concrete
Add about six inches of gravel to the bottom of each hole. Add the posts. Pour the dry concrete into the holes, packing the concrete around the posts. Pour water into the holes according to the concrete manufacturer's instructions. Let the concrete fully cure for about 48 hours.
Temporarily support the post by nailing two pieces of scrap two-by-fours on the post at angles, with the free ends resting on the ground and staked in.
Nail the First Fence Board
Start at the top of the fence. Align the first fence board with the tops of the four-by-fours (providing that the tops of the posts are level). Use the level to make sure that the first fence board is level. Nail the board into place with two nails on each side of the fence board.
Good to Know
Starting at the top ensures that the most visible board will always be a full board. If you have to cut the bottom board, it is less noticeable.
Nail the Rest of the Boards
Working downward, maintain a space of 1/8-inch between the fence boards. Frequently check the level and adjust as needed. Cut the bottom board lengthwise if it will not fit. Instead of cutting, another option is to dig out enough soil to accommodate a full board.
Add Optional Trim
If you want to add trim, increase the purchase amount of fence boards from 12 to 14 and use two of the remaining fence boards as trim. Nail the trim vertically on the fence posts and cover both rows of nail heads.
Stain and Seal the Fence Boards
Apply stain, if desired, and seal the fence boards.