A wood fence around your yard not only gives you privacy and solitude, but it also discourages intruders, keeps kids safe while playing, and contains pets. On top of that, wood fences add beauty and substantial value to your home. Wood panel fences are one of the easiest fences to install yourself, consisting of pre-built panels with pickets that can be attached to new posts set in the ground.
With professionally installed wood fences costing up to $55 per linear foot (labor costs only), it's significantly cheaper to install a fence yourself by doing the labor. This guide yields 32 linear feet of fencing—double the supplies as needed to enclose the perimeter of your outdoor space.
Best Way to Install Your Own Wood Fence
Instead of building the wood fence from scratch, an alternative is to set four-by-four vertical posts in concrete and to run pre-made wood fence panels between the posts. The correct way to put up a fence includes planning the area the fence will cover, ensuring post holes are dug with even spacing on straight lines, then setting your fence posts in concrete and attaching the fencing to them once the concrete has dried.
Install fence posts by setting 4x4 posts in holes with dry concrete—not wet concrete. After you pour water into the dry mix, the water momentarily fills the hole before filtering out through the soil. The concrete then hardens in less than an hour.
Fence panels are available at most home centers and lumberyards. Panels usually are 6 feet high, a height that conforms with most building codes. You’ll find a variety of fence tops to choose: solid, lattice, dog-ear, and venetian (a slatted horizontal style).
When installing fence panels between posts, it's important to ensure posts are spaced correctly at 8 feet apart. Fence panels are 8 feet long when measured from the side of one post to the adjacent post’s facing side. This is an important distinction, since spacing the posts 8 feet apart on-center would not allow enough space for the panels.
You can choose whether or not to leave a gap under your fence panels based on the desired fence height and if you have pets that can fit underneath it. If you do leave a gap, it's helpful to make the top of the fence level while measuring height to keep the gap as even as possible.
Building Tips to Get Started
Before building your fence, consider these important preparation steps:
- Have your property lines marked to avoid building your fence on neighboring property.
- Check with your local government to determine if the fence requires a permit. Some areas do not have building codes that require permits, while others may have strict codes that can even govern the type, height, and location of fence you can build.
- Decide if you plan to install a gate in your fence. Gates can vary in width, so fence posts must be spaced properly to allow for even 8-foot runs between panels when a shorter gate will be added.
When to Build a Wood Fence
You’ll find the project easier and more enjoyable during dry, warm months. In areas that experience extreme cold, you may not be able to begin the project while the ground is frozen. Think about the future, too. If you plan to fence your entire property, start as early in the season as possible, since fence-building can go slowly.
With wood fence installation, most of the materials are heavy. Fence panels, at around 110 pounds per panel, are not just heavy but also large and unwieldy. Each bag of dry concrete is 50 pounds. Lift from your legs. Keep your back straight. Panels are splintery, so wear heavy-duty gloves.
Equipment / Tools
- Circular saw
- Cordless drill
- Electric miter saw
- Tape measure
- Speed Square
- Twine and stakes
- Bubble level or a laser level
- Post-hole digger
- Eye and hearing protection
- Work gloves
- Marking paint
- 4 wood fence panels
- 5 four-by-four fence posts
- 10 bags quick-setting concrete mix
- 5 bags all-purpose gravel
- #8 2 1/2 inch exterior screws
How to Build a Wood Fence
Plan Wood Fence
Discuss the fence with your adjacent neighbor. Some communities may require that you obtain written permission from all affected neighbors. Look at your house title documents to see if any type of property easement runs below or near the intended building site.
Mark Site For Buried Services
Call your local utility locator hotline. This free service arranges for technicians to visit your property and to mark buried services (water, electricity, gas, and more) with washable spray paint.
Many communities require you to obtain a building permit before installing your wood fence. You’ll need to observe height restrictions (often 6 feet, but this may vary) and set-backs from the property line.
In some areas, a property survey may be required to determine the location of affected property lines before a permit can be issued.
Stake Out Fence Location
With the hammer, tap two wood stakes 34 feet apart. Bury the stakes very deep for strength, because you will need to run twine from stake to stake and keep it taut. Your fence will follow this line.
Make sure your fence posts are in line by staking the ends of the fence first, then using a carpenter's square at the opposite corner for a perfect right angle. Place stakes every 8 feet between them, adjusting the length of the fence as needed to ensure posts can be set on 8-foot runs.
Dig First Post Hole
Start at one end by digging a fence post hole with the post-hole digger. Dig the hole to the depth required by your community. In the absence of local requirements, a good rule of thumb is to dig a hole that is half the length of the post and about three times as wide as the post.
Place a post in the hole temporarily. Measure 8 feet from the side of that post and follow the twine to the location of the next hole.
Dig All Other Post Holes
This second hole should be dug so that its post is exactly 8 feet away from the first post, if measured from side-to-side. Dig to the required depth. Continue in the same manner until all five post-holes are dug.
Add Base Fill
Extend the tape measure into the post hole. Pour gravel into the hole while the tape is still in there. When the gravel reaches about 4 inches, remove the tape. Use one of the four-by-fours to tamp down the gravel and smooth it. Move to the next hole until finished with all five holes.
Set Posts in Concrete
Every fence post should be set in concrete to keep the fence sturdy between each panel. Use scrap two-by-fours to brace the posts in the post-holes. Plumb each post with the bubble level or laser level. Working down the line of posts, fill each hole with dry quick-set concrete to just under 3 or 4 inches below ground-level. When all are filled, add fresh water slowly, by hose, on top. The concrete will cure in about 20 to 40 minutes.
Place Fence Panels
With an assistant, lift and place a fence panel between two posts. Add blocking below the fence panel to raise it to the desired height. Make sure that both sides of the fence panel touch the posts but aren't so tight as to spread the posts.
Attach Fence Panels
Attach the fence panel to the two posts with screws. Drive the screws through the sides of the fence panel and into the fence posts. Use four screws per side. Continue for the remaining fence panels.
Staining and Finishing
If using cedar posts and fence panels, staining and finishing are optional since cedar provides natural protection from the elements. If you do wish to stain and finish your fence, do so by rolling, brushing, or spraying the compounds onto your fence. If using pressure-treated or green-treated wood, be sure to allow sufficient drying time before staining your new fence.
Is it hard to install a fence yourself?
Installing your own fence is not a complicated task, but it is very labor-intensive. It's best to recruit a friend or family member to help. Digging post holes and pouring concrete can be done by yourself if you have plenty of time to complete the fence. Installing panels requires a second person to hold each panel level while another person attaches it to the fence.
What is the cheapest fence to install?
PVC fencing is cheaper than wood fencing, and it's also more lightweight and weather-resistant. Wire fencing panels installed between wood framing is another budget-friendly option that offers a clear view of the outside of the fence. When choosing a type of fence to install, start by considering the level of privacy you need.
Should fence posts be inside or outside?
Fence posts are typically installed on the inside of the fence, but they can be installed outside based on personal preference. If you want the "good side" of the fence facing the outside of your home, for example, install fence posts on the inside. If your fence only runs along the property line in your backyard, you may choose to install the posts on the outside for a nicer look inside the fence.