How to Install a Wood Fence

Wood Fence

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Project Overview
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 days
  • Yield: 32 linear feet
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $800 to $1,200

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. 

With professionally installed wood fences costing up to $55 per linear foot (labor costs only), you'll be able to save a significant amount of money by installing your own wood fence. 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 premade wood fence panels between the posts.

Fence Posts

Four-by-four posts set relatively easily in post 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

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).

As each panel is 8 feet long, the posts must be spaced 8 feet apart, 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.

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.

Safety Considerations

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.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Circular saw
  • Cordless drill
  • Electric miter saw
  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Speed Square
  • Twine and stakes
  • Bubble level or a laser level
  • Post-hole digger
  • Shovel
  • Pencil
  • Eye and hearing protection
  • Work gloves
  • Marking paint

Materials

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Obtain Permit

    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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    Tip

    If you do prefer to measure post distance with on-center measurements, the distance would be 103 inches from the center of one post to the center of the next post.

  7. 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.

  8. Set Posts in Concrete

    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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.