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How to Build a Custom Picket Fence

A custom picket fence introduces a little flair in an otherwise utilitarian landscape element.

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custom picket fence adds style to landscape Watch Video
  • Time

    Two Days

  • Price Range

    $500 - $1,000

  • Difficulty

    Easy to Moderate


Step 1: Mark Fence Location

Once you have determined the property line and legal setback, mark out the location of the fence. Mark the locations of the corner post holes with spray paint. Mark the locations of the remaining line posts, keeping the distance between the posts evenly spaced and under 8'. If installing a gate, make sure to position two posts accordingly.

mark out location of fence and corner post holes

Step 2: Set Posts

Using a post hole digger or two-person auger, dig holes approximately 24" deep and 12" wide. Add a few inches of gravel to the bottom of the holes for drainage. Insert 6" x 6" posts in holes. Ensure the posts are level and plumb. Temporarily brace with 2" x 4" boards. Mix fast-drying cement according to manufacturer's directions and pour in holes. Let cure for 48 hours.

insure that set posts are plumb

Step 3: Cut Pickets

Pickets are cut from 1" x 4" pressure treated boards. Once the decorative shape is determined, make a template to ensure a consistent look from picket to picket. Use the template to mark the location of the cuts on the pickets then use a jigsaw to cut the design. Cut the pickets to a length of 42".

Step 4: Assemble Fence Panels

Measure and cut rails from 1" x 4" pressure treated boards to span the distance between posts. Each fence panel consists of an upper and lower rail and the pickets. Determine how far to space the rails apart, aiming for a distance of approximately 32". Space the pickets out evenly from side to side. To maintain a consistent space use a spacer block. Attach pickets to rails with deck screws. Repeat for other panels.

space pickets out evenly from side to side

Step 5: Attach Panels to Posts

Attach the fence panels to the posts using galvanized "L" brackets. Fasten brackets to the bottom rails before attaching the panels to the post. Because the bottom rails are so low to the ground, it is difficult to do so once in place. Attach the upper rail to the post first, then the lower rail. Make sure the panels are level.

attach fence panels to posts with L brackets

Step 6: Assemble Gate

The gate is made in the same manner as the fence panels but with cross bracing added for strength. The gate is installed the same way as the panels except with heavy-duty hinges instead of "L" brackets. Attach gate latch when installed.

cross bracing added to gate for strength

Step 7: Add Decorative Finishes

Add finials to each post using deck screws. Seal, stain or paint the fence to protect it against the weather. Treated wood must season first before it can be stained.

decorative finials added to each posts

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