How to Install a Post and Rail Fence

Updated March 23, 2017

One of the easiest types of fences to install is a post and rail fence. It is constructed of wood and is very rustic in appearance. In many instances, this type of fence is used in pastures to contain animals such as horses. It is uniform in style and can be painted, stained or left to age naturally. Construction requires less lumber than other types of fencing and will conform to hills and slopes easily.
Since you will be digging, it is important to have all utility lines located and marked prior to starting this project. Also, as each location has different zoning codes, check with the local zoning department for regulations and necessary permits.

In order to determine the length of each fence rail, layout the fence across the property so that the fence is evenly divided and uniform. The length of each rail is an individual decision but using a precut length will require less cutting. Put shorter sections at each end.

At least 1/3 of the length of the post should be placed into the ground. Using a post hole digger, dig a hole the necessary length plus 8 inches and at least 12 inches around. Fill 8 inches of the hole with gravel for drainage. This also prevents the bottom of the posts from touching the ground. Starting with the end post, insert the post and backfill with dirt.

Using a tape measure and also a rail, determine the placement of the next post making sure that the rails will fit snugly into the post. Repeat Step 2 to install this post. Place rails into end post and this post making sure that they fit and make any adjustments that are necessary. When this is done, go back to the end post and using a tamper, tamp damp dirt to secure the post. Do not tamp down the 2nd installed post just yet.

Move on to the next post repeat Steps 2 and 3, always ending by tampering down the previous installed post. This will make any required adjustments easier to do. When you reach the end, it may be necessary to cut the rails of the final section to fit into the end post.

Paint, stain or leave the post and rail fence to naturally age.


Cement can be used to fill the post holes to make the post more secure. When it is all installed, go back to each post and use the tamper to secure post and make dirt firm.

Things You'll Need

  • Level
  • Post Hole Digger
  • Shovel
  • Gravel
  • Tamper
  • Tape Measure
  • Post including end posts and line posts
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About the Author

Based in Florida, Rosemary Rugnetta has been a freelance writer since 2007 specializing in home and garden topics and real estate/mortgage. She is a former property manager and mortgage underwriter who writes for eHow and Answerbag as well as private clients. She has completed continuing education courses in writing, construction management and design.