How to Design a Wood Fence

Written by anthony smith
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How to Design a Wood Fence

Wood fences offer the builder a wide variety of wood types and styles to choose from. This, along with the affordability of wood and its ease of repair make it a popular choice with those that are choosing a fence material.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Determine the primary function of the wood fence. Ask yourself what you want the fence to do for you. Privacy, security, area separation and animal control are just a few of the functions of a wood fence. Privacy fences are usually a solid design to block vision and taller than an area separation fence, which would probably be shorter and of an open design. Fences used to keep animals in or out must be designed to keep them from jumping over or squeezing through.

  2. 2

    Walk the fence line and take measurements of it. Also take note of anything that will be an obstacle or hindrance to your building of the fence. Trees or plants on the fence line will either have to be transplanted or you will need to modify your plan. Steep grades or slopes will impact the effective height of your fence, possibly changing your design or materials needs in that area. It may also make installation more difficult, increasing the time it takes to complete the project.

  3. 3

    Decide upon what type of wood you wish to use for the fence. The factors to consider here are affordability, durability, appearance and availability. Pressure-treated lumber will hold up to the elements and last longer than standard lumber. Cedar works well if you want an inexpensive wood with a rough look that will not face tough weather. Redwood is more expensive, but is better suited for wet conditions, is durable and presents a more finished appearance.

  4. 4

    Determine a proper height for your fence. Look at the primary purpose of the fence and plan the height accordingly. For example, a privacy fence should be high enough to block sight lines, usually at least 6 feet. A fence to surround a children's play area should allow you to see the children at all times, these are often 3 feet high. Backyard fences are generally 5 to 6 feet high, serving as both a privacy barrier and a property line marker. Fences in the front yard are traditionally designed to be visually pleasing and are only 3 or 4 feet high.

  5. 5

    Design the fence with durability and appropriate strength in mind. This will help you determine the size of the wood panels and the number of horizontal structural members within each panel that you prefer. The structural elements of a fence panel are the vertical slats, horizontal members, and the posts at each end. The most common size panel for residential wood fences is 6 feet high and 8 feet long, with three horizontal members. Plan on putting a post between each panel using 4-by 4-inch posts, sunk to a depth of 18 inches. Research fence designs that have stood the test of time (see Resources).

Tips and warnings

  • Finalise your fence design only after checking on all local laws, codes and covenants that may apply.
  • Contact all local utilities before digging, and have them come out and mark their underground lines.

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