How to build a picket fence with an entry gate

Updated February 21, 2017

Picket fences are the quintessential front yard fence in many areas of the world. It's easy to build and install your own picket fence using prefabricated pickets and dimensional lumber. Picket fences are usually 3 feet high, but you can make yours a different height by special ordering different size pickets from a lumber yard or home improvement centre.

Insert wooden stakes into the ground every 4 to 6 feet where the proposed fence will be installed. Tie a string to one of the end stakes and run it from stake to stake, making a guideline for installing the fence.

Dig holes for the fence posts. Use the string line as a guide and place the holes every 4 to 6 feet. For a 3-foot high picket fence, dig the holes 12 to 18 inches deep. At the position for the gate, place two posts 2 ½ to 3 feet apart.

Mix fast-setting concrete. Put the concrete into a wheelbarrow or 5-gallon bucket. Following the manufacturer's instructions, add water and mix using a scrap board or a short-handled shovel.

Insert a fence post into the hole and fill the hole with concrete. Place a carpenter's level on the post and adjust the vertical position of the post so it is "plumb" (straight up and down vertically).

Let the concrete cure for the time recommended by the manufacturer.

Attach the top and bottom rails. Begin with the bottom rails. Nail these to the fence posts about 8 to 10 inches above the ground using 2-inch galvanised nails. Position each rail so its end falls in the vertical centre of each post, butting it up against the end of the adjoining rail. Use the carpenter's level to make sure the rails are level before attaching them to the posts.

Install the pickets. Position each individual picket so its bottom end is about 3 to 4 inches above the ground. Space the pickets about 1 to 2 inches apart, using a small scrap of lumber as a template so the pickets are all spaced the same distance apart. Use two galvanised nails to attach each picket to both the top and bottom rails.

Build the gate exactly the same as the fence, but assemble it before attaching it to the fence posts. Attach the hinges to one edge.

Attach the gate. Have a helper hold the gate in the gateway opening at the level it will be installed. Predrill holes in the fence post and attach the gate using 3-inch wood screws. Install the latch hook on the other post first, then install the latch on the gate in the proper position.

Paint or stain the fence and gate as desired.

Things You'll Need

  • Wooden marker stakes
  • String
  • Post hole digger
  • Fast-setting concrete
  • 4-inch by 4-inch pressure treated fence posts
  • Carpenter's level
  • 2-inch by 6-inch top and bottom rails
  • Individual pickets
  • Hammer and nails
  • Hinges
  • Gate latch
  • Paint
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About the Author

Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a professional writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.