How to Build a Shadowbox Wood Fence

Written by emily patterson
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How to Build a Shadowbox Wood Fence
A shadowbox fence looks solid when viewed straight on. (wood fence image by Psycience from Fotolia.com)

A shadowbox fence has evenly spaced boards on each side of a central rail. The boards are spaced to allow airflow, yet are close enough together to allow privacy on both sides of the fence. A shadowbox fence can be made in a number of different ways; some are more involved and require special tools and skills. A basic shadowbox fence is relatively simple to put together with common tools and general homeowner skills.

Skill level:
Challenging

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Things you need

  • Stakes
  • Hammer
  • String
  • Tape measure
  • Shovel
  • Posthole digger or auger
  • 4-by-4-inch pressure-treated lumber, 10 feet long
  • Ready-mix concrete
  • 2-by-6-inch pressure-treated lumber, 6 feet long
  • 2-by-4-inch pressure-treated lumber, 8 feet long
  • 2 1/2-inch exterior screws
  • Circular saw or handsaw
  • Drill with screwdriver bit
  • 1/8-inch drill bit

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Insert a stake into the ground where the first fence post will be installed. Pound the stake into the ground with a hammer so approximately 2 feet of it remains above the ground.

  2. 2

    Place another stake at the first corner or bend in the fencing. Tie a string on the first post so the string flows off one side of the post. Pull the string taut. Tie it to the corner or bend post with the string on the same side as the first post. Repeat until all corner or bend post positions and the end post are staked.

  3. 3

    Measure eight feet from the centre of the first stake and place the centre of a new stake at that spot. Repeat around the perimeter of the planned fence area. These are your post locations. Adjust the original corner and bend points to accommodate full or partial fence panels for a uniform appearance.

  4. 4

    Dig a hole 3 1/2 feet deep and 2 feet in diameter at each post location with a shovel, posthole digger, auger or combination of digging tools. Set the end and corner posts in position with 6 1/2 feet of post above the ground.

  5. 5

    Mix concrete and water according to the concrete package directions. Fill the hole around one post with concrete. Check for plumb on two sides of the post with a level. Angle pieces of scrap wood against each side of the post to hold it in position while the concrete hardens.

  6. 6

    Insert a screw partially into the centre of the top of the first post. Insert another screw into the centre of the top of the post at the first corner or bend. Tie a string to the screw in the first post so the string is touching the top of the post. Pull the string taut. Tie it to the screw on the top of the first corner or bend post.

  7. 7

    Align the other posts in the section so the top of each post is touching the top string and the bottom of each post is against the lower string. Make sure the string is on the same side as the string on the first post and the corner or bend post.

  8. 8

    Mix concrete and water according to the package directions. Fill the hole around each post with the concrete mixture. Check for plumb on two sides, using a level. Support the posts in position while the concrete hardens by angling pieces of scrap wood against them. Repeat for the remaining sides.

  9. 9

    Adjust the lower string so it is 12 inches from the ground.

  10. 10

    Install 2-by-4-inch pressure-treated lumber as the bottom rail running between the posts. Align the bottom of the rail with the lower string. Position each board so the wide side of the 2-by-4-inch lumber is vertical and centred on the posts. Trim with a saw as needed to fit between posts.

  11. 11

    Drill pilot holes with a 1/8-inch drill bit at an angle through the rail and into the post. Drill these holes at the top and bottom of the rail. Insert an exterior screw in each hole and tighten to secure the rail to the post. Repeat around the perimeter of the fence.

  12. 12

    Adjust the lower string so it is three feet from the ground.

  13. 13

    Install 2-by-4-inch pressure-treated lumber as the middle rail between the posts. Align the rail with the string. Secure the middle rails to the posts the same way you installed the bottom rails in Steps 10 and 11. Repeat until all the middle rails are installed along the fence.

  14. 14

    Adjust the lower string so it is five feet from the ground.

  15. 15

    Install 2-by--inch pressure-treated lumber as the top rails between all the posts, using the same procedure you used to install the bottom and middle rails.

  16. 16

    Determine the spacing of the fence boards by placing 2-by-6-inch pressure-treated lumber against the fence frame on both sides. Larger spacing between vertical boards allows more air flow but provides less privacy; smaller spacing increases privacy but reduces air flow. Adjust the measurement from 3 to 6 inches, depending on your preference.

  17. 17

    Make a spacer out of scrap wood. Cut two pieces of 2-by-6-inch pressure-treated lumber to the chosen spacing width. Position the two pieces to form an L shape. Secure them together with screws.

  18. 18

    Install the first vertical board at one end of the fence, on the inside. The bottom of the board must be at least two inches off the ground to prevent rot. Secure the board by driving two screws into each rail, according to your choice of spacing. Space the screws uniformly throughout the fence for best appearance.

  19. 19

    Place the spacer against the vertical board on the top rail. Hold the next piece of 2-by-6-inch board against the spacer. Screw in one of the top screws. Hold a level on the side of the board; when the board is level insert two screws through the board in the middle and bottom rails. Screw in the other top screw. Repeat this process around the perimeter of the inside of the fence.

  20. 20

    Place the spacer at the starting position on the outside of the fence. Install the 2-by-6-inch boards the same way they were installed on the inside of the fence. Continue until the fence is completed.

Tips and warnings

  • Seal the ends of the boards with a high-quality sealant to lessen the chance of moisture wicking into the wood and reduce the risk of rot.
  • Wear proper eye protection while working with power tools.

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