How to Estimate Fence Material

Written by cheryl torrie
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How to Estimate Fence Material
Estimate how many pickets are required. (picket fence detail image by Aaron Kohr from

Estimating how much fencing material you will need involves a great many variables. There are so many vinyl, metal, chain link, copper pipe and wood fence sizes and styles available that estimating how many posts, gates, panels or boards are required for one might seem hard at first but with accurate measurements and a great plan you can estimate the materials required for any fence that meets your needs and works with your overall landscaping plan.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Graph paper
  • Measuring tape
  • Calculator

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  1. 1

    Sketch the area where you will be placing your fence, including permanent structures, sidewalks, trees, shrubs and planting beds, and add your proposed fence line and gate locations. This drawing doesn't need to be to scale but it will provide a great place to mark your measurements on.

  2. 2

    Enlist the help of a friend and take overall measurements of your proposed fence and gate area and the distances between the structures, sidewalks and plantings in your planned area and mark them on your sketch.

  3. 3

    Create a site map from those measurements on graph paper by selecting a scale where your plan will fit on one sheet of paper and drawing in the lines and locations using that scale. For example, if you are estimating the fencing materials needed for a 12-foot by 20-foot rectangular fence and your graph paper has over 20 blocks horizontally or vertically, you could set your scale where each block equals 1 foot.

  4. 4

    Determine how many posts will be required for each fence line by dividing the overall fence length by 4 feet, 6 feet or 8 feet (depending on your board or panel width) if you are constructing the fencing yourself, or by the width of the panel and one post for prefabricated fencing. If your calculation produces a remainder, distribute the remainder equally among the bays or between the first and last bay, unless you are using prefabricated fencing panels. Be sure to include the two support posts for any gates and a post at any 45 degree angle.

  5. 5

    Calculate how many boards or panels you will need by dividing the overall fence length by the width of the boards and any spaces (picket, post and rail, board and stringer fences) or panels (wood, vinyl and composite, and ornamental metal fences). You will also need to multiply the total by the amount of rails or wires for those fences. For example, if your overall fence length is 64 feet and you are installing 4-foot-wide panels you will need 16 panels, not taking the gates or posts into account.

Tips and warnings

  • Don't forget post caps, hinges and post spikes or concrete for the posts.
  • Be sure to check local building codes and your property lines before creating your site map and choosing a fence style.

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