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How to put up a wood picket fence

Few images conjure up thoughts of "dream home" like a wood picket fence. Not only does a wood picket fence improve the curb appeal of your home, it also provides a secure location for your children or pets to play. Putting up a wood picket fence may increase your home's value. Moreover, if you complete the task yourself, you will save a substantial amount of money on contractor costs. Paint it white and you'll find yourself living in that home with the white picket fence that you always dreamed about.

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  1. Check local building codes and zoning laws. Some areas require you to have a building permit to install a fence. Others may have zoning requirements that prohibit picket fences. You may also consider having your property surveyed if your fence will be along the edge of your property. Taking these steps early on in the building process can save you hours of work and disappointment later on in the process.

  2. Measure the fence line. Use wooden stakes and string to mark the location of your proposed fence. Clear any brush and undergrowth from the area. Make a diagram that shows the location of the fence line, as well as any other features, such as gates, to help plan your project better.

  3. Install the corner posts. Use 4-by-4 inch pressure-treated wood for all your posts. Using a post hole digger, make a hole that is at least 24 inches deep for each corner post. Insert the end of the post into the hole, make sure it is plumb (vertical), and tamp the dirt into the hole using a tamping bar. Run a string between the corner posts to mark the locations for your line posts and gate posts. Install line posts approximately 24 inches deep, in the same way you installed the corner posts. Your line posts will generally be between 6 and 8 feet apart, depending upon the length of the rails that you choose to use. Install gate posts 30 to 36 inches into the ground, using concrete to anchor them. A gate post undergoes much more stress than regular posts, and this step provides additional strength.

  4. Attach two rails between the first corner post and line post using galvanised or stainless steel nails. Locate the rails on the outside of your posts. The bottom rail should be 6 to 8 inches from the ground and the top rail should be 6 to 8 inches from the top of your pickets. Be sure the ends of the rails are centred on each post to maximise the strength of the fence. Repeat this process for each set of posts, making sure they are level with one another.

  5. Install pickets on the outside of the rails using galvanised wood screws and a handheld drill with a screwdriver bit. Pickets can be flush against each other, or you can choose to leave a space between them to create a more open feeling to your fence. Make sure the bottoms of the pickets are at least 2 inches from the ground to minimise rotting of your fence. Finish the fence with a stain or wood preserver.

  6. Tip

    Use a spare block of wood as a spacer to make sure the distance between the pickets is consistent.


    If you have children or pets, be sure to install the pickets close enough that they will not become entrapped in the fence.

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Things You'll Need

  • Wood stakes
  • String
  • Tape measure
  • 4-by-4 inch pressure-treated posts
  • Tamping bar
  • Bag of concrete
  • Rails
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Pre-cut wood pickets
  • Wood screws
  • Drill
  • Wood preserver or stain

About the Author

Regan Hennessy has been writing professionally for 11 years. A copywriter and certified teacher, Hennessy specializes in the areas of parenting, health, education, agriculture and personal finance. She has produced content for various websites and graduated from Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

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