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How to put up a picket fence

Updated April 17, 2017

The picket fence has long been a symbol of the American dream home. It is especially fitting surrounding a cottage-type house with an informal flower garden. Most of us think of a white picket fence, but fences can be modernised with a colour that coordinates with your house. It is not too difficult to build your own picket fence.

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  1. Draw a diagram of your fence area. Measure each side of the proposed fence and add those measurements to the diagram in the proper location. Decide how many gates you want where the gates will be located.

  2. Clear the fence area of weeds, brush or plants. Put stakes in the ground and attach string to them to mark the fence line and ensure a straight fence.

  3. Decide where you need to install corner posts. Dig holes 2 feet deep. Insert a 4-by-4-inch piece of pressure treated lumber in each corner. Insert the soil back into the hole, around the post. Using the level, make sure the post is plumb. Then tamp the soil with a tamping bar to keep the post firmly in place. When all the corner posts are in, run a string line from each one. This will ensure that the line posts (posts between the corner posts) and your gate posts will be in line.

  4. Install all the line posts 6 to 8 feet apart with the same process as the corner posts.

  5. Dig a hole for each side of the gate for the gate posts. However, dig about 5 or 6 inches deeper than for the line posts to account for the additional stress from swinging the gate. Anchor the gate posts with concrete instead of soil.

  6. Re-measure the posts to make sure they are all the same height. They can be trimmed with a circular saw, if needed.

  7. Attach the fence rails with galvanised screws. The rails are the boards that go vertically on the inside of the fence. You will need two or three rails, depending on the height of your picket fence. Use 2-by-4s for the rails.

  8. Screw in a picket over each post. Measure between each picket on the posts and calculate how many pickets are needed and how wide the spacing will be. Attach all the pickets. Make sure they are not touching the ground to keep them from future rotting.

  9. Make the gate by first building a rectangular frame and then attaching a cross brace of 2-by-4s. Attach pickets to the fence. Attach the hardware to the gate and then to the fence at the proper location so the gate will swing and latch evenly.

  10. Tip

    Check with your county or city administration to find out if a permit is required for building your picket fence.

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Things You'll Need

  • Lumber
  • Wood pickets
  • Drill/screw driver
  • Galvanised screws
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Tamping bar
  • String
  • Stakes

About the Author

Karen Ellis has been a full-time writer since 2006. She is an expert crafter, with more than 30 years of experience in knitting, chrocheting, quilting, sewing, scrapbooking and other arts. She is an expert gardener, with lifelong experience. Ellis has taken many classes in these subjects and taught classes, as well.

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