DIY – Backyard Fence
It takes a lot of wood to build a fence, and we wanted to do as few seams as possible on our slats. That meant we needed our horizontal boards to be at least 12’ long for most sections. If you plan ahead, Dunn Lumber offers $20 delivery. We had been going back and forth on what type of wood we were going to use, and we didn’t get our final plan together in time to schedule the delivery. Instead we had to rent a trailer that was big enough to accommodate the boards. DIY – Backyard Fence!
While we had the trailer, we also picked up a miter saw, nail gun, and air compressor that we borrowed from a friend. If you don’t have those tools and you don’t have a friend to loan them to you, it is well worth your money to rent them.
Once we had everything home and unloaded it was time to get to work.
|4”x4”x10’ Pressure-Treated Wood Posts|
|Sakrete—50 lb Bags (1 bag per post)|
|1″ x 4″ Cedar Fence Boards|
|1″ x 6″ Cedar Fence Boards (for trim)|
|Ring Shank Nails|
Step 1: Call 811
Call 811. This is an important step before starting any construction project that requires digging. We called on a Wednesday and planned to start digging on the following Saturday. By Friday all five utility companies had come out and marked the pipes/lines. I suggest giving yourself a bit more time, just in case they can’t get it done that quickly. This service is free, and is really important.
It’s also a good idea to check with your city’s code/permit department. Our city doesn’t require permits for fences 6’ or less, but there are some regulations on distance from the road that are important to be aware of.
Step 2: Mark your Fence Line
Our first step after demolishing the old fence was to mark our fence line. We pounded a stake into the ground at each end and tied a string tightly between the stakes.
Step 3: Mark your Post Locations
We wanted our posts to be spaced roughly 6’ apart (adjusting slightly at each end to accommodate the overall length of the fence). We measured and marked each post location by pounding a in a wood stake along the string fence line.
Step 4: Dig your Post Holes
We planned to sink the posts 3’ deep for our 6’ fence. This depth can vary slightly depending on the amount of wind your fence will have to stand up against, but generally, it’s best to sink them between 1/3 and 1/2 as deep as the above ground finished height.
We started by loosening the ground with the san angelo bar, and then dug the hole wider and deeper using a manual post hole digger. The finished hole should be around 12” wide. This worked great for the first hole, but then we ran into some really hard soil on the next hole. We were pressed for time, and really needed to get the posts all set in one day, so we made the decision to rent a gas-powered auger. It was a great choice. It saved us hours and hours of work for less than $75.
Step 5: Plum your Pots
This can be done at the same time as you pour the concrete, but we chose to level and plum (line up) the posts first and secure them with stakes before we poured the concrete. We used a 4’ level and secured the post when it was in position with two stakes and double-headed nails (for easier removal). We didn’t worry about the height of the posts (they were all above the 6’ mark), and they will be cut down to the right height later.
Step 6: Pour your Concrete
There are a few different ways to do this. The cement can be premixed according to the directions on the bag, or you can mix it directly in the ground, which is what we chose to do. To mix it in the ground, simply empty half of one bag per hole—distributing it evenly, pour in water until it is the right consistency, and repeat the process with the second half of the bag, filling each hole. If you use this method, make sure you don’t add too much water, or you will wash out too much of the cement mix. Conversely, not enough water will prevent the concrete from setting up properly.
Step 7: Remove your Stakes
There is probably the perfect time to remove the stakes—after the concrete has started to set, but still soft enough to pull them out. We missed that window. Rookie mistake, I guess. After we pulled out the nails, we just used the sledge hammer to break them off at ground-level.
Step 8: Stain your Posts
This step isn’t necessary, as the wood is pressure-treated, but we wanted our fence to be modern and bold, and I don’t particularly care for the look of cedar as it ages, so we chose to stain the wood. Ideally, we would have done this to all of the posts before we set them in the ground, but we ran out of time before we needed to start the construction.
We chose to use a solid outdoor stain and had it tinted to the color we picked out. We also decided to brush the stain on as opposed to rolling it, because it’s easier to get into the cracks and incised areas of the wood with the brush. It also takes forever. and ever. In the end, though, it’s totally worth it.
Step 9: Stain the Wood
Stain all of the wood. This doesn’t have to be done before you finish the fence, but you will love yourself forever if you plan enough time to make it happen before moving on with the construction. We had some time constraints and we had to skip this step until the end. Trust me, there are a million little cracks and spaces that are hard to get with a brush or roller once the fence is finished.
Step 10: Measure the Overall Height of your Fence
Mark the posts with your overall finish height. We planned this out in sections because our fence line is on a slope and we knew we’d need to stair-step it down to keep it close to the 6-foot city code. Once we measured the 6-foot mark on one post, we ran a string from that mark to the next post, leveled the string, and marked the second post. Line levels (lightweight, small levels that hang from the string) are really inexpensive and a great tool for this process. They were out of stock when we were gathering supplies, so we did our best with a standard level.
Step 11: Measures the Spaces Between Boards
Measure down the post for each board and space until you get to the bottom board. It’s best to start installing boards from the bottom up so that you get the most accurate spacing and to make the rest of the boards easier to install. Basically, you’re stacking the boards on top of spacers instead of floating them underneath a board. We spaced our boards 3/4” apart.
Step 12: Create a Spacer
Cut 2–3 spacer pieces. Use a scrap piece of wood and cut it to the width of space that you want between your boards. Keep track of these pieces, they will save you a ton of time and keep your fence nice and level. They are also really helpful to hold the boards in place so they can be installed by one person.
Step 13: Cut your Fence Boards
Measure and cut the fence boards. We cut all the boards with the miter saw for one section and installed them before moving on and cutting the wood for the next section. Measure your distance from post to post. Our boards covered two 6-foot sections. At the starting point of the fence, the boards were flush to the end of the post, and in the middle sections of the fence the boards ended at the center point of the posts (see diagram). This kept the overall look clean.
Step 14: Install the Bottom Board
Find the bottom mark on the first post and hold the board in place spanning across to the other end. Level the board in the center and nail it to the posts on each end (and to the post in the center if you are covering more than one section, like we did). It’s really helpful to have two people on this step. Once the bottom board is level and attached, the remaining boards in the section can be installed by one person.
Step 15: Install the Remaining Boards
Place a spacer on top of the bottom board at each end. Then set the next board on top and nail it to each post. Repeat this process until you reach your desired height, checking the level periodically. Then move on to the next section and repeat steps 4–6 until all of your sections are complete.
If there are any boards that end on a post that won’t be getting a trim piece (like in the stair-step sections), a small piece of wood can be nailed on the adjacent side to give the look of a thicker board (see photo).
Step 16: Trim the Tops of your Posts
Using a circular saw, cut the tops of the posts flush with the top fence slat. The saw won’t be able to make it through the post in a single cut, so cut halfway on one side, switch to the opposite side and cut the other half. If you’ve used treated wood posts, it’s really important to wear safety glasses and a dust mask for this step. The chemicals in the wood are pretty nasty, and there is a lot of dust when you’re cutting.
Step 17: Add the Trim
This step isn’t necessary, but it will really enhance the overall look of the fence. We used 1”x6” boards and ran them up the sides and across the tops of all the sections.
Step 18: Stain your Fence
If you didn’t do this in step one, you are stuck doing it at the end like we were. You will be kicking yourself for not staining the wood first as you painstakingly paint in-between each slat, but don’t give up—it’s worth it. It’s helpful to get a skinny paint roller that is just slightly smaller than your spaces, otherwise you’ll have to use a brush. It’s also best to work in sections, painting one long board at a time. Having two people working at the same time is ideal, so that one person can be on each side and working on the same section to avoid paint drips.
And finally… Done!
Source: Dunn Lumber
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