Sharing all our tips & tricks for how to build a fence yourself, a custom cedar wood privacy fence with gate on a budget including step by step instructions.
How to Build a Fence – DIY – Custom Wood Cedar Privacy Fence
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We live on a busy road so it is important to have a privacy fence to keep our family safe.
2 Reasons why we Chose a Cedar Wood for a Privacy Fence
Reason ONE – Add Curb Appeal
Most people seem to think that curb appeal doesn’t apply when you are on a busy road.
I would say it is more important because there are so many more people passing by your house. 🙂
So a huge requirement for us was that our privacy fence look nice.
Reason TWO – It will Last a Long Time
Another requirement was that it last a long time…replacing a fence is a big job so it is not something you want to do every 10 years.
We decided to build a fence, we chose cedar for our privacy fence because it looks beautiful, weathers well, it suppose to repel wood eating insects & lasts a long time.
Cost of Paying Someone to Build a Privacy Fence
Paying someone to put up a fence is really expensive. It is out of the question with Jason & I on our budget. We needed our privacy fence to be as cheap as possible!
Jason decided he could make a custom fence that would use higher grades of wood, look prettier, be easier to install, & cost significantly less than stock pre-made fence panels.
So Jason needed to learn how to build a fence, a cedar wood privacy fence while designing it too…
So we built our privacy fence… in July in 90 degree days while being serenaded by car & truck horns giving their approval.
How Long it took to Build a cedar Panel Privacy Fence
Jason took off a week from work & spent about four weekends to finish our privacy fence including digging the post holes, building cedar wood panels & adding a gate to the front & side yards of our farmhouse.
Supplies & Tools Needed to Build a Cedar Panel Privacy Fence that is 4 ft. or 6 ft. Tall
- Post Hole Digger
- Concrete Mix
- Cedar 4×4 posts
- Cedar 2 by 4 rails
- 5/4″ thick x 6″ wide cedar decking for fence pickets
- Steel Rail Fence Supports
- Exterior Screws
- Miter Saw or Circular Saw
- Table Saw
- Finish Nailer
Instructions for How to Build a Fence – Cedar Panel Privacy Fence Step by Step
Step One – Source the Wood & Gather your Supplies
Source the wood.
You don’t have to buy it all at once…just identify a place that has everything you need.
I was going to build this over a few weeks & didn’t want to store every piece of wood & pay a delivery fee.
So I just picked up what I needed when I needed it in my pickup truck.
I decided on using Cedar 4×4 posts, cedar 2×4 rails, & 5/4″ thick x 6″ wide cedar decking for fence pickets from Home Depot.
Why cedar decking? I wanted something that looked and felt stronger than the flimsy fence panels they normally sell.
This decking is way beefier than normal fence pickets. It also has nice rounded edges that look really great…bonus!
Plan out what lengths you need to minimize waste. The front fence was going to be 4′ high so I targeted the 8′ decking to get 2 pickets from each one.
Step TWO – Digging the Post Holes, Adding Posts & Cement
Jason had to hand dig all the post holes because of all the tree roots & because he was unsure I could hold a post hole digger up with him.
I wasn’t sure I could either, ha!
Then he cut the boards to fit & I helped nail them in place.
There were two big posts flanking the driveway when we bought the property & we connected the fence to them & used them as the gate posts.
Our kids love riding their bikes & battery powered jeep in the driveway so a gate was just as important as the privacy fence.
Place the posts.
Why we chose to Make our Privacy Fence Panels instead of buying Pre-Made
Since I wasn’t working with pre-made panels I didn’t have to be exact with post placement (this saved time & trees because I could avoid roots as needed).
I shot for spacing them a little under 8′ to maximize the use of the 8′ 2×4 rails.
Dig the holes. Use a post hole digger to dig your holes to your frost line (32″ where we are). I usually keep my holes as narrow as possible (just the radius of the post hole digger)…this minimizes the amount of concrete you need.
Cement the privacy fence posts in.
I pour the dry concrete mix into the holes around the post and allow the natural wetness in the ground to cure the concrete.
I wet the top of the concrete mix with a hose as I go to cure the top portion of the concrete which secures the post while the rest of the concrete hardens over the following weeks.
This works and makes everything so much easier.
Use a level to level your privacy fence posts as you go.
Tip for Adding Privacy Fence Posts
Don’t worry about making sure the posts are the right height…just make sure they are too long & you can go back & cut them to the right height after the fence is done.
Step THREE – Building Privacy Fence Panels
Cut & attach 2×4 rails on the top and bottom of your fence.
Your pickets will sit right in between these rails I found these steel fence rail supports at Home Depot.
I used exterior screws to attach the supports to the post & the rail to the support.
Just make sure you level the rails as you go.
What holds the pickets or fence panels in between the rails?
I zipped some picket stops from the 8′ picket boards. This was just a 1/2″ to 3/4″ wide strip.
I then nailed that strip halfway on the rails & halfway off the rails.
So on the top rail half of the strip hanged below the bottom of the rail & on the bottom rail half of it protruded above the bottom rail.
This allows me to just but the pickets or fence panels up to these strips from the back of the fence.
Cut the pickets or fence panel boards & install.
Cut the pickets to length from the bottom of the top rail to the top of the bottom rail.
Set them in place, spacing each picket an 1/8″ apart to allow for expansion & contraction & toenail them into the top & bottom rail to hold them in place.
I used a small finish nailer for this step which makes it go fast.
Once your pickets are in place just nail another picket stop to the other side of the fence panel which then secures them in place & makes it look finished.
Doing it this way also makes your privacy fence panels look good on both sides.
Often with pre-made panels your fence only looks good on the outside of the privacy fence… which isn’t the part you see!
Using a table saw I zipped an 8′ picket in half to use as a cap on the top rail. I secured this with exterior screws.
Go back and cut all posts to the right height…I cut them about 2″ above the cap.
You could install some nice post caps now.
I chose to save the money & just took a little sander to the top of the posts to make it look nice.
Stand back & admire your beautiful cedar panel privacy fence!
What our Privacy Fence looks like 6 years later…
Our Cedar Wood Privacy Fence has weathered beautifully & is still in great shape 6 years later.
This is what it looks like now after we added a few privacy shrubs.
Since finishing our Cedar Wood Panel Privacy fence, we completely fenced in our ENTIRE acre yard!
I hope this inspires you to give building a fence a try & answers all your questions about how to build a cedar wood privacy fence!
by Tara & Jason Lehman
Front Porch Pergola for our Farmhouse