We live on a busy road so it is important to have a privacy fence to keep our family safe. Today, I am sharing our step by step instructions for how to build a fence, a cedar privacy fence.
How to Build a Fence – DIY – Custom Cedar Fence
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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 🙂 Don’t you want people to have happy thoughts when they drive by your house? So the first requirement was that it look nice. The second 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 use cedar because it looks beautiful, weathers well, and lasts a long time. Paying someone to put up a fence is out of the question with Jason and our budget. Somehow Jason worked it out in his head that he could make a custom fence that would use higher grades of wood, look prettier, be easier to install, and cost significantly less than stock pre-made panels. Sounds like fuzzy math to me (and he is a math major)! So he decided he was going to learn how to build a fence while designing it too…
So we did… in July in 90 degree days while being serenaded by car and truck horns giving their approval. He took off a week from work and spent about four weekends to finish the front and side. Jason had to hand dig all the post holes because of all the tree roots and because he was unsure I could hold a post hole digger up with him. I wasn’t sure I could either. Then he cut the boards to fit and I helped nail them in place. There were two big posts flanking the driveway when we bought the property and we connected the fence to them and used them as the gate posts. Our kids love riding their bikes and jeep in the driveway so a gate was just as important as the fence. Anyway it’s done now and looks great!
How to Build a Fence – Cedar Privacy Fence!
- 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 and didn’t want to store every piece of wood and I certainly didn’t want to 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, and 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.
- Place the posts. Since I wasn’t working with pre-made panels I didn’t have to be exact with post placement (this saved time and 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 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 posts as you go. Don’t worry about making sure the posts are the right height…just make sure they are too long and you can go back and cut them to the right height after the fence is done.
- Cut and 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 and the rail to the support. Just make sure you level the rails as you go.
- What holds the pickets 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 and halfway off the rails. So on the top rail half of the strip hanged below the bottom of the rail and on the bottom rail half of it protruded above the bottom rail. This allows me to just but the pickets up to these strips from the back of the fence.
- Cut the pickets and 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 and contraction, and toenail them into the top and 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 and makes it look finished. Doing it this way also makes your fence look good on both sides. Often with pre-made panels your fence only looks good on the outside of the 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 and just took a little sander to the top of the posts to make it look nice.
- Stand back and admire your work!