Building A Wood Fence

Jackson Bodinson

Digging Holes for the Posts

Using a posthole digger or power auger, dig the holes 10 inches to 12 inches wide and 6 inches deeper than needed. A good rule is to put 1/3 of the post in the ground. Main and gateposts should be set 6 inches deeper for extra strength. Keep the height of your fence panels in mind when digging your postholes. Backfill each hole with 6 inches of gravel to drain water away from the bottom of the post.

Attaching Panels

Place each panel between the posts so that the ends of the panel come to rest in the center of the posts. Preassembled fence panels have a top and bottom support rail between the frame to which the pickets are attached. Use a level to align the top rail horizontally. Use stainless screws or 18d to 20d galvanized nails to attach the panel to the post. Attach the panel through the top and bottom rails. Have someone support the posts while you're nailing.

Building A Gate

Since the gate will endure more use and wear than any other part of the fence, use secure gateposts, strong hardware and a well-built and braced frame. If your gate opening is wider than 5 feet, you should make your gate with two doors of equal width. Together, the two should span the distance of the gate opening. Each section should be attached to a post and then latched in the center. This design provides greater stability than using a single 5-foot-wide gate, which might be too heavy on the hinges and can also be awkward to use.

Finishing and Maintaining the Fence

Your fence isn't complete until you've treated it with a protective finish. Your finish coat will be determined by the look you want to achieve as well as the type of wood you use. There are three options in finishing treatments: paint, stain and waterproofing sealer.

  • Paint seals and protects the surface and can add color to coordinate with your home. Before painting, wood should be clean, dry and primed with oil-based primer. Use a durable exterior latex paint.
  • Stain provides a durable finish coat, while still allowing the look and texture of the wood to come through. Semitransparent stains are best on new wood and give an even appearance and hint of color, allowing the grain to show through. Heavy or solid-color stains cover the grain but keep the texture. These are ideal for older wood that needs a facelift.
  • Waterproofing sealer, or repellent, is the choice for woods, such as spruce, birch, hickory, red oak and poplar, that aren't resistant to decay and exposure to weather. The sealer / repellent will help prevent rain and moisture from soaking into the wood. These need to be applied annually to preserve the natural wood color.