Project Guide

How to Build a Fence

Measure for And Lay out the Fence Posts
Man using spray paint to measure and position fence posts.
  • Select your fence type first so you can determine the available widths of each fence panel. See our fencing buying guide to learn about the different fence materials. 
  • Determine your property line (your utility company can help) and how you want your fence positioned in relation to it. 
  • Outline your proposed fence line with spray paint, then measure the outline of your fence perimeter with a measuring wheel. 
  • Determine where you want to locate your gates and spray paint parallel lines to indicate the gate placement. Measure and document all gate sizes. 
  • Subtract the gate footage from the fence footage to figure the linear footage of the fence, then divide the linear footage of fencing by the panel length of the style fence you selected. This will determine the total fence panels or pickets you need. Remaining footage will require a partial panel. To calculate panels correctly, divide the footage of fencing by your panel width. For pickets, determine both your picket width and spacing between pickets.
  • For every panel and partial panel, add two to derive the total fence panels needed, and if you are adding post caps, the number of post caps needed and any trim required.
  • Position the fence posts every 6 to 8 feet along the line where you want the fence to stand. 
  • Use chalk lines as a guide. 
  • Make sure the spaces between the posts are consistent.
Dig Holes
Person using a post hole digger to dig fence post holes marked with spray paint.
  • With a post hole digger, dig holes approximately three times wider than the post, and half as deep. The depth might depend on your climate (in colder climate, dig below the frost line). Make sure you won’t be interfering with utility hotlines or pipes.
  • A 4-foot-high fence requires a hole that is 2 feet deep. If the posts are 4 inches wide, the holes should be 12 inches wide.
Add Concrete and Gravel
Person pouring gravel out of orange home depot bucket into fence post hole next to bag of concrete mix.
  • Once the holes are dug, pour 4 to 6 inches of gravel down the base of the hole for proper drainage. 
  • Add 6 to 8 inches of concrete mix once the gravel is set. 
  • Position the post in the middle of the concrete mix, making sure to slope the concrete mix away from the post. 
  • Plumb post with a level. 
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to allow for proper drying and curing time, which may take up to three days.
Attach Rails or Panels to Posts
Person drilling nail into rails or panels of fence post with a Ryobi drill.
  • Once the concrete has cured, attach the rails or panels of the fence to the posts. 
  • Secure each rail with #8 2 1/2-inch deck screws or galvanized 10d 3-inch nails. 
  • Panels are typically faster to construct.
  • If you are using panels, proceed to Step 6 once the panels are secured to the posts. 
  • If you use vinyl, chain link or aluminum for your fence, use deck screws instead of nails.
Attach Pickets to Rails
Man attaching pickets to fence post rails with a drill.
  • Once the rails are in place, begin attaching the pickets to the rails. Individual pickets are often more attractive on slopes, allowing you to create a straight line across the top.
  • Secure each picket with #8 2 ½-inch deck screws or galvanized 10d 3-inch nails. 
  • If you use vinyl, chain link or aluminum for your fence, use deck screws instead of nails.
Attach Post Caps
Man using rubber mallet to attach post caps to fence posts.
  • To complete your fence, attach the post caps to the posts. 
  • Tap each cap lightly with a rubber mallet until each one fits snuggly onto the post.

Required Tools and Materials:

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