Project Guide

How to Build a Post-and-Rail Fence

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Lay Out the Fence
A person using a line to mark out a fence.
  • Use the mason’s line to mark off the area where you want the fence. This will help you keep your lines straight when setting the posts. 
  • Starting at the corners, measure off 6-foot to 8-foot intervals for your fence posts. 
  • Use a posthole digger to set holes at each interval.

Set the Posts
Fence posts set with cement.
  • Using a sledgehammer, drive the posts into the holes. For added stability, you can fill the remaining space around each post with cement. 
  • Trim the tops of the posts to the desired height of the fence. 
  • Mark the posts for bottom rails that are 3 to 4 inches above the ground and top rails flush with the top of the posts.
Install the Rails
A person nailing top rails to a post.
  • Cut your top and bottom rails long enough to span three posts. The joints where two rails meet should join midway between the edges of the post. 
  • Stagger the rails so that no post along the side of the fence has to bear joints at both the top and bottom. Corners will have to bear both top and bottom joints.
  • Level each rail and nail it in place with galvanized 10d (3-inch) nails or screw it in place with 3-inch deck screws.
Install the Cross Rails
A person measuring an angle to install cross-rails on a fence.
  • Tack cross rails to the posts and mark them for cutting with a framing square.
  • Remove the cross rails and make the cuts with a circular saw.
  • Fasten the cross rails to the posts with galvanized 10d (3-inch) nails or screw them in place with two 3-inch deck screws.