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Whether your dog needs a safe place to play, or you’d like some extra privacy, a panel fence is a great addition to your home. Save yourself the expense of hiring a pro by building one yourself. It’s not an easy job, but it’s a satisfying one, and it should only take a weekend.
TOOLS & MATERIALS
- Tape Measure
- 100-ft. Tape Measure
- Carpenter’s Level
- Posthole Digger or Power Auger
- Nylon Line & Line Level
- Utility Knife
- Quick Square® Tool
- Circular Saw
- Cordless Drill/Driver or Impact Driver
- 8-ft. 4″ x 4″ Posts
- Prefab 5′ x 8′ Fence Panels
- 8-ft. 1″ x 4″ (two for each post)
- 50-lb. Bags Quick-Setting Concrete
- #10 4″ Exterior Screws
- 2″ General-Purpose Screws
- 3″ General-Purpose Screws
- Bucket (optional)
When taking on this DIY task be sure to equip yourself with the proper safety gear.
- Eye Protection
- Ear Protection
Plan. There’s no way to sugar coat it: building a fence is hard work. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead. Start by researching local building codes so your fence won’t have to be modified — or, worse yet, taken down later. You’ll also need to find out if you’ll need a permit to build it. Once you’ve figured everything out, choose a location for your fence. Measure and mark exactly where you want to begin and end, as well as the location of the first post. Keep in mind that end panels will cover the first and last post, and inside panels will meet halfway at each post.
Set first post. Dig the hole for your post, then add four to six inches of gravel to the bottom of the posthole. Measure and mark your first post two feet from the bottom, extending the mark with a Quick Square®. Set your post in place, then add or remove gravel until it’s exactly where you want it. Using a 4‑foot or a 6‑foot level to make sure it’s straight, secure with 8‑foot one-by-fours and stakes.
Stake a line. Stake a line for your first post to where your last post will be located. For our project, we attached our fence to an already existing one, so we tied our line to the connecting post.
Mark and dig postholes. Mark each posthole with a stake. Remove the line, and start digging your holes with a posthole digger or a power auger. To keep your fence steady, a good rule of thumb is to bury about a third of each post — but, if you live in a windy area, we recommend burying up to half of it. For our project, which features 8‑foot posts, we’re digging post holes about three feet deep, with room for gravel at the bottom of each for drainage.
Install last end post. Add some extra gravel, and set the last post in place. Once the post is at the right height, measure or use your guide board so the outside edge aligns with the mark you made in Step Two. Mark the center of the post to make sure your panels will be properly aligned, then brace into place.
Brace last end post. Use 8-foot one-by-fours to brace each post in two directions. Check for plumb with a level on two adjacent sides, then attach each with 2″ screws. — Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time. You may have to back your screws out a couple times before it’s perfect.
Level and brace remaining posts. Add gravel to each posthole and set the other posts into place. Adjusting gravel is necessary. Measure so the eight-foot wide panels meet in the middle of each post, then brace, double-checking to make sure your posts are exactly where you want them. Finish by adding dry concrete and water to each hole, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Remove braces and backfill. Once your concrete is set, add dirt back around the post and remove temporary supports.
Add temporary panel supports. Working one panel section at a time, mark each post where the line is stretched. Detach your lines and, re‑using your stakes, attach temporary panel supports to your marks with 2″ screws.
Cut panels. Mark the top points of the panel on each post, then, transferring the measurements, make any necessary cuts so the panel follows the natural grade of the ground while remaining level at the top.
Attach panels and gate. Make it easy on yourself by pre‑drilling and starting a 4″ construction screw into the top rail of each panel. Set the panel into place on its temporary support and fasten the screw where your rails intersect the post. Drill pilot holes and fasten six screws per panel, removing temporary supports as you work your way down the fence line. If you’re installing a gate as well, have a friend level it between posts and align it with adjacent panels. Leave a ¾” gap between the gate and post on each side, and screw the hinges to the post and gate. After fastening a couple bolts, check the swing before installing your remaining hardware to ensure a good fit.
Your project is done. Step back and admire your new fence.