I would like to fence my yard for two smallish dogs. After getting
some heart-stopping estimates, I decided I would tackle it myself.
However, in talking to people about how to do it, I've become too
intimidated to try.
I would like to do a picket fence, probably using panels, 3 feet high.
I've been told it's absolutely critical that the posts be exactly the
same height, set in concrete at least 2 feet deep, perfectly squared,
must use several inches of gravel in the bottom, set up props and don't
touch them for days after pouring concrete, don't use the quickie
cement, etc. etc.
I've also been told not to go near HD or Lowe's vinyl panels, "they're
junk." But I'm only fencing in two small dogs, not pigs or a bull. It
doesn't need to be that sturdy and I don't even want it to be
permanent, although it needs to last for several years. I live in
town, so it has to look presentable, but I can't believe I have to hire
pros and spend $8K+ to get it to look nice.
Do I really have to set the posts in concrete? What's the risk (other
than having it look a little sloppy) if the posts aren't perfectly set?
Are panels a good choice? Is there a compelling argument against
using just any old panels? Is installing a fence really so tricky that
an inexperienced DIYer shouldn't even try?
I have never used them, but my guess is they are not equal to the better
quality materials that are available. You don't need a big dog to cause
problems, normally mother nature supplies plenty of problems and she fails
the neighborhood kids can usually do it.
That depends on the local conditions and how deep the post are set.
If they are not properly set to begin with you are going to have problems.
Panels are more demanding of getting the post in properly. It is far
easier to fudge errors when building stick than panel.
No it can be done yourself, but it is work and you do need to start with
a good solid foundation (the posts)
I suggest you find a DIY book on the subject for a starter.
I had the same experience about 13 years ago and decided to build my
own privacy fence out of rough-sawn pine lumber from a local saw mill.
4x4 pt on bottom, 2x4 pt on top, edges of vertical boards caught between
two narrow catches on the top and bottom. The most expensive part of
the whole thing was the wood stain. That surprised me.
You could design and build your own fence from rough-sawn lumber. It's
actually a fun project. My fence was stepped from 5' to 8' high and
was fairly complicated and wasn't overly hard to build. Meehan's
advice to get a book is good.
I would say that is an accurate statement. It has to do with the quality
of plastic and the UV inhibitors. But that doesn't mean you need to
spend a fortune. It costs a lot of money to do all of that advertising
telling people they are better. In my area there are two suppliers that
sell a much better quality plastic fencing than say HD at a similar price.
That would be like saying "do the studs on my house really need to be
nailed at the bottom?
If the posts are in square and exacly the right distance apart putting
the panels in place is an easy job. If you get the spacing wrong it
better be on the short side so you can cut the panel to length.
I have installed a run of fence and cementing the posts was the last
My method was.
place two rods in the ground at each end of the fence run and streatch
a line between them , level as a guide for the fence top rail.
Dig post holes at proper spacing using a length of 2 x 4 as the
Place posts in holes on a stone bed approx 4-6 " deep.
prop two posts in place with scrap timber braces and nail panel in
with panel levelled and squared fill posthole with quickset concrete to
8" of surface.
next day repeat for each fence section .
this allows adjustment of each post as you go.
Not the best method but workable for a home user .
Usually only the corner posts are set in mortar. the posts in-between
(line posts) can be set in soil or some well draining material. If the
posts aren't set accurately then your pre-made panels may not fit.
Panels are a good choice to save work but are probably more expensive.
For the purpose stated, I think any panels will do. A fence is is not
tricky from a carpentry viewpoint and worth a try. There is a lot of
maual labor involved however in digging the holes. A posthole digger
is usually used. If you can hire someone to dig the holes then you are
golden. Just mark their locations carefully and check the digging as
it progresses. an auger can be rented to make the digging go easier
but may also require a helper.
It's doable but an ambitious project; comparable to, say, building a
deck yourself. There's quite a bit of physical labor involved with
digging the holes. (Unless you get someone to do that.) The advice to
date is good, especially the read a book part.
It's fairly exacting in a few ways. The holes must be deep enough.
The holes must be in the right place. The posts must be installed all
in a line. The posts must be exactly the right distance apart (the
width of the panels). The posts must be straight up and down. Look
around at fences in your neighborhood; you will notice that nice
looking ones are remarkably straight.
I fenced my back yard last fall using premade panels, except they were
from an old custom fence that had been torn down, so they were not all
the same width. I did the stake-and-string thing to make sure I had a
straight line. (Also measured and compared to the survey for my house
to make sure I was on my side of the property line.) I rented a power
auger and dug a bunch of holes with it with my son helping, but found
it pretty hard to handle. Also, somehow no matter how carefully I
measured, it would turn out that when installing the posts and panels
the holes were not quite in the right place and I had to do a lot of
I did the rest of the holes using a hand digger. There are two kinds:
the clamshell type and the augur type. I found the augur type much
easier and faster to use, at least for my type soil, etc. I would just
dig one hole, put in a post, put the panel on, then repeat. If you do
it that way, you can see how you like it and quit without too much
invested if its not working.
I did not use cement. I just backfilled with the clay and dirt I had
dug out. I have noticed the pros in our area do the same thing. I did
have to do a little straightening in the spring after a winter of
freezing and thawing and the ground settling around the posts. But
it's been OK since then. Supposedly, cement retains moisture and makes
the wood rot faster.
Check the archives, there have been fence building threads on this
group many times.
OK one last thing, this is pure opinion, but use real wood panels not
vinyl. The vinyl ones will always look like an imitation.
Good luck, -- H
Yes you can do it yourself. Doing it right is hardly more diificult
than doing it wrong, with the added benefit that your fence will stay
up the first time the wind blows hard.
If you are not looking for privacy you can use welded wire which only
requires well braced posts at the corners. Drive in a metal post every
10' in between using a fence post pounder - no digging required. It's
best to stretch out the welded wire with a come along when you attach
1. You could dig holes with a shovel but the kind of post hole digger
that you rotate by hand and digs out the soil is not expensive and well
worth it. Or, rent or hire someone with a power post hole digger.
Getting down 2 feet should not be hard at all unless you live on
2. You MUST use treated wood (or metal) for the posts or it will rot
and the termites will eat it up in no time. Even if you live in the
3. Setting posts in concrete is easy - set the post in the hole
vertically, using a level and a few rocks to keep it in place. Pour the
dry fence post mix around the post. Soak it with a hose. Poke all
around with a rock bar or other pointed metal implement to make sure
all the cement gets wetted. Recheck with the level. Water the cement
for the next few days.
4. Setting the posts the proper distance apart is not hard. If you are
off a few inches you can pad the post with a 2x4 if you have to to fit
the panels. Or, it's easy enough to string 2x4's across the posts and
attach your pickets to them.
In general, no, it is not necessary to set the posts in concrete.
It depends to a great extent on what the soil is like in your area, or
your yard. The posts (assuming wooden 4X4) can be cut to height after
setting in the ground, so I don't see where the "exactly the same
height" is an issue. In fact, for some types of fencing a difference of
several inches or more wouldn't matter and might even be required
along sloped terrain, where the panels are "stepped" to match the
elevation. 2 feet deep should be quite adequate to support a 3 ft high
fence. You might be able to get away with somewhat less if the ground
in your area is suitable. I have 6 foot picket fence I put up around
my yard, using pressure treated 4X4 posts, 8 ft long. They are set in
the ground just a few inches more than 2 feet IIRC and hold the fence
Best thing is to find someone in your area who has installed their own
fence and see what they did. If you've never done it yourself, read up
on it first or maybe you have a friend who has done it. The posts do
have to be plumb, though not "perfect" (what is?) and spaced on-center
correctly, most pre-made panels are 8 ft. Renting a post hole auger
makes things go a lot faster, but if you don't mind a workout it can
be done with a digging bar and/or post hole digger.
No dumb questions, just dumb answers.
Larry Wasserman - Baltimore, Maryland - firstname.lastname@example.org
taking into account all your variables, you might want to consider buying 6
foot cedar (or other environmentally friendly fence woods) privacy fence
pickets and paying a little extra to have them cut exactly in half...get
some 4" x 4" cedar posts and 2" x 4" rails also, as well as fasteners
(nails, screws, etc.)...if you have clay soil, cementing the posts isn't
terribly critical, especially since the fence will only be 3' tall...also,
if you don't like the fence later, with no concrete around the posts they
come out easier
when you get the 6' pickets cut in half, half of your resulting pickets will
have dog ears on one end and the other half won't, so you will have to
decide if you want to leave them like that and maybe alternate them or put
all non-dog eared ends on the up side so they look uniform...or dog ears
could be cut off the other half of the pickets using a saw
one caveat on picket size - 6' pickets are often less than 6' actual height,
but you can leave a small gap at the bottom of the fence (but not small
enough that the dogs can get out)...you could also run a separate piece of
wood horizontally along the bottom of the entire fence, some use 2" x 8" for
that, making the fence over 3' tall
you didn't mention any gates for the fence
I am just now having to replace a cedar mail box post that has rotted
in the ground. If you're sure you're going to get rid of it in 2 years
it doesn't much matter, but if it goes to waste and has to be replaced,
that's not environmentally friendly IMO.
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