Build a Post-and-Rail Fence

R. L. Rhodes
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Whether to discourage the flow of traffic on and off of your property, or simply to add value to your home, a wood fence is an attractive way to define the edges of your landscape. The simplest kind is a post-and-rail fence. With some time, effort and know-how, you can install one yourself.

A simpler version of the post-and-rail fence, with parallel cross-rails.

 

There are three basic types of post-and-rail fences, distinguished by the shape and design of their posts. The fence and the way you install it depends on whether the posts are square, round, or premortised. The instructions below are designed with square posts in mind, but include a few tips for adapting the project for round or premortised posts.

Skill level

  • Intermediate

Time required

  • Experienced – 8 hrs.
  • Handy – 12 hrs.
  • Novice – 16 hrs.

Tools

 

Materials

Instructions

1. Lay Out the 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 by 8-foot intervals for your fence posts, using a posthole digger to set holes at each interval.

2. Set the Posts

Using a sledgehammer, dive the posts in 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.

 

3. Install the Rails

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, of course. Level each rail and nail it in place with galvanized 10d (3 inch) nails or screw it in place with 3-inch deck screws.

4. Install the Cross-Rails

Tack cross rails to the posts and mark them for cutting with a framing square. Remove the cross rails, make the cuts with a circular saw, then fasten the cross rails to the posts with galvanized 10d (3 inch) nails or screw them in place with two 3-inch deck screws.

 

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