how to extreme

Build a Shadowbox Privacy Fence

Construction How-To, Fences, Fencing, Outdoor Living May 1, 2009 Matt Weber


You have many options for attaching your stringers, such as face-nailing, mortise and tenon, or toe-nailing. For the shadow box style, I chose to toe-nail the stringers. By placing the 2-by-2 stringer vertically flush with the outside faces of the posts, the outside wall of the fence would be in a single plane, which makes alternating the pickets easier. To toe-nail, drive at least two nails into the side and one nail through the top of the stringer and solidly into the post.

When it comes to nailing, expect a lot of it. One of the biggest helps on this project came from a cordless framing nail gun from Paslode. This nailer uses a battery to ignite a tiny burst of gas, which “explodes” the nail from the gun with all the driving power of an air compressor. Plus, there’s no need for a compressor, an air hose or extension cord (which may weaken the compressor). When working in remote areas, the cordless nailer is kind of a godsend, and eliminates all the elbow-thrashing work of the hammer-and-nail method. I used Paslode’s 3-inch ring-shank hot-dipped nails for the stringers and the 2-inch versions when nailing the fence boards.

I used a reciprocating saw to cut the post tops at angle so they would more effectively shed rainwater.

I used a reciprocating saw to cut the post tops at angle so they would more effectively shed rainwater.

One more note on stringers running uphill … Cut the ends at an angle so they fit flush between the posts. Here’s a tip for how to do so: First, butt the square end of one uncut stringer against the penciled location on your left-hand post. Hold that end firmly against the post while you position the other end of the stringer so it overlaps the right-hand post at the pencil marks. Mark the stringer using the post as a pencil guide. Remove the stringer and take to the cutting table.

Assuming your one post sits at a different height than the next post, the mark should be at an angle. Use an angle finder to transfer that angle to the left-hand end of the stringer. Begin at the corner and cut off just enough material to match the angle. Now, measure the width of that angle cut. Go back to your right-hand angle mark. Keeping the same angle, redraw that mark, moving it over the same distance as the width of the cut on the left-hand side (plus 1/8 inch for blade kerf). This will compensate for that lack of material. Cut the stringer and install.

I used a homemade spacing block to keep the pickets even.

I used a homemade spacing block to keep the pickets even.

With all stringers in place, I then used a reciprocating saw to cut the tops of the posts so they were all the same height. When cutting the posts, it’s smart to do so in a manner that diverts water from standing atop the posts, which could contribute to rot. You can cut pyramid-like crowns, cover them with post caps, or just slice them off at an angle like I did.