DIY Privacy Fence
Tips and Tricks to Build a Treated Wood Fence
By Matt Weber
Privacy fences not only limit how much of your property other people can see, they also limit how much you can see outside your property.
These were both important features to Jay and Jennifer, who moved into their new home only to learn their dogs didn’t get along with the next-door neighbor’s dogs. The neighbor’s solution was to drape a bright blue tarp over a chain-link fence that separated both the dogs and the property. This presented a brand new problem for Jay and Jennifer: The tarp was an eyesore. They decided on a superior solution and built a wood privacy fence to enclose their backyard, and to conceal that big ugly tarp from view.
Here’s how they did it.
When planning a fence, you have to consider its size, height, style, material and how all that ties into affordability. Fence materials are usually made from wood, metal or vinyl. Treated lumber is the most common and economical choice for wood fencing, although certain wood species like cedar and cypress have natural oils that protect against rot, insect infestation and chemical corrosion.
Jay and Jennifer decided to build a treated wood fence with a “double picket” design.
For a 6-ft. privacy fence, the support posts can be made from 8-ft. 4×4s, and the horizontal stringers (also called fence rails) can be made from 8-ft. 2×4 boards. The treated posts should be approved for ground contact.
DIY’ers can use concrete sold in ready-mix bags to set the posts. You can even pour in the mix dry, straight out of the bag into the post hole. Once the post base is buried, pour about a gallon of water per bag over the dry mix. We recommend using at least sixty pounds of concrete per fence post.
Down in Alabama we sink fence posts a minimum of 2 feet, but the deeper the post is, the sturdier it will be. Loose or unstable soils need more depth in order to support the fence. A good rule of thumb is the “One-Third Rule”, which says to bury at least one-third of the post height for a wooden fence, so the minimum depth for a 6-ft. tall post is 2 feet. Taller fences need deeper posts.
However, different areas may require even deeper post depths. For building in cold climates, you should consider the frost line. Frost below a fence post will push up on it, causing it to move, tilt or possibly fall over. The colder the climate, the deeper the frost line will be. You should dig holes for fence posts at least 6 inches deeper than the frost line. For this reason, many building departments have codes for minimum post depth. They may also require permits and specify construction methods. Check with your building department for guidelines. Some neighborhoods may also have certain architectural guidelines or “covenants” that restrict design.