wikiHow to Erect a Fence

Four Parts:Getting StartedErecting the PostsAttaching the FenceFinishing Touches

A fence can define a homeowner's yard, mark a property line or keep children and pets away from the street. Simple garden fences are not difficult to erect, they just takes time, patience and a little DIY know-how. Start with Step 1 below to learn how to erect a fence.

Part 1
Getting Started

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    Locate and mark any buried utility lines. Before you erect your fence, it is important to locate and mark any buried utility lines in your area, so you can avoid them when erecting your fence. This may be done in the United States by calling 1-888-258-0808 or dialing 811.
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    Be neighborly. It's a good idea to consult with your neighbor(s) before you begin your project. Make sure you agree on the exact property lines, and ask their permission to work on their property, as it is much easier to erect a fence when you can work on it from both sides.
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    Check local zoning laws. Local zoning laws may require your fence to fit within certain size and placement regulations, so it's important to consult with a local authority before you purchase any materials. This is particularly common if you live in a historic area.[1]
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    Get a building permit. In some locations, a building permit will be requires before you can build your new fence. Check with your local government office to find out what applications you need to fill in.

Part 2
Erecting the Posts

  1. 1
    Determine the spacing of the fence posts. Before you begin digging, it's important to carefully plan the location of each fence post.
    • Fence posts are usually spread six to eight feet apart, with any corner posts being set first.
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    • Use wooden pegs to mark the location of each post and use a string line to align the posts and mark the line of the fencing.[2]
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  2. 2
    Dig the post holes. To dig each post hole, pull up the wooden peg and dig a hole approximately two feet deep, using a shovel and then a post hole digger. The post hole digger maintains the necessary width of the hole as it digs.
    • When digging the post hole, a good rule of thumb is to make the hole deep enough to bury 1/3 of the length of the fence post. This gives them better stability, helping them to withstand heavy weight and high winds.[3]
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    • The post hole should be 10 to 12 inches wide.
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    Position the posts. Position the posts in the center of each hole, then brace them using three four-foot lengths of 2-by-4s, nailed diagonally to the post. This keeps the post in an upright position.
    • Use a spirit level to check that each post is standing vertically upright, rather than leaning towards one side or the other.
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    Fill the post holes. When all of the fence posts have been erected, you will need to fill them using either concrete or post mix.
    • If using concrete, fill each post hole with the wet cement (which you should prepare according to the instructions on the packaging) and use a stick to stir the wet mix while pouring to eliminate any air pockets.
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    • Overfill the top of the hole with concrete, then use a trowel to slope the concrete away from the fence post. This prevents water from collecting around the base. Alternatively, you can stop pouring the concrete a couple of inches from the top of the whole, then fill with soil once the concrete is dry.[4]
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    • If you're using post mix (which has a significantly shorter drying time than concrete), you will need to half fill the post hole with water, then pour in the post mix until it reaches slightly below soil level. It is recommended that you wear a mask, goggles and gloves while you do this.
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    Leave the concrete or post mix to dry. While the concrete or post mix is still wet, use the spirit level to make sure each fence post is completely vertical. Make any adjustments if necessary. Leave the concrete or post mix to dry completely. Concrete may take up to 48 hours to dry.

Part 3
Attaching the Fence

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    Check that the posts are level. Lay a piece of timber across the tops of two consecutive fence posts and use a spirit level to check that the tops are level. If they are not, make any necessary adjustments.
  2. 2
    Attach the fence panels. To attach the fence panels to the posts, you can either use nails or exterior-grade brackets and screws.
    • Using nails: Position each fence panel between two posts so that the edges of the panels reach the center of the posts. Use a spirit level across the top supporting rail to ensure the fence panel is level. Use 18d or 20d galvanized nails to attach the panel to the posts, through the top and bottom supporting rails. You may need another person to hold the panel in position as you do this.
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    • Using brackets and screws: Attach three brackets to the edges of each fence panel - one 8 inches from the top, one 8 inches from the bottom and one in the center. You can place a couple of off-cuts of gravel board at the base of each post to lift the fence panel to the correct height while you work. Set each fence panel on top of the gravel boards then screw them to the posts.
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    • Note: Some some store-bought fences will have mortise and tenon joints which you can simply slot into one another, instead of using nails or screws.
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  3. 3
    Fit the gravel board, if using. In most cases, the bottom of the fence panels should not sit on the ground, as this makes them more susceptible to rot.[5]
    • If you wish to fill in the gap between the bottom of the fence panel and the ground, you can use a gravel board.
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    • Simply purchase a piece of gravel board to fit the gap between the fence panel and the ground, and nail each end to the fence posts.
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Part 4
Finishing Touches

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    Attach post caps. If you wish, you can finish off the job using post caps. These are small wooden squares which you nail to the top of each post to give the fence a more polished look and prolong the life of the posts.[2]
  2. 2
    Apply a paint, stain or waterproof finish to the fence. Applying a protective finish to your fence will help to keep it looking good for longer.
    • A paint finish will allow you to match your fence to the color of your home or other outdoor furniture. The wood should be completely dry before you paint it and coated in primer. Make sure to use an exterior latex paint.
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    • Stains add a bit of life and color to the fence, while also preserving the natural look of the wood and allowing the grain to show through.
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    • A waterproof finish or repellent is necessary for woods that don't withstand moisture very well and are prone to decay. Such woods include spruce, poplar, birch and red oak.[1]
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  • Use a tarp to catch the soil you dig up to make post holes when installing a fence.
  • Crushed stone or soil could also be used to fill excavated postholes instead of concrete.


  • Avoid sprinkler lines, wires and pipe drains when digging your postholes.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Shovel
  • Posthole digger
  • Fence posts
  • Wet cement
  • Mason's line
  • Fence panels
  • 21/2-inch (6.35 cm) screws or 18d/20d nails
  • Exterior grade brackets
  • Drill or hammer

Article Info

Categories: Walls Fences and Decks