wikiHow to Install a Privacy Fence

Three Parts:Before Building Your FenceSet the PostsBuild the Fence

Installing a fence will add some much needed privacy to your property. There are a wide variety of options for every budget and aesthetic taste. The following is a guide on how to install a wood privacy fence, though other options are also discussed and explained.

Part 1
Before Building Your Fence

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    Check neighborhood rules. Before building a fence, it will be important to determine if you are allowed to build a fence at all. Building one in an unapproved way can get you a fine and require you to tear the whole thing down. Before building, check what your local neighborhood rules or homeowner’s association rules are regarding fences.
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    Check city codes. Cities often also have rules about building fences. You will need to check what they are before building one. Some cities require permits to build a fence of any height, some only above a certain height. Find out if you need a permit or if there are any other restrictions on your building.
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    Obtain a permit. If you find out that you do need a permit, get one before building. These usually cost a little money and can be obtained from your local City Hall or Planning Department.
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    Choose your materials. It is important to decide what kind of fence you want. There are many different types of materials, all with different benefits and downsides. You will need to consider how much time you want to spend on upkeep, how much money you have to spend to build the fence, and how long the fence will need to remain in its location.
    • A wood fence is the most common. These last between 5-20 years, depending on the type of wood (cedar will last longer than pine, for example), and are they relatively inexpensive. Wood fences may be difficult to clean, however, if they get paint on them.
    • Vinyl fences will last much longer than a wood fence, up to a lifetime if using quality vinyl. They can come in a variety of colors that should not fade over time and are easily cleaned if they get paint on them. They are, however, slightly more expensive in terms of upfront costs.
    • Brick is an option if you dislike the look of wood or vinyl fences, or if you feel the need for something more sturdy. You can use actual brick or you can use concrete block. The concrete block can be further covered in cobble or plaster for a "Southwestern" look. Concrete blocks can also be turned perpendicular to each other to create planters in your wall. Any kind of masonry construction, however, will be much more expensive than the other options, although it will last longer than wood.
    • Growing or green fences are a great option if your city is very restrictive about permits or permits are very expensive. They are also good if you would prefer more greenery in your yard, rather than looking at a fence. You can plant Arborvitae, an evergreen shrub which grows three feet a year, put in an iron or chain fence and train ivy on it, or grow more standard hedges like holly.[1]

Part 2
Set the Posts

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    Find post locations. Using string tied to stakes, determine the perimeter of your fence and mark the corner locations, as well as measuring and marking the locations of the intermediate posts (if they are needed). The distance between posts is up to you but keep in mind the normal spacing is 8 feet (2.4 m) from center to center. Mark all locations with spray paint or stake holes.
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    Dig post holes. Using a post-holer, dig holes at least ¼ to ⅓ the height of your intended fence. Make sure you follow the rules stipulated in your permit, as many cities have rule regarding hole depth. You don’t want to hit a water main!
    • You can use a manual digger or a motorized auger. Both can often be rented from your local hardware store.
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    Place gravel. You will want to put a few inches of gravel in the bottom of the hole, to provide drainage and ensure that the posts do not rot.
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    Place posts. Use 4x4 posts at your preferred height (factoring in the depth of the hole) and place them one at a time. This may require a helping hand.
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    Pour in quick-set concrete. Before setting the concrete, use a post level to ensure that the post is plumb and double check the height to make sure it’s what you want. Pour in the concrete, mix with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and continue to use the level as it sets to be sure that it stays straight.
    • Alternatively, mix the quick-set concrete in a bucket or wheelbarrow and then pour it in.
    • You will want to continue to use string to make sure the posts are in line with each other.
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    Continue setting posts. Get in all the posts before moving on.

Part 3
Build the Fence

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    Measure and cut your rails. These are the boards (we recommend 2x4s) set between the posts, in a perpendicular alignment. You will attach the main boards of the fence to these rails. They should be measured and cut to fit between the posts.
    • You will probably need two or three rails, depending on the height of your fence.
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    Create your rail frame. Next, take a 1x4 and cut it to be the same height as the posts. Mark the spots on the board where you would like your rails to go. With that marked, nail the 1x4 flat to the end of the top and bottom (and possibly middle) rails. The rails should then be perpendicular and as a 90° turn from the 1x4 board, looking a little like a T (if viewed from the side, you should see the 1” side of the 1x4 and the 4” side of the 2x4). Do this for each end of the rail.
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    Fit and attach the frame. Fit the frame in between the posts and fasten from the inside edge into the posts using deck screws.
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    Attach the outside slats or pickets. Use slats or pickets of any width you prefer, but they should not be more than 1” thick. Nail or screw them into the rails using 2” (or similar) screws or nails, using a spacer between each board to ensure that they are even and that the space between them is slightly less than their width. Continue the entire length of the fence.
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    Attach the inside slats or pickets. Now attach the boards on the inside of the fence. These should be placed so that they cover the gaps created by the outside boards.
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    Add a gate. You may or may not wish to add a fence gate to provide you entrance to the yard. Follow the linked instructions for adding a gate.
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    Add finishing details. With this done, you can paint or stain your fence as you wish. A decorative top can be added or shrubs planted along the baseline.


  • The materials to build the fencing and gates are available at most hardware and home improvement stores.
  • The posts, framing, and planking boards should all be made from pressure-treated lumber or cedar.
  • Only galvanized nails should be used for pressure treated wood, coated screws, stainless steel nails, or other corrosion resistant fasteners should be used with cedar, since galvanized fasteners will discolor cedar wood.
  • Only build along or within your property line.
  • You will typically receive a copy of the local rules when you apply for a permit.

Things You'll Need

  • 8 foot (2.44 m) long 4x4 inch (89 x 89 mm) posts (amount will vary based on the total length of fencing needed)
  • 8 foot (2.44 m) long 2x4 inch (38 x 89 mm) horizontal stringers (amount will vary based on the total length of fencing needed)
  • Fence planking (amount will vary based on the total length of fencing needed)
  • Post-hole digger
  • Carpenter's level
  • Shovel
  • Circular saw or handsaw
  • Hammer or nail gun
  • Tape measure
  • Square
  • Wooden stakes
  • Metal detector
  • Plot plan
  • Nails
  • String

Article Info

Categories: Walls Fences and Decks