Weekend Warrior: How to Install a Picket Fence

boy walking along a picket fence with a stickPicket fences beautify a property, add a layer of security, and define property lines. While building a fence from scratch may take a bit of time and tools, it can be done over the course of a weekend for our Weekend Warriors.

The most challenging part of fence installation is usually digging the postholes. Before digging, call your local utility company to ensure there are no buried lines in your way.

Step one: at the first post location, dig a 10-inch-diameter hole as deep as possible using a shovel. Try to get down to about 32 inches.

Next, set a post in the hole. Add about 8 inches of soil to the hole. When the post is plumb, compact the soil tightly around it with a tamping bar. Add another 8 inches of soil to the hole and repeat process until the hole is filled.

Attach a mason’s line to the posts outside face, about 5 inches above the ground. Measure from the post to where the fence’s first corner will be and place a stake in the ground. Wrap the line around it 5 inches above ground level, and pull tight. Measure out from the post the length of the first panel and mark the spot with a screw. Dig a 10-inch diameter posthole at the mark.

The next step is to set the fence panel by sliding the panel’s rails into the post’s mortises. Adjust to panel’s far end until the top rail is level. With the panel propped in place, put the next post into its hole so its front face touches the mason’s line.

Adjust the post side to side so that the picket-to-post gap equals picket spacing. Fill the hole as previously described. Check the post and pickets for plumb.

Next, set the gate posts by installing the first gate post at end of panel, and then measuring the width of the gate with an additional 1.5 inches. Set the 2nd gate post, fill, tamp, and check for plumb.

Finally, add the gate by using wedges to prop up and level the gate between the posts.