A conventional wood fence consists of square posts that are set in concrete footings, horizontal rails between the posts, and vertical fence panels attached to the rails. Standard fence panels are 1” x 6” redwood or cedar, pre-cut to six-foot lengths. The panels attach to 2” x 4” redwood rails that provide nailing near the top and bottom of the panels. Taller fences will have an additional rail at mid-height to prevent the panels from warping. Fence posts are 4” x 4” x 9’ redwood, set 8’ apart, in 36” deep concrete footings.

A wood fence can be put up on level ground or on a slope. In either instance, the posts and fence panels will be plumb, and the rails will follow the angle of the grade. The fence run should be clear of obstacles and a test footing should be dug in order to establish the consistency of the ground. This will help to determine if special equipment might be needed to dig the post footings.

Materials will be ordered according to the total length of the fence run, divided by 8, for the number of posts, and x’s 6 for the square footage of fence panels. The total footage of the rails will be twice the length of the run, or three times the length if a mid-height rail is preferred. Post footing concrete will be ordered in 60-pound bags, using one bag per footing. Galvanized box nails or deck screws will attach the fence panels to the rails, and #16 galvanized box nails will attach the rails to the fence posts. A bundle of 24” wood stakes will be needed to draw string lines, and stake the locations of the fence posts.

To begin, drive a wood stake at the location of the first post, and draw a string line from this stake to the approximate location of the first corner. Set another stake and repeat this until the perimeter of the fenced area is established. Check all dimensions for property line encroachments, and make any necessary adjustments to the string line. Drive wood stakes at 8’ intervals along the string line to locate the center point of each post footing. Dig the footings to 36” in deep, and 8” in diameter. Place one bag of concrete mix and one fence post near each post hole.

The most efficient way to set the posts is using small rocks or bits of concrete to stabilize the posts prior to pouring the concrete. Stand a post in the hole, plumb it with a 4’ level and drop rocks into the hole around the base of the post. This will enable precise plumb of the post, and it will remain plumb while the concrete is mixed and poured. The concrete mix should allow seepage into the base rocks. Once the concrete is poured to ground level, check the post for plumb. The post footings should be allowed to cure overnight before continuing with the fence.

To set the fence rails, draw a string line from post to post, approximately 12” above the grade. Install the bottom rails to this line, and flush with the face of the post. Use galvanized box nails in pre-drilled pilot holes to prevent the ends of the rails from splitting. With the lower rails in place, measure up 4’-6” from the bottom rail, and draw a string line from post to post. Set the upper rails to this line using the same method. Any posts that appear irregular in height can be trimmed using a reciprocating saw or a hand saw.

Once the rails are installed and the posts have been trimmed, stage the fence panels in bundles of 12 pieces along the run. Attach a stake at opposite corner posts and draw a string line 6” above the top rail. This line will be the top of the fence panels. Begin the first panel at the end post, plumb the panel with a level and attach it with two screws at the top and bottom rails each. Set each of the panels to the line, approximately 1/16” apart, to allow for moisture expansion. Check the panels for plumb at intervals and make any minor adjustments as the installation continues.

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