DIY Wood Privacy Fence Installation Tips


Do you need a fence in wood privacy in your yard and have been thinking about installing one yourself? It’s not rocket science, but there are many things that you will want to be aware of to build something that makes you proud and will look great for years. There are a few variations in style, but the six foot tall standard cedar privacy fence is one of the most popular found in the Tulsa and surrounding areas. There are many ways to create privacy and security with fence materials, but the standard privacy fence construction will give you the most bang for the buck.

Here are a few DIY installation tips for installing a wood privacy fence:

• Materials

  • Pressure treated 4x4x8′ posts
  • Ready mix concrete
  • Pressure treated 2x4x8’’ back rails
  • Cedar fence board (3.5” and 5.5” widths are commonly available)
  • Hot dip galvanized ring shank nails (3” framing & 1 ¾” coil) Any fastener with less than a hot dip galvanized finish will corrode quickly by the chemicals used in pressure treated wood. From years of tearing out old fence, it’s my opinion that ring shank nails hold better than screw shank

• Setting posts

Before excavation, see prep work and basics mentioned above. The number one cause for a weak and leaning fence line is not having the post set deep enough. For soft easy to dig soil, 26” of your 8′ 4×4 should be in ground. Twenty four inches is deep enough for clay and more stable soil. You can wrap some tape around the handles of your diggers for a quick reference to your depth. Also you can mark your posts with a sharpie to get a visual check on your depth as you drop posts into hole. An eight inch diameter hole is sufficient for the setting. I prefer to “back” my way down the string line as I’m setting posts. This way you can use the string line, hand held level and get a visual on the line of previously set posts.

• It’s all about the top

Nothing says “amateur” more loudly than an unsightly fence top. Most ground in these parts is less than level and not lacking in lumps and dips.A tight string line a couple inches off the ground is the best way I’ve found for making gradual changes without all the minor imperfections showing along the top.

  • Stretch string from posts on each end of a straight run.
  • Stand back from the fence line and get a visual on where the string needs to be raised or lowered.
  • Tap a nail into a post to reposition string, thus designing the contour of your fence top.
  • Now we transfer this line up on each post. Using a 6′ picket, make a “story board” by marking the placement of the top, middle and bottom 2×4 back rail on the edge.
  • Then add one more line an inch above the mark for the top edge of the top 2×4. This mark is for cutting the top of the post off before nailing. Uniform post height adds to the professional look. You’re now ready to transfer the markings on your story board to each post.
  • Place the bottom of story board at contoured string line then mark each post for placement of back rails and for cutting off the excess top of post.

• Nail it up

After running a circular saw around the top of the posts, set saw blade depth to just greater than 2×4 thickness. Start at one end of run by nailing top, middle and bottom 2x4s then cut each at center of post to make room for nailing next section. Repeat. Now, the top edge of the top 2×4 is the same contour that you created with the string. A template can now be made to slide along and align pickets as you nail producing a smooth flowing professional appearance.

If you’re a Do It Yourselfer, be sure to check out the tips on how to build specific types of fence on my other blog entries. I’m available to answer questions Monday thru Friday 8a-5p.

Robert Cervantez
Champion Fence Tulsa