How to Install Cedar Fence Pickets


A cedar picket fence can make a great addition to any home. Cedar is a hardy wood that will withstand the elements and is naturally resistant to insects such as termites. Whether replacing existing pickets or starting from scratch, the key to a strong fence is a solid frame. The posts should be well aligned and firmly set in the ground. The rails should be straight and properly attached to the posts. Once the frame is ready to go, installing the pickets can begin.

Things You'll Need

  • Several yards of string or twine
  • Level
  • 1-1/2 inch exterior grade screws or nails
  • Screw driver or hammer
  • Table saw
  • Lay out the fence. To achieve a uniform look, the fence should follow the terrain with the top of each picket being approximately the same distance from the ground. Rather than measuring each picket, a length of string or twine can be stretched between two points on the fence and the tops of the pickets aligned with the string. Make sure the string is stretched tightly and is not too long so that it does not sag in the middle. If necessary attach intermediate supports to keep the string at the proper height.

  • Attach the pickets. Begin on one end and work your way along the fence. Check each picket with the level to be sure it is vertical, and align the tops of the pickets with the string. Use a large nail or wood shim to maintain approximately 1/8-inch spacing between each picket. Drive two nails or screws through the picket into each rail.

  • Trim the final picket. Before installing the last few pickets, measure the remaining space. If the final picket would need to be cut to less than half its width the final two pickets can be trimmed to avoid a narrow sliver. Measure the required width and use a table saw to rip the pickets to size before attaching to the rails.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the top line is supported other than at the ends, adjust the pickets slightly when installing to avoid a "squared-off" transition along the top of the fence.
  • Cedar is a naturally hardy wood, but to get the maximum life from your fence a waterproofing stain can be used.
  • Leave a small space below the fence for water to drain; this will keep it from pooling and damaging the fence or landscaping.
  • Always read and follow all safety precautions from the manufacturer when operating power tools.

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  • "Outdoor Projects 1-2-3;" Meridith Publishing Group; 1998;
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