Do it Yourself: Backyard Fence


A backyard fence not only defines the boundaries of your property, but also can function as a garden structure or landscaping element. A wood post and wire fence is an inexpensive and attractive choice for backyard fencing. The key to fence longevity is choosing pressure-treated lumber that will resist decay. A good post-hole bed of pea gravel will help with rainwater drainage. Plant some lightweight flowers such as sweet peas or nasturtiums to help your new fence blend into the surrounding landscape.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Flour
  • Garden rocks and boulders
  • Work gloves
  • Hand saw
  • Corner and fence posts
  • Post hole digger or auger
  • Pea gravel
  • Shovel
  • Posts, 12 feet long by 4 inches square
  • Level
  • Quick-setting concrete
  • Garden hose
  • Bucket
  • Top and bottom boards, 1 inch thick
  • Orange grease pencil
  • Rolled wire fencing
  • Wire cutters
  • Staple gun
  • Staples

Installing Posts

  • Measure the area to be fenced. The area size will determine how many posts and how much material you'll need. Sprinkle a line of flour to mark the fence perimeter.

  • Place large garden boulders in the spots where you'll install your corner posts. Drop smaller rocks every 8 feet between corner posts to mark where you'll install fence posts.

  • Dig post holes about 30 inches deep. Work on one post at a time. Trim the posts to your desired length, depending on how high you want your fence to be.

  • Excavate the soil from the hole. Shovel a 3-inch layer of pea gravel into the hole. Position the post in the hole.

  • Mix a batch of concrete, following the manufacturer's directions on the package. Pour the concrete into the hole. Level the post before the concrete hardens.

  • Repeat the process until all posts are installed. Allow the posts to set overnight.

Installing Boards and Wire

  • Measure a center point in each post that is 4 feet up from the ground. This is the point where the ends of your fence top boards will meet. Mark the spot on each post with an orange grease pencil.

  • Trim top boards one at a time to fit horizontally between posts. Measure the distance between the orange spots on two successive posts. Saw the board to fit that space.

  • Nail the first top board into place. Position each subsequent top board so that the end of one board abuts the end of another. Remeasure the distance from one orange spot to the next every time you're ready to install a new top board, to be sure your measurements are accurate.

  • Repeat the process to measure, mark and nail bottom boards to the fence posts. Leave about 1 inch of space between the bottom board and the ground. This will allow you to weed-whack or clip grasses that will grow up next to the fence.

  • Unroll the fencing wire. Trim each section of wire to fit each space vertically between top and bottom boards, and horizontally between fence posts. Secure each wire section with staples.

Tips & Warnings

  • Let your neighbors know your plans to fence your property. Otherwise, they might misinterpret your action as unfriendly.
  • Some communities require a permit to construct any fence that exceeds a certain height, such as 3 feet. Check with your local building officials to learn what permits or fees are linked to fence-building.
  • Be absolutely sure you are fencing your own property. Contact your local government office to acquire a copy of your property description, if you don't have one in your files.

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  • Photo Credit old fence image by Alexander Zhiltsov from
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