How to Calculate Material for a Fence

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Adding a new fence to your yard can provide privacy, visual appeal and security for children and pets. There is a wide variety of options for fencing materials and design, but regardless of the fence type you've chosen, the project begins with an accurate estimate of the materials needed. The basic procedure for listing the materials required can be adapted to any type of fence being installed.

Things You'll Need

  • 100-foot tape measure
  • Wood stakes (optional)
  • Nylon string (optional)
  • Layout the proposed fence line. Place a wood stake into the ground at each corner or end of the fence and tie a continuous length of nylon string to the stakes to define the fence perimeter and location. Add two additional stakes at either side of any desired gate location in the fencing.

  • Calculate the number and length of fence posts. Measure the length of each side and divide measurement by the recommended post spacing for the type of fence. Be sure to include only one post at each corner and two posts at each gate. Define the length needed for each post by adding the post hole depth to the proposed fence height. Common post holes are dug to a depth of 18 to 24 inches deep, depending on the height of the fence.

  • Estimate post concrete, if applicable. The typical material coverage is one-half bag (60-lb.) for each standard 24-inch deep post hole and slightly less for post holes that are 18 inches deep.

  • Determine the required horizontal support members, referred to as "rails." Typically, there is a top rail, installed between 8 and 12 inches below the top line of the fencing, and a bottom rail, installed approximately 12 inches above the ground level. Measure the overall length of each fence section and add together to define the total length of the fence. For the horizontal rails, multiply the overall length of the fence times the number of rails for the total length of material needed.

  • Calculate the fencing material. Divide the overall length of the fence calculated in Step 4 by the individual board or picket width including spacing for each. Example: for a common vertical board (7 1/2 inches wide) plus the standard vertical spacing (1/2-inch) equals 8-inches. Divide the overall fence length, including gate(s), by the fence board width to determine number of boards or pickets required.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be sure to include any fasteners, brackets, gate turnbuckles or post caps that may be part of the fence design you have chosen.
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