Fences - Make Your Own Picket Fence

Picket fences are not only traditional, they have a classic style that lends beauty to a lawn or garden. Kits are available, but they're also very easy to make from scratch. Not only do you end up with a look that is just what you want, you gain the pride of having built it yourself.

Spend some time visualizing the final result. Do you want to encircle a rectangular area completely? Do you want to install a gate in the center? Do you want to place mesh at the base and/or under the surface to keep out rabbits or gophers? Do you want it tall enough to discourage deer? Will it be straight or curved?

All these decisions influence the amount and type of materials.

Measuring the area is simple and the first step required after you've worked out a design. The size may also influence the choice of materials. Be prepared to consume a little more than you expect based on the area to surround. Pickets break and horizontal supports sometimes split when nailed. Stain may not always turn out like you expect since each wood piece is unique in the way it absorbs and reflects.

Next, decide on your choice of materials. Here, two basic options are wood or vinyl.

Vinyl works well, but it's usually reserved for pre-made sections of fence. Nothing wrong with that. It can be a great way to put together a few sections in any needed arrangement. Vinyl can even be painted before or after the fence is erected, though it's often unneccessary.

There are several different wood species that make excellent picket fence material. Red cedar is popular, but even ordinary white pine makes for a fine choice. After all, if you don't like the look it can easily be painted or stained.

Now that all the pre-construction steps are done, it's on to the actual fence building.

A set of 2 x 4s make for excellent horizontal cross-members (or rails as they're often called) to support a series of vertical pickets. Eight-foot pieces of pine are perfect for covering large areas and provide plenty of strength. They can easily be sawed to any needed shorter length. Just lay them on the garage or workshop floor and measure carefully. Raise them up enough to avoid damaging the saw and slice away. A saw horse is a great tool for those who don't have a bench or table saw.

Picket fence slats can usually be bought in a height that doesn't require any trimming. Just pick out ones corresponding to your design and add a few inches if you intend to have a portion in the ground.

Lay two horizontal cross-members onto the ground and put the desired number of picket fence slats on them at right angles. Space them according to your design, usually from 4-6 inches apart. You can use a T-square to get the angle right or draw lines on the cross-members and line the pickets up that way.

Then, simply hammer in nails of the right length or use screws to fasten them together. Finishing nails will look a little neater but not hold as well. Four penny (4d) nails are 1 1/2 inch and work well.

When you have a section of fence assembled, complete it by using L-braces at the ends that will attach to posts to add extra support. Sections can be attached either with flat braces or, with most designs, using posts at the corners and at least every eight feet.

Then just paint or stain according to your desired look.