Picket Fence and Gate

This basic design is at home in any yard.


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To increase privacy, buffer a prevailing wind, or simply add a homey touch, surround your yard with an ornamental and functional fence. This picket fence with its rounded gate will provide security for children and pets -- and be a charming addition to your yard.

Getting ready:

When planning your fence, keep in mind that many municipalities have special restrictions on fences more than 5 feet tall and maximums regarding picket spacing. Check for the location of underground utility lines. Consider renting a power auger to dig the postholes. Lay out the fence line, allowing 6 feet between posts. Place a stake where the center of each post will be. Choose cedar, redwood, or pressure-treated lumber.

Materials:

  • 4x4 posts
  • 1-1/4-inch deck screws
  • Utility hinges and latch
  • 1x4 pickets
  • 1/4x3-inch lag bolts
  • 1x8 for gate
  • 2x4 rails
  • Post marker stakes
  • 1/4x2-inch carriage bolts, washers, and nuts
  • Gravel or concrete
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1. Dig post holes below the frost line. Set posts by first adding gravel to the hole, then plumbing and bracing the post in position. Pack gravel rather than soil around the post to inhibit rot, or set the posts in concrete.

2. Position posts. Use a line level, or a 2x4 and a carpenter's level, to mark an even height for the posts.

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3. Assemble the gate. Install the gate post to which the gate will be hinged (the hinge post). Build and attach the gate before setting the second post, the one against which the gate will close (the strike post). Build your gate by cutting 1x8s to approximate lengths, allowing for the highest point of the gate. Lay the pieces on a sawhorse. Five 1x8s will yield a gate 36-1/4 inches wide. (Vary the width and height to suit your situation.) Attach the Z bracing, using 1-1/4-inch galvanized deck screws. Turn the gate over and mark the half-round top with a string and pencil. Cut the half-round with a jig saw. Attach the hinges with 1/4x2-inch carriage bolts, flat washers, and nuts.

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4. Use the right hardware. Galvanized deck screws are easier to install and more secure than nails. Caulk over the heads before painting.

5. Mark pickets. Make a template from a scrap of wood to mark the pointed tops of the 1x4 pickets before cutting with a jig saw.

6. Attach pickets. Tack a 2x4 as a guide for setting pickets at the desired height. Use a spacer when attaching pickets. Typically, the spacer is the same width as the pickets but should be no more than 4 inches wide. Check for plumb every four or five pickets.

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