How to Build a Picket Fence and Gate

This basic design is at home in any yard. It's a picture-perfect weekend project that enhances any landscape.

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To increase privacy, buffer a prevailing wind, or simply add a homey touch, surround your yard with a pretty functional fence. This picket fence, with its rounded gate, provides security for children and pets while adding a charming touch to your yard.

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Before You Start:

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.

What You Need

  • 4x4 posts
  • Gravel or concrete
  • 4' level
  • Circular saw
  • Sawhorse
  • Tape Measure
  • 1-1/4-inch deck screws
  • Hammer
  • String 
  • Pencil
  • Jig saw
  • Utility hinges and latch
  • 1/4x2-inch carriage bolts, washers, and nuts
  • 2x4 rails
  • 1/4x3-inch lag bolts
  • 1x4 pickets
  • 1x8-inch board for gate
  • Clamps
  • Drill/Driver

Wood List

(2) Gate pickets 3/4 x 7-1/4 x 58-inch cedar

(3) Gate pickets 3/4 x 7-1/4 x 62-inch cedar

(2) Horizontal Z bracing 3/4 x 7-1/4 x 36-1/4-inch cedar

(1) Angle Z bracing 3/4 x 7-1/4 x 44-inch cedar 

Step 1: Set Posts

Dig post holes deep enought that they go 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.

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

Install the gate post to which the gate will be hinged (the hinge post).

NOTE: You will build and attach the gate before setting the second post, the one against which the gate will close (the strike post). 

Step 2: Build Gate Door

Build your gate by cutting 1x8-inch boards to approximate lengths, allowing for the highest point of the gate; in our case 62 inches. Lay the pieces on a sawhorse. Five 1x8-inch boards will yield a gate 36-1/4 inches wide. (Vary the width and height to suit your situation.) 

Step 3: Brace Planks

Attach the Z bracing, using 1-1/4-inch galvanized deck screws. Cut planks as you work. 

Step 4: Cut Curve

Turn the gate over and mark the half-round top with a string and pencil. To figure out the layout of our arc top to the gate we will use the width of the overall gate, 36-1/4-inch. That puts our center at 18-1/8-inch. The center of our arc is 18-1/8-inch in from one side and 18-1/8-inch from the top. Gently hammer a nail at this location. Tie a piece of string that same length from the nail to a pencil. Use that to draw your perfect half-circle.

Cut the half-round with a jig saw.

Step 5: Attach Gate Door

Attach the hinges to gate with 1/4x2-inch carriage bolts, flat washers, and nuts. Attach gate to the hinge post, making sure it is level.

Step 6: Set Strike Post

Set the strike post (the post which the gate hits when closed) in alignment with the hinge post and other posts you set earlier. Attach striker hardware.

Step 7: Attach Rails

Attach the 2x4 fence rails. Make sure the rails are level and align with the other rails.

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

Step 8: Picket Template

To make all the pickets the same, use a template from a scrap of wood to mark the pointed tops of the 1x4 pickets before cutting with a jig saw. Then cut to length.

Step 9: Attach Pickets

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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