Easy, Illustrated Instructions on How to Fix a Fence

Part 1 | 2 - 50 Fence Ideas - How Fences Break - How to Fix a Gate

The next morning you should take a look and see if your posts are still standing tall. If they aren't plumb, just crawl back into bed, because the day is ruined.

If the fence is on flat land, cut the posts to an equal height. Use a circular saw. This will take two cuts which match up in the center and might be easier with a ladder. It is kind of fun to use a power tool right at eye level, but it is also dangerous due to the proximity to your neck.

Perfect little pointy tops on the posts will drain water a little better, but they are harder to plan and cut, so most people cut them flat.

Using wooden stakes, string a level line from the first post to the last, marking how high you plan to attach the rails of your fence.

A good height for the bottom rail is at 15" above the ground. A good height for the top rail is 60" above the ground. Add a string to mark a third rail if desired.

If you are using a weed board, they will establish a level platform for all of the pickets. Make sure they are level, preferably all at the same level, but stair-stepped if neccessary. Invariably a little shovelling will be needed for this.

Rails or Stringers
Make cleats out of 2x4s (4 and 1/2 inches long). You may want to just cut a few at a time while you are attaching the rails because its common to trim off some smallish pieces of board while cutting rails to the correct length.

Small metal brackets are available for this (about 50 cents each), but they don't look any more durable than simple blocks of wood. You can also simply nail the rails into the posts with long nails driven diagonally (This is called toenailing).

If you use a level horizontal string, the rails will be level, or you can level each rail individually.

If you are building a fence which is on a hill, you can either keep the rails level, creating a stair-step appearance or slope them down the hill, so that they stay a consistent distance from the ground.

Carefully measure the distance between the posts and cut 2x4 rails to fit nicely between the posts.

Attach them with screws or nails. Use two or three nails or screws per connection point. If you use too many, the connection will be strong, but more susceptible to rot through all the nail holes and compromised wood strength.


Pickets are the expensive part of a fence. They are only $2 each, but they are only about 6" wide, so it takes a ton of them to make a fence.

You can use a hammer to nail them, use a cordless drill to screw them or use a nail gun and compressor. I recommend using a drill and screws if you have less than 50 pickets, otherwise rent a nail gun.

Space the Pickets!
Do not nail the pickets right next to one another. Although they will shrink a little over the next 10 years, the pickets need room to expand. They will get moist, crowd each other out of the way and RUIN the fence if you put them right next to one another. They will pop nails and screws right out.

I recommend spacing the pickets with a slight gap, using a nail or screw. You can also try just spacing them without a guide.

If you are incredibly sexy, and need to block all peeping eyes you will have to add a second layer of pickets or battens. You can also set the pickets at an angle and have them overlap a bit (featherboards). Almost no fences are built this way, because the extra 4% of privacy will end up costing about about 20% more money.

See Fifty Good and Bad Fence Ideas for fence designs which have greater privacy.

Periodically check to see if the pickets are still plumb (straight up and down). If they are a little bit out of plumb, gradually adjust the gaps on the next few boards to get them back to plumb. Its pretty hard to spot boards which aren't hanging perfectly straight, so I don't think you should remove any, just make adjustments so that you are progressing towards vertical.


It is a lot more fun to attach the pickets with a friend. Be sure to provide ample refreshments for your helpers.

It is a monotonous job, but its the final step when the stressful decision making is behind you and the fence really starts looking like the end is near.



Finishing a fence is tremendously satisfying. They are big and solid, and often fix a problem which has been slowly getting worse over many years.

Have fun!

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Part 1 | 2 - 50 Fence Ideas - How Fences Break - How to Fix a Gate

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