When you use the step method, you often need taller posts -- and more of them -- than if you use the parallel method. The latter method is the better option for a picket fence because you can level the pickets to compensate for the sloped rails. Contact the utility company before you start constructing your fence and obtain a map of all the underground cables in your yard. This can help you avoid digging through a cable and possibly disrupting telephone service for the entire neighborhood. Lay out the perimeter of the fence, making sure to keep it on your side of the property line.
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To be on the safe side, keep it at least one foot on your side. Mark the corners with stakes.
Stretch string between the corner stakes and pound more stakes for the line posts with their faces touching the string. Space them approximately 8 feet apart.
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Dig the hole for each post with a post hole digger. If your fence is 5 feet high, the hole should be 20 inches deep, and the posts themselves should be 80 inches long. Dig each hole an extra 3 inches deeper and fill the bottom with 3 inches of pea gravel for drainage. Set each post in concrete, leveling it with a level as you add the concrete. Let the concrete set for 24 to 48 hours.
Make a mark on each post for the location of the top rail and another one for the bottom, using a tape measure and a pencil. These marks should be the same distance from the ground on each post. Make marks on each side of each post that faces another post.
How to Install a Picket Fence
Hold a piece of 2-byinch lumber between a pair of adjacent posts with a helper and center the ends on the top pair of marks. The lumber should be long enough to overlap each post. It will be a rail. Trace a line along the edge of each post on each edge of the rail with a pencil, then cut the rail along this line.
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You make this bevel cut by adjusting the angle of the circular saw blade to match the line and then making a crosscut. By measuring the length and height of your fence and the width you want your pickets to be, you can easily determine the quantity and size of the lumber you'll need. Save time in cutting your pickets by using a circular saw with a guide, especially if you plan to rip your pickets from lumber that is wider than your pickets.
Use a planer saw blade will help you avoid have to run your pickets through a jointer. Your fence will be straight if you first plant your corner posts, then mark the fence line between these posts by running a taut length of twine between the posts. For a more permanent line that will not be erased or moved as you install your fence, use a can of spray paint to mark your fence line. After determining the distance between your fence posts, make a mark on the ground where each post will be planted.
For faster digging of your post holes, use a post hole digger.
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Your fence will be more solid if you dig each post hole depth about 30 percent of your picket length. For example: for a fence that will be 4' high, dig your post hole about 16' deep. A few inches of gravel in the bottom of your hole will give you better drainage that will serve you well if your fence is located within a sprinkler area.
In filling the hole with dirt be sure you pack the fill dirt and keep your post plumb. In attaching your 2 horizontal fence rails be sure each rail is level.