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How to Build a Post + Board Fence

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

Post and board fences include an endless variety of simple designs in which widely spaced square or round posts support several horizontal boards. This type of fence has been around since the early 1700s, when it began to be praised for its efficient use of lumber and land and its refined appearance.

The post and board is still a great design today. Even in a contemporary suburban setting, a classic, white three- or four-board fence evokes the stately elegance of a horse farm or the welcoming, down-home feel of a farmhouse fence bordering a country lane.

Another desirable quality of post and board fencing is its ease in conforming to slopes and rolling ground. In fact, it often looks best when the fence rises and dips with ground contours. Of course, you can also build the fence so it’s level across the top by trimming the posts along a level line.

Traditional agricultural versions of post and board fences typically include three to five boards spaced evenly apart or as needed to contain livestock. If you like the look of widely spaced boards but need a more complete barrier for pets, cover the back side of the fence with galvanized wire fencing, which is relatively unnoticeable behind the bold lines of the fence boards. You can also use the basic post and board structure to create any number of custom designs. The fence styles shown in the following pages are just a sampling of what you can build using the basic construction technique for post and board fences.

  

A low post and board fence, like traditional picket fencing, is both decorative and functional, creating a modest enclosure without blocking views. The same basic fence made taller and with tighter board spacing becomes an attractive privacy screen or security fence.

How to Build a Classic Post + Board Fence

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    Set the posts in concrete, following the desired spacing. Laying out the posts at 96" on center allows for efficient use of lumber. For smaller boards, such as 1×4s and smaller, set posts closer together for better rigidity.

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    Trim and shape the posts with a circular saw. For a contoured fence, measure up from the ground and mark the post height according to your plan (post height shown here is 36"). For a level fence, mark the post heights with a level string. If desired, cut a 45° chamfer on the post tops using a speed square to ensure straight cuts. Prime and paint (or stain and seal) the posts.

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    Mark the board locations by measuring down from the top of each post and making a mark representing the top edge of each board. The traditional 3-board design employs even spacing between boards. Use a speed square to draw a line across the front faces of the posts at each height mark. Mark the post centers on alternate posts using a combination square or speed square and pencil. For strength, it’s best to stagger the boards so that butted end joints occur at every other post (this requires 16-ft. boards for posts set 8-ft. apart). The centerlines represent the location of each butted joint.

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    Install 1 × 6 boards. Measure and mark each board for length, and then cut it to size. Clamp the board to the posts, following the height and center marks. Drill pilot holes and fasten each board end with three 21⁄2" deck screws or 8d galvanized box nails. Use three fasteners where long boards pass over posts as well.

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    Mark for mitered butt joints at changes in elevation. To mark the miters on contoured fences, draw long centerlines onto the posts. Position an uncut board over the posts at the proper height, and then mark where the top and bottom edges meet the centerline. Connect the marks to create the cutting line, and make the cut.


    Note: The mating board must have the same angle for a symmetrical joint.

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    VARIATION: This charming fence style with crossed middle boards calls for a simple alteration of the classic three-board fence. To build this version, complete the installation of the posts and top and bottom boards, following the same techniques used for the classic fence.

    Tip: If desired, space the posts closer together for steeper cross angles. Then, mark long centerlines on the posts, and use them to mark the angled end cuts for the middle boards. When installed, the middle boards lap over each other, creating a slight bow in the center that adds interest to the overall look.

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