A Guide to Erecting a Fence

how to build a fence

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How to Build a Fence for Your Garden

Help Keep Your Home Secure and Pets and Children Safe

After you install that long-awaited fence in your garden , you might just breathe a welcome sigh of relief. Fences create instant privacy for your back garden paradise. They help keep kids and pets safe and secure. A fence, too, can be an object of beauty on its own. And best of all, neighbours tend to get along better with a well-made fence. If you have wanted a privacy fence for years but have been hesitant about installing one, you might be surprised to learn that they are far simpler to construct than you might imagine. ​

Tools and Materials

This fence-building project uses materials that are easy to obtain from most home centres. From pre-constructed fence panels to self-setting concrete, there are many tools and materials available that make this an easier and faster job than ever before. Fence-building is physically rigorous, so enlist the help of a partner who can help you heft the heavy fence panels and posts.


    • Tape measure
    • Twine
    • Bubble level or laser level
    • Post hole digger
    • Drill
    • Pencil
    • Safety glasses
    • Work gloves
    • Wood stakes
    • Marking paint


    • Fence panels
    • Fence posts
    • Quick-setting concrete mix
    • All-purpose gravel
    • Fence post caps
    • #8 2-1/2 inch exterior screws

Discuss the Fence With Your Neighbour

With any boundary fence (a fence that is exactly on a line between two separate properties), it is always best if you can first have a friendly discussion and come to a consensus with your neighbour. Some places, like the State of California, even require that you obtain written permission from your neighbour prior to building the fence. Regulations about sharing the cost of the fence also varies between communities. Also, check to see whether a property easement lies in the area where you intend to build the fence.

Obtain a Fence Permit

It is likely that your community will require you to obtain a permit for your fence. Communities want to make sure that fences are kept below a certain height (usually 6 feet) and are set back far enough from public thoroughfares to preserve sight-lines.

Determine and Measure Fence Placement

After you have decided where you want your fence to run, tap the wood stakes into the ground every 8 feet down the line. Run the twine from stake to stake, just a few inches above the ground. If all looks fine, shake the marking paint vigorously, then spray directly over the top of the twine in order to lay a temporary line on the ground.

Call your local utility locator hotline and arrange for the service to come to the property. This free service offered by a consortium of local utility companies will mark the ground to identify gas lines, buried wires, and other potential problems you may encounter when you dig.

Dig Fence Post Holes

Mark with an “X” places on the fence line where the fence posts will be installed. Placement is determined by the width of the fence panels. Fence panels tend to be either 6 feet long or 8 feet long. The outer dimensions of those panels need to hit the on-centre portion of the fence posts.

With the post hole digger, dig holes in your marked spots that are half the length of the post and about three times as wide. So, for 4×4 fence posts that are 6 feet long, the holes should be roughly 9 to 12 inches wide by about 3 feet deep.

Add Base Fill to Holes

Pour about 6 inches of the all-purpose gravel into the post holes. You can keep track of gravel height by extending the tape measure into the hole and pouring until you reach the desired height. The tape will easily slide out of the gravel.

Mount Posts in Holes

Take one of the 4×4 fence posts and use it to tamp down the base gravel in the hole. Set the fence post in position and hold it firmly. Have your partner fill the rest of the hole around the fence post with dry quick-setting concrete mix. Fill until the dry mix reaches ground level.

Use your level to plumb the fence post so that it is perfectly vertical. Hold the level toward the top of the fence post. Check two adjacent sides of the fence post so that it is plumb in all directions.

When the fence is perfectly vertical, keep holding the post while your partner pours fresh water into the dry mix. The mix will cure in place in about 20 minutes. Wait four hours before proceeding to the next step.

Attach Fence Panels to Posts

Position a fence panel between two of the posts, so that the ends of the panel hit the centre of each post. Use your level to make sure that the panel is level. Drive screws through both the front of the panel and through the stringer portion (the horizontal structural member), attaching the panel to the 4×4 post. Do this for all stringers on the panel.

Finishing Up: Staining and Post Caps

Complete your fence project by staining and protecting the wood. Even pressure-treated wood and cedar can benefit from extra protection. Attach post caps to the tops of every fence post. Not only do these add a decorative element to your fence, they also promote water drainage and prevent the tops of posts from weathering and cracking.

By Lee Wallender