Money saving steps to build a post-and-rail fence

July 29, 2015

The post and rail fence is a simple design that adds a rustic charm to your property. Building a fence can be a daunting task but with these easy steps it should go smoothly and save you money hiring a contractor.

Money saving steps to build a post-and-rail fence

Choosing your materials

Once you have a design plan and have surveyed the area where the fence will go you will need to calculate how much wood you will need and where to get it from. You can save the expense of buying wood if you can use trees from your own property. Make sure the trees are made of durable wood. Here are the approximate sizes you should look for.

  • The corner posts and gate posts need to be 20 to 25 centimetres (eight to 10 inches) in diameter; intermediate posts can be 15 centimetres (10 inches) in diameter and the rails 7.5 to 10 centimetres (three to four inches). Posts will vary in height according to tree height, and will be cut to size later; keep in mind that from two-fifths to one-third the height of the posts will be buried.
  • Rails should be 1.8, 2.4 or three metres (six, eight or 10 feet) in length.

Instructions to build

  1. Using a brace and bit make holes in the posts. These should be about five centimetres (two inches) in diameter and should either be the full width of the post or penetrate the post by five centimetres (two inches).
  2. Taper the rail ends so that they will fit into the mortises. This can be done with either an axe, or a saw and chisel. A shortcut is to use metal brackets rather than a mortise-and-tenon joint.
  3. Mark out the line of fencing with a string line, and mark where the post holes are to be. Typical post spacing is between 1.8 and three metres (six to 10 feet); be guided by the length of your rails and try to minimize extra cutting.
  4. Dig post holes that are one-third the length of the posts; corner posts are best embedded by two-fifths of their length. If possible, dig the holes about 15 centimetres (10 inches) deeper to allow for some gravel to be placed and compacted in the bottom of the hole. This will aid drainage and help to prevent moisture from entering the end grain.
  5. Place the posts into the holes, measure the height you need, then cut the pole to length and treat the cut section with wood preservative.
  6. The corner posts should be set and braced so that they are vertical all around.
  7. Pour premixed concrete, gravel or road base (gravel and clay) around the posts and compact it to hold them securely in place. Encourage rapid drainage by shaping the surface of the fill so it slopes away from the pole.
  8. Leave the braces in place so that you can work on the rest of the fence.
  9. Fit the rails into their mortises. Once all the tenons are in place, and secured with galvanized skew nails, the intermediate posts can be secured in a similar manner to the corner posts. This is best done with the aid of a taut string line to make sure that all posts are in line and at the same height.
  10. Once they are secure, bracing can be removed.

Taking the time to build the fence right the first time will save you money in repair costs down the road and will ensure a long lasting fence.

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