If an informal, open, natural-looking fence is what you're looking for, then post and rail fencing is the solution. An adaptation of the zigzagging, early American split rail fence, post and rail offers the same rustic look but uses much less wood. It's also one of the easiest fences to build.
Use this checklist when you go to the store and purchase your items.
Before you start a fencing project, a few preliminary steps are in order.
The most common materials are pine and cedar. Rails are usually 8 feet or 11 feet long. They're round, half-round or square / diamond-shaped. The rails insert into the holes in the posts and are held in place by their own weight.
Posts are made to accept either two or three rails. Two-rail fence posts are approximately 6 feet long, and three-hole posts are approximately 7 feet long.
Posts are predrilled for use as end, corner or line.
When buying fencing, make sure the components and wood finishes match. After it's installed, stain the fence or let it weather naturally.
The layout of the fence is somewhat determined by length of the precut fencing rails. The problem is that few landscapes are laid out in 8-foot and 11-foot increments. Therefore premeasuring is a must.
To make a fence fit the landscape:
When dealing with slopes, follow the angle of the slope on steep inclines.
Take time to lay out the fence carefully. An incorrect measurement could result in problems. If you're dealing with extreme slopes, you may need to choose another fencing type.
To plan your fence:
Stake out your fence line from beginning to end, including corners and gates.
Tie a string tautly between corner post locations to define the line along which the line posts will be placed.
Using the same measurement as the length of your rails, stake out the line post locations. Remember to take the overlap of the rails into account. Ensure that the stakes are touching the layout string so the posts will be in line.
Measure on center from each corner post (from center to center of each post instead of from the edges) along the layout lines.
Remember to take any gates or openings into account at this stage. This allows some flexibility in layout even though you're working with precut rails.
The most important part of a fence is underground: the posts. When planning the height of your posts, plan for a clearance of at least 6 inches from the ground to the lowest rail to allow mowing and trimming. Add a couple of inches for settling over time. The best practice is to put 1/3 of the post in the ground. Using a post hole digger or power auger, dig the holes 10 inches to 12 inches wide and 6 inches deeper than needed. Backfill each hole with 6 inches of gravel to drain water away from the bottom of the post. If your fence requires a permit, the depth may be specified there.
Install the end posts first. This will establish a reference so you can make sure the line posts are set in line.
Check each post to make sure it's plumb using a post level. (A post level attaches to the post and checks for plumb and level.)
Set each line post, insert rails and check the length and fit as you progress. Minor adjustments may be necessary.
Fill holes with soil and tamp to firm. Check plumb and alignment again, and make any necessary adjustments.