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Install a Vinyl Fence

Vinyl fencing is becoming a popular alternative to traditional wood pickets or rails. Though it costs more at the outset, vinyl fencing pays for itself because it lasts longer and requires almost no maintenance. Installing any fence is a two-person job that requires multiple days to complete. Concrete that holds the posts needs time to harden before the installation can be finished. Plan the location of the fence carefully, and you'll avoid costly mistakes that might be difficult to undo.

Install Vinyl Fencing

See How Your Neighbor Did It

Blogger Sarah Gibson tackles a vinyl fencing project.

Don't just take our word for it. Sarah Gibson of Room for Tuesday, took on this project with her husband and the results are impressive. She'll walk you through her real-life process of installing a vinyl fence.

See how she did it.


Important Considerations for Your Fence

Important Considerations for Your Fence

Before planning and purchasing your fence materials, ask yourself these questions:

  • What will be the function of the fence?
  • What style will best accomplish this function?
  • What style and material will blend with my landscaping and the architecture of my home?

Vinyl fencing is a relatively new, maintenance-free type of fencing. It's available in forms similar to both wood panel and rail fencing. Vinyl fencing isn't subject to rot, fading or other effects of weather and time as wood fencing can be. Vinyl is a good choice for an attractive, easily maintained fence system.

Preliminary Steps Before Installing Your Fence

Before proceeding, a few preliminary steps are in order.


Step 1

Discuss your plans with any neighbors whose property lies along your proposed fence line to make sure your fence will be on your property.

Step 2

Check for easements in your deed. An easement is a right-of-way granted to another property owner or utility company, which may limit the design and location of your fence.

Step 3

Confirm the location of underground utilities with local providers before you dig.

Step 4

Check local zoning laws, which may regulate the size and placement of your fence. If you live in an historic district or a subdivision, check with your neighborhood association before proceeding with your plans.

Step 5

Contact your local building inspector to obtain the information you need for the depth, diameter and shape of your footings. Some codes may require that the bottom of a footing be wider than the top.

Step 6

Apply for the proper building permit as directed by local code.


Before beginning any excavation, call 811 to check for underground utilities.

Vinyl Fencing Styles

Privacy Fence

Vinyl fencing comes in three basic styles of preassembled panels. Gates are available to match each type of fence. Post-and-rail fencing is also available in vinyl, although the installation of that type of fence is different.

This style provides the most solid barrier. It's commonly used around swimming pools and between property lines. It may also be used to conceal unsightly areas or to hide a major roadway from view. These fences are generally 4 feet to 6 feet tall, and they may include decorative latticework on the top.

This is ideal for keeping children or pets in the yard and defining boundaries while achieving a distinctive look and aesthetic appeal. These fences are generally shorter, 4 feet tall or less, and don't completely block the surrounding view.

This style uses alternating panels across the back and front to give the fence the same look on both sides. This is an ideal neighborly fence style since neither person gets the bad view. These fences are generally taller, usually around 6 feet. They have the look of a privacy fence but also allow more air circulation.

Vinyl Fencing Terminology

  • Posts are the 4 by 4s, which are set firmly into the ground and provide stability for the fence.
  • Main posts or terminal posts are found at the corners of the fence and on either side of all gates. They're usually set deep into the ground for support.
  • Line posts are any posts between the main posts. They provide stability and attachment points for fence panels.
  • Rails are the horizontal supports running between posts. On preassembled fence panels, the rails are attached near the top and bottom (and sometimes across the middle).
  • Bay is the space between the posts. In simple styles, such as split-rail fences, there are only rails in each bay. Other types of fences have a solid infill (like privacy fences) or more loosely spaced infill (like picket fences).
  • Gate is the door that provides entry into and out of a fenced area. All containment fences should have gates. They can be mounted to swing both in or out, or in one direction only.

Laying Out the Site for Your Fence

Take time to lay out the fence carefully. An incorrect measurement now could result in problems later. Use graph paper to make the drawing easier. Make provisions for the widths of the fence panels and gates so you won't end up with odd-sized bays that can complicate installation. To plan your fence:


Step 1

Stake out your fence line from beginning to end, including corners and any gates.

Step 2

Tie a string tautly between corner post locations. This will define the line along which the line posts will be placed. Measure your panels before performing the next steps.

Step 3

Using the same measurement as the length of your panels, stake out the line post locations. Measure on center from each corner post along the layout lines:

  • For 6-foot fence panels, use 5-inch-by-5-inch posts placed 73 1/4 inches apart on center.
  • For 8-foot panels, use 4-by-4 posts placed 96 inches apart on center.

Step 4

Mark each post location with a stake. Ensure that the stakes are touching the layout string so the posts will be in line. Remember to take gates into account at this stage.

Dealing With Slopes

Dealing with slopes

Installing a vinyl fence on a slope requires the use of the step method: the fence gradually steps up the slope so that each bay section is the same length, and the rails are level instead of parallel to the slope.

When staking out line posts on a slope for a step method installation, you'll need a true horizontal measurement for post placement. Don't measure parallel to the ground slope. To obtain the proper layout:

  • Measure from the previous stake while holding the tape horizontally.
  • Use a 2-by-4 to extend from the proper tape measurement to the ground to locate the placement of the stake. Properly executed, the tape will form a right angle with the 2-by-4.

Continue this measuring method for the rest of the slope until the ground levels out.

Digging Postholes for Your Fence

Step 1

Dig postholes

Using a posthole digger or power auger, dig the holes 10 inches in diameter. The depth will depend on soil conditions in your area. Consult your local building authorities for specific regulations. A good rule of thumb is to put 1/3 of the post in the ground.

Step 2

Dig the hole 6 inches deeper than needed to allow for gravel backfill before the hole is filled with concrete.

Step 3

Main (terminal) and gateposts should be set 6 inches deeper for extra strength. Keep the height of your fence panels in mind when digging your postholes.

Step 4

Backfill each hole with 6 inches of gravel to drain water away from the bottom of the post.

Setting Posts for Your Fence

Step 1

After the gravel is added, fill the hole with concrete. A quick-setting variety can be used to speed the process, but follow instructions for how long the concrete should set.

Step 2

Tap the hollow post into the concrete so the concrete fills the center portion of the post in the hole. Tap the post down to the top of the gravel. Plumb and level every post. Overfill holes at the top. Using a trowel, slope the concrete away from the post to prevent water from collecting around it.

Step 3

Install end and corner main posts first. Tie a string between these posts along the fence line. 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 level on two adjacent sides.

Step 4

Before the concrete sets, check plumb and alignment again and make any necessary adjustments.

Step 5

Allow the concrete to set according to the manufacturer's instructions before installing the fence panels.

Good to Know

Lay out the fence as a dry fit before digging holes for the line posts. This can prevent the need for major adjustments later.

Attaching Vinyl Fence Panels

Step 1

Attach the rail brackets to the fence posts using screws recommended in the manufacturer's instructions. The brackets and screws will differ depending on the type of fence being installed.

Step 2

When all the rail hangers are attached to the fence posts, slide the panels into the brackets and use screws to fasten the panels to the hangers.

Installing Accessories

Glue the tops to the posts using vinyl adhesive. Place adhesive around the inside of the top piece where it makes contact with the post. Push down and hold for 10 seconds. Wipe off any excess adhesive immediately.

Installing a Gate

The opening for a gate between two posts must be 1 1/4 inches wider than the gate itself. Leave 5/8 of an inch of space on each side between the gate and the posts to allow for the hardware clearance. The bottom of the gate should align with the bottom of the fence.

Insert two 2-by-4s rated for outdoor use inside each gatepost. This will provide added strength for the attachment of gate hardware. If you're using 4-inch-by-4-inch gateposts, rip 1/2 of an inch off the wide side of the 2-by-4s. Make the wood level with the top of the post.

All gate backrails contain wood inserts placed 8 inches in from the end of the rail. These allow hinges or latches to be attached to the gate. Predrill the holes for the hardware on the post and the gate.

Use hinge lag screws to mount the hinge to the gate backrail. Use latch screws to mount the latch to the post.