Home Improvement

Cheapest Way to Build a Wood Privacy Fence | DIY 2019

Grab some friends and get this project done in a weekend!

So you’ve finally purchased your “Forever House”. There’s enough room to raise a family; the kitchen is perfect, there’s even a little doggy door for your future family pet to run through. You’ve got a beautiful yard with plenty of room for the kids – and the dog, of course, to play in – Now all you need is a fence, preferably a beautiful wooden privacy fence, and today we’re going to show you the cheapest way to build a privacy fence in your backyard.

The Cheapest Way To Build A Privacy Fence

  • Begins by Knowing the Exact Boundaries of Your Property.
  • Having the Correct List of Building Materials
  • Following A Good Set Of Instructions
  • Setting Fence Posts in place on Day one
  • Complete by fastening Slats or Fencing To Fence Posts on Day Two

Cheap privacy fence options & DIY dog fence ideas sort of go hand in hand.  And luckily, cheaper privacy fences aren’t all that hard to build. Sure, it takes a bit of labor, but with a little help from a friend (or friends) the actual steps are pretty straightforward.

In two full days, you can have that beautiful privacy fence in place. A fence that allows you to enjoy your privacy – while not worrying about the kiddos (or the dog) getting loose!  Your yard can now be a safe place for kids (and dogs) to hang out – and of course, now, you can brag about the “fence I built in my backyard”.

To Build an Inexpensive Privacy Fence isn’t difficult, you simply need an easy fence plan, the right list of materials, the right set of tools, and maybe a friend or two to get the project done.

How Much Does a Wood Privacy Fence Cost?

What is the most inexpensive privacy fence material?  in the U.S. Wood is the least expensive material to build a privacy fence with. 

For a typical installation; including fence panels, posts, gates, etc., a treated wood fence is approximately 50% less expensive than a typical Vinyl fence is to install.

Granted, there is little maintenance provided by a vinyl fence, but then again, our article is about the “cheapest way to build a privacy fence”, and we also prefer the natural beauty of a Wood Fence 🙂

A wood privacy fence (material only) will cost between $7-$22 per linear foot, depending on the type of wood used, fence type, and desired height.

The national average for a wood privacy fence costs $2,610, with an average build length of 180 linear ft. The cost to build a wood privacy fence in your area will vary by the available resources you have in your area.

Your actual total cost will depend on a few different variables: Those variables include:

Linear feet, fence height, type of wood used, and “extras” such as the number of posts, gates, etc. , all of which affect the overall cost.  

Professional labor can run upwards of 50% of the overall fence material cost. If you choose to purchase your own materials but need help building your fence, expect labor to cost you between $30 – $60 per hour.

To quickly determine the ballpark cost  to build a wood privacy fence – Use our handy Wood Fence Calculator below:

* Wood fencing material cost is based on a national average of fence material only. Material cost is an estimate and does not include building materials such as cement, fasteners, rental equipment, etc. ** To get an accurate price for your project, we recommend contacting a local building supply store to estimate a completed wood fencing package for your area.

 

Before you start building your own Wood Privacy Fence, check out this “DIY” fence video, that follows the steps of our article closely:

 

 

10 Steps to Build a Wood Privacy Fence

 

1) Check with Local Authorities

Every city has its zoning laws that everyone has to abide by, and fences restrictions are required in city ordinances. Check with local authorities, or go to their website to see what the fence ordinances for your neighborhood are. Even if you know the rules for the block across the street, it is still a good idea to check your own address, as there may be different restrictions for different areas of the city (historic districts are a good example of this).

You will also need to check in with your homeowner’s association to see what materials you are allowed to use, what colors the fence and be, and what the maximum (and minimum in some cases) fence height is permitted in your neighborhood.

Do not skip this step, if you do and build something outside of your allowed regulations; you could be fined, or worse, be forced to remove the fence.

2) Survey The Land

Before you start taking measurements for your fence, and assuming you don’t already have a surveyed/staked yard, have a land surveyor come out to your home and let you know exactly where your property ends, and where the neighbor’s property begins.

Skip this step, and you may find yourself in a dispute with the people next door. And I assure you, that could be an expensive and unpleasant mistake.

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3) Show Good Neighborly Behavior

Now that you’ve got your land surveyed, understand the ordinances for your city as well as what the HOA requires of your fence; it’s time to get started. But first, we’d recommend letting the neighbors know, just a friendly heads up.

There are some gentleman’s rules that you should follow when building a privacy fence. Give your neighbors the “good” side of the fence. This particular requirement may also be part of the city or HOA regulations. Even if it is not, you should probably do it anyway as a courtesy and goodwill to gesture towards your neighbors. The photo below shows the neighbors’ view of your fence, “the good side” after your done with the install. The photo at the top of this post shows “your side” of the same fence.

If you want to take the guesswork out of “who has the best side” you or your neighbor, you can use an alternating picket method – illustrated here in this video from Lowe’s Home Improvement

Finally, plan for regular upkeep and maintenance. We understand that this may seem obvious for purposes of preserving and maintaining your new fence, but it also displays good manners.

4) Setting up the Foundation

Alright, you’ve completed all of your fencing homework, and now you’re ready to get started on your project.

First, start by making sure the land is clear of tree limbs, brush, or other junk that would hinder building your new privacy fence.

Here is how you get a perfectly straight perimeter when building a new privacy fence.

Get The Measurements and Mark the Perimeter

Since you’ve already had the land surveyed you should already have the fence measurements, but double-check to be sure. I also typically recommend getting a little more material than you need. Mistakes are bound to occur, so it’s always good to have backup material when you need just a little more.

Now it’s time to mark the perimeter and layout your post locations. Mark the spots with batter boards and tie a string around the entirety of the perimeter (should be nailed/screwed to each batter board). This step will help you line the posts up correctly, so your fence is perfectly straight.

Check out this great video on “How to Set Batter Boards” from the fine folks at Lowes:

Pro Tip: Keep the string taut during this process. You’ll end up using the string to guide you when Setting the Posts in the ground. A loose string can result in putting up a fence that looks more wavy than straight.

5) Mark the Post locations:

Once you’ve got the batter boards in place, you’re ready to start marking where your fence posts are going to be. You can do this one of two ways; plant wooden stakes where the posts should go, or you can use marking paint on the grass. I prefer marking paint because it’s an easier process, and this is a labor-intensive project, so I give myself a break on work wherever I can.

Ensure that you mark the post on the inside of the string and space each stake between six to eight feet apart from each other. The spacing depends of course on the width of fence panels (normally 8ft. wide) or the rail and picket installation which can be installed at 6ft or 8ft. Be as accurate and consistent as possible, and keep your tape measure on you.

Once you’ve got this done, mark where the strings are on the batter board and remove the string. This step isn’t ‘absolutely’ necessary, and you will end up putting the string back on once the holes are dug for the posts anyway. But it may make digging the holes a heck of a lot easier.

6) Get The Materials You Need:

Before we get into the build details, Here are the tools and materials required to build a privacy fence.

  • Pressure-treated fence posts (4×4 or 4×6)
  • 2×4’s for the rails (pressure treated)
  • Pickets (These are the slats – they usually run 4″ wide x 1″ thick x 6ft. high- either Dogeared or Flat top – pressure treated)
  • 10 penny Galvanized deck nails(if using a nail gun) or 2 ½ – 3″ galvanized Deck Screws
  • Shovel
  • Posthole digger
  • Shovel
  • Digging/Prybar- for prying out rocks or solid ground
  • Power Auger (optional but highly recommended for a medium-large fence)
  • Marking paint
  • String
  • Concrete mix
  • Batter board material (be sure to watch the you-tube video below)
  • Spacer bar – You can use a 1″ thick picket for the spacer (spacing is required if you intend to keep space between slats for airflow and possible wood expansion issues in very high humidity conditions. if you want full privacy, you will not want any space between the picket slats)

7) Digging Post Holes and Setting the Post

If you’re learning how to build a wooden fence, then hold on tight, because this is where the real labor comes in. You’ll need a shovel, post hole digger, and digging bar. These can be purchased at any of your local hardware stores or rented at Home Depot or Lowes. If you want to cut down on labor, you can also rent a drill to save time.

If your region is prone to deep freezes, we recommend you dig your post holes below the frost line. Frost lines usually are at 42″ below grade for most Northern US states. The frost line is where the water will freeze in max. Depth, and digging below that will ensure your posts don’t heave during those hard freezes.

If you aren’t sure where the frost line is, that’s fine; it isn’t difficult to look up on google. If you’re going to go below the frost line in this case, and you plan to build a 6ft high fence, you would need 10ft high posts. Just set the bottom of each post 45″ below grade (for a 42″ frost line) and you will have 6ft.

Note:  If frost is not an issue where you live, we recommend setting the bottom of each post at 24-36″ below grade.

You do not want to have any portion of the pickets or fence panels in contact with the ground, due to moisture-wicking, however, set the fencing any higher, and the neighbor’s dog might pay you an unexpected visit 🙂

Once you’ve got all of the holes dug, reattach the string, and it’s time to pour some concrete mix. Follow the mixing instructions for fast set concrete mix, then set the post in place squarely on the strings you laid out and set up temporary wood braces to hold the post plumb and in place.

Ever thought about adding a beautiful Wood Pergola to your Backyard – Here’s How!

8) Fencing Rails

After the concrete cures; and we recommend allowing two days, it’s finally time to start setting up the railing. When I first learned how to build a fence, this part seemed daunting. But after digging post holes and pouring concrete in the dead of July, it was a piece of cake. It’s just nailing horizontal 2x4s to the posts you installed a couple of days ago.

To begin, you Install the horizontal railing (the 2×4’s) in two locations, one at the bottom of the post, and one near the top. The top of the lower rail needs to be placed 9 1/2″ inches above the ground, and the bottom of the top rail should be placed 64″ above the ground. Keep this uniform throughout the whole fence installation.

Important Note: The installation plan your reading here is again, for the “Cheapest way to build a privacy fence”.

Fence Panels Option:

If you don’t mind spending a few more dollars and want to save a lot of labor than skip the step above, which adds 3 “railings” to the posts, than individual picket slats. Fence panels are pre-built with rails in place.

Pre-made 6ft. high x 8ft.wide “fence panels” are purchased pre-assembled and mounted to the three railings already. One major consideration between the two methods between panels or picket slats is whether you have a lot of contour in your lawn. The single pickets will allow you to install them with the contour. The panels are fixed and do not.

9) Using Picket method (vs. Pre-built Fence Panels)

The picket method is the cheaper fence installation.  In lieu of pre-assembled fence panels, you install individual slats (pickets) one by one.  This is also the preferred method for unlevel ground or uneven ground, as you follow the contour of the land more closely.

To begin, you Install the horizontal railing (the 2×4’s) in two locations, one at the bottom of the post, and one near the top. Install the top post first, placing the bottom of the top rail at 64″ above the ground.  The top of the lower rail needs to be placed 9 1/2″ inches above the ground.  Keep these measurements uniform throughout the entire fence installation.

Lastly, install the horizontal middle rail – directly between (in the middle of) the top and bottom rails.

When attaching the rails use hot-dipped galvanized nails (if you’re using a nail gun with a compressor) or for even more longevity, use 2 – 2″1/2 length galvanized deck screws. They take longer to install, but hold longer than nails.

10) Hanging the Picket slats

Reminder: No matter what wood you chose to go with, always, ALWAYS use  “pressure-treated wood”.

When you hang the pickets, be sure you are installing them at a uniform height, there aren’t many things as unsightly as a jagged fence. Also, an excellent tool to have on hand is a 4 ft. Level; this will help make sure that you keep the pickets plumb and even the whole way through.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you choose to install “Fence Panels” found at most Home Supply stores) instead of pickets and rails, you’ll simply need to find a friend to help you hold the fence panels level – and nail them to each post, instead of nailing individual picket slats to the horizontal rails.

Getting the Height Correct

Lay a 2×4 (1 1/2″ thick) on the ground, to use as a height spacer – which will keep each picket level with but not allow it to touch the ground,

Now set your first picket on top of the spacer, level it plumb, and fasten it to the top rail with 2 nails or screws side by side,  then making sure it is still plumb, attach it to the bottom rail. Put two nails or screws through the picket or fence panel and into each railing. Finally, fasten the picket to the middle rail.

Keep it Going!

Next, take your 1″ width spacer slat (approx. 4 ft. long) and place it against the first picket and install the next picket flush against the spacer.

The 1″ width spacer is there for two reasons; one, it allows air to flow through the yard freely. And also, wood tends to swell and contract depending on the weather. If you don’t space the pickets apart, they can buckle.

Usually, pressure-treated lumber shrinks as it dries, so you should have a little tolerance for expansion after the wood dried in the sun for a few weeks. Acclimation to the climate will allow you to keep the picket slats tight, avoid the spacing and maintain more privacy. Continue nailing the pickets to the rails, until you’re finished.

There you have it; now you know how to build a cheap privacy fence in your own backyard!

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Cheapest Way to Build a Wood Privacy Fence 2019

Frequently Asked Questions:

 

Question #1:  How Much Does It Cost To Build A Privacy Fence?

Answer:  There are a large number of options when it comes to building a privacy fence; including height, design, type of privacy fence – panels or pickets, as well as the type of wood to use: Pine, Cedar, Redwood, etc.

Our advice:  Take your total length (linear feet) of fence required, to a local Home Improvement store/lumber yard.  Have them estimate the full list of materials and fence cost – two ways:

A) With pre-manufactured Fence panels – and

B) With Pickets that you install one-by-one.  This way you can choose the best option to match your budget!

Question #2:  How Can I Build a Cheap DIY Privacy Fence?

Answer:  See our “how to build a wooden fence step by step instructions above – and in no time – you will learn how to build a cheap privacy fence.

Question #3:  How do I build a fence on uneven or unlevel ground?

Answer: If your yard has a lot of slope or undulation, that’s an easy problem to workaround.

On the uneven ground – lay a scrap piece of 2×4 or 2×6 lumber (about 4 ft long) on the ground directly below your pickets, before you nail each one in place.  Set each picket “directly on top of the scrap lumber”, and continue this method, as you nail each picket in place. 

The scrap 2×4 lays flat and follows the contour of the ground – therefore so will your pickets. The height of each picket will also be set accordingly.

Question #4:  What is the Cheapest Type of “Privacy” Fence?

Answer:  By far the cheapest type of fence material is “treated wood”.  Because of Its abundant availability, as a natural product – treated wood fencing is approximately 50% less expensive than it’s closest competitor Vinyl fencing.

In addition:  Wood “picket slats” should be cheaper to use for wood privacy fencing than “privacy fence panels” which are pre-assembled and sold in 8 ft. sections.  Keep in mind the additional labor it will require to assemble your entire fence – one picket at a time 🙂

Question #5:  Is there any other way to provide a cheap privacy fence?

Answer:  Yes, If you instead want to install a Natural Fence – You can install a  “Green Fence” – Just check out our article the Fastest Growing – Evergreen Shrubs for Privacy.

Tips for Privacy Fence “Maintenance”

1) How to Stop Your Fence from Warping

After a while, wooden fence slats can begin to warp, twist, split, crack, and shrink. That’s okay, wood is a highly reactive material, that goes through a lot of changes. When it’s cold wood likes to expand, when the wood is wet, it soaks up the moisture getting bigger, and shrinking as is sweats.

The bottom line, wood is a difficult material to control, but thankfully there are some ways to mitigate this problem.

2) Purchase Quality Products

Getting pressure treated wood will help it withstand extreme and varying weather conditions for a lot longer than it would otherwise be able to. When purchasing materials, always go with pressure-treated wood.

After all, you’re looking for the cheapest way to build privacy fence (s), but you should not resort to using untreated wood.  If you do, you’re inviting termite/insect infestation and dry rot to occur very quickly.

You can also, get species of wood that are more resistant to weather. Wood materials like northern pine or spruce, cedar, fir, and redwood are great options for a privacy fence.  Pine and spruce are the most common treated lumber options due to their affordability.

3) Pick out Materials Carefully

You should be ultra meticulous when you are shopping for your fence posts, rails, and pickets. And you should take extra care to get only the best lumber. Instead of just buying a bundle of dog ears, go through them one by one.

Yes, it is tedious, but wood rots, and you don’t want to start with rotted wood. You should also make sure the lumber isn’t warped or split in any way either. Taking your time here will save you the hassle of having to go all the back to the store and make an exchange.

4) Weather Treatment

Applying water repellent stain or clear-coat treatment to your fence will prevent the wood from shrinking, cracking, and some common bug infestation.

We recommend you wait at least 30-60 days to allow the wood to dry and acclimate to the climate. There isn’t a way to stop the expansion and contraction completely, but a good weather sealer your fence will go a long way to protecting your new investment.

Pro Tip: Don’t just seal the front and backs of the pickets, be sure to seal the edges. That’s where most of the moisture is gained or lost.

5) Painting

Paint may have been something you were going to do anyway. A healthy coat of paint will help prolong the life of your fence, by shielding it from direct sunlight. Think of it as sunscreen for your fence. But be careful, there is some evidence that darker shades speed the process of warping.

You also have to consider having to repaint your fence more often than you would, if you apply a transparent coat of wood stain/sealer instead.

Conclusion

There is more than one cheap privacy fence option out there.  One creative guy I saw simply buried/cemented the posts, then ran a continuous string of wood pallets side by side around his yard.  While this may not be the best look, it got the job done, or at least it did for his needs.

However, as inexpensive fencing ideas go, we think the methods we’ve illustrated above, are probably the best and the cheapest DIY privacy fencing you can install.

Now that you have your Privacy Fence in Place – Expand your new private entertaining area with one of “The Best Gas Fire Pit Tables” on the market.

How about you? Do you have any shortcuts or installation suggestions? Feel free to share them in the comment section below, and thanks for visiting BestHomeGear.com!

Like This Post?  Don’t Forget to Share it – and Let us Know In Comments How It Helped!

References & Further Reading

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Kevin

As a Homeowner, Builder, and Property Developer/Manager for 30+ years, I’ve worn a lot of “different hats”, and In that capacity, owned or used about every tool or piece of home equipment one can think of. Managing property in Michigan, Arizona, and Florida, also allows us to test many of the products we review firsthand, and in vastly different climates and conditions. Our goal at BestHomeGear.Com is to share the first-hand experience by providing exceptional Home & Garden Techniques, Product Reviews, and useful DIY Guides for our faithful readers - Homeowners like you. We trust you will find BestHomeGear.Com very informative - and extremely helpful.

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