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Cheapest Way to Build a Wood Privacy Fence | DIY Guide

Grab some friends and Build This Cheap Wood Fencing project in One weekend!

Are you wondering what the cheapest way to build a privacy fence is?  If so, today we will guide you Step By Step through the process – and spoiler alert – It is easier than you might think 🙂

Easy for us to say, right?  Well, having built more than my fair share of fences, I think the wood privacy fence is as straightforward as it gets.

Of course, if you’ve never built a fence before, you might need a little guidance; hopefully, this guide provides the answers.

Whether you choose to use wood fence panels or standard wood slat fencing, today, we’ll show you the cheapest way to build a Wood Privacy Fence in your backyard.


The Cheapest Way To Build A Privacy Fence: 

So you’ve finally purchased your “Forever House”.  There’s enough room to raise a family; the kitchen is perfect, and 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. Add a gas fire pit table and chairs, and you are good to go! 

Well, almost. Now you need to find the cheapest way to build a privacy fence – and preferably – a beautiful Wood DIY Privacy Fence.

  • Start by knowing the Exact Boundaries of Your Property.
  • Having the Correct List of Building Materials
  • Follow A Good Set Of Instructions – Make a Plan!
  • Set all Fence Posts in place – on Day one.
  • Complete the Privacy Fence by Fastening Slats or Fence Panels To Fence Posts on Day Two

You can always call on a Privacy Fence Builder to build your new wood fence; however, a cheap wood privacy fence is not 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. 

Luckily, Cheap privacy fence options & do it yourself dog fence ideas sort of go hand in hand.

You can have that beautiful privacy fence in place in two full days. A fence that allows you to sit around a fire pit with friends and enjoy your privacy – all 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 you can brag about the “fence I built in my backyard.”

Building an Inexpensive Privacy Fence isn’t tricky. You simply need a simple fence plan, the right list of building materials, the right set of tools, and maybe a friend or two to get the project done quickly.

How Much Does a Wood Privacy Fence Cost?

What is the most inexpensive wood fencing material I can build with?  in the U.S., Wood is the least expensive material you can use to build a privacy fence.

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. A redwood privacy fence will be slightly more than treated wood. Lowe’s wood privacy fence materials often include redwood privacy fence options.

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.

Privacy Fence Cost Variables:

Linear feet, fence height, type of wood used, and “extras” such as the number of posts all of which affect the overall cost.  Of course, if you need a wood privacy fence “Gate,” you can add more time for labor and approximately $50.00 for privacy gate hardware, such as Strap Hinges, Handle, Latch, and a Spring closure for the privacy gate.

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

To quickly determine a “ballpark” price to build a 6′-0 high wood privacy fence by the lineal foot, using typical fence pickets (not fence panels) – Use our handy Wood Fence Calculator below:

* Wood fencing material cost is based on the national average for 6′-0 high wood fencing (material only). Material cost is an estimate for fence pickets, posts, and cross-rails (stringers)and does not include building materials such as gates, cement, fasteners, rental equipment, etc.   ** Prices vary – 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 particular region.
 

 

“Tools” Needed To Build Wood Privacy Fence:

  • Post Hole Digger – Manual or Powered (Rental)
  • Shovel, Hammer, Gloves, Garden hose, Safety Glasses
  • Nail Gun (Rent or Own – If using nails) – 2″- 3 1/2″ Capability
  • Compressor and Hose (Rent or Own – If using a nail gun)
  • Drill (If using wood screws – instead of nail gun)
  • Ring Shank Nails – Ring shank
  • Wood Stakes (For setting batter boards)
  • Marking paint spray can – for marking grass – location of posts.
  • Wheelbarrow (To Mix Cement)
  • Cement – Ready Mix Bags
  • String Line (100ft. minimum)
  • 4ft or 6ft. Level

Before you build your Wood Privacy Fence, check out this “DIY fence Video”, which follows the steps of our article closely:

How To Build a Wood Privacy Fence – 10 Steps 

1)    Check with Local Authorities:

Every city has zoning laws that everyone must abide by, and fence restrictions are required in city ordinances. Check with local authorities, or go to their website to see the fence regulations for your neighborhood.

Even if you know the rules for the block across the street, it is still a good idea to check your address, as there may be different restrictions for different areas of the city (historic districts are an excellent example of this).

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

Word to the Wise – Do not skip these precautionary steps.

If you do and build an “unapproved fence” or build something even 1″ outside of your property line, you could be fined or forced by a neighbor to remove and relocate your new fence. Seen it happen – and it isn’t pretty.

2)    Survey Your Yard:

Survey Yard - Best Home Gear
Surveying Yard – Besthomegear.com

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 precisely where your property ends and where the neighbor’s property begins.

Remember, your new fence isn’t portable – If you find yourself on the wrong side of a survey, you’re not going to pick it up and move your fence 3 feet.

A few trees in your way before you can build a new fence?  Check out the “best Electric Chainsaws” you can buy.

 

3)   Show Good Neighborly Behavior:

good neighbors - best home gear
Have a Conversation with Neighbors – Besthomegear.com

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 giving your neighbors a friendly “heads up.” After all, you’re not planning to build an electric fence on your property 🙂 

There are also some gentleman’s rules to follow when building a privacy fence, similar to where the “mowing” lines fall for each homeowner. When it comes to a new fence, Give your neighbors the “good” side of the fence. See photos for the side that doesn’t show any cross rails.

That particular requirement may also be part of the city or HOA regulations. While you’re looking to construct the cheapest privacy fence you can build, your courtesy and goodwill will be greatly appreciated by your neighbors.

Photo of “Your Side” of the Fence:  Keep Rails on Your Side.

Homeowner side of fence - Best Home Gear
Homeowner’s Side of Fence

The Photo Above shows your view of the privacy fence, which is “the bad side” after you’re done with the fence installation.

On the contrary, the photo below – shows your “neighbor’s side” of the same fence (with cross-rails on “your side”). Either way, either side of the new “dog ear” wood fence should look great and create the privacy you’re looking for.

Neighbors side of wood fence
The Neighbors View of Wood Fence – Besthomegear.com

While not as “private” as the standard picket or fence panel installation method, If you want to take the guesswork out of “who has the best side,” you or your neighbor, can use an alternating picket method.

The alternating picket fence slat – also called Shadow Box fencing  – is shown in this video from Lowe’s Home Improvement:

4)   Setting up the Foundation

Alright, you’ve completed all your fencing homework, and now you’re ready to start 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 Measurements and Mark the Perimeter of the Privacy Fence location:

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: “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 a more straightforward process, and this is a labor-intensive project, so I give myself a break from 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 (typically 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 –  Search: “Wood fencing near me.”

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

  • Pressure-treated fence posts (4×4 or 4×6)
  • 2x4s 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)    Dig Post Holes and Set the Posts

If you’re learning how to build a wooden fence, then hold on tight; this is where the real labor comes in. You’ll need a shovel, a post-hole digger, and a 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 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 it 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.

Have Some Brush to Clear First? – Here Are The Top 5 Brush Cutters We Recommend

Avoid having fence panels or pickets touching the ground:

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 a How-To”

8)    Install the Fencing Rails

After the concrete cures, and we recommend allowing two days, it’s finally time to start setting up the railing. This part seemed daunting when I first learned how to build a fence. 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 rail height uniform throughout the whole fence installation.

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

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.

Fence “Panels” (Option):

The cheapest wood fences – utilize installing individual wood fence slats and horizontal rails. However, If you don’t mind spending a few more dollars and want to save a ton of labor, skip the individual fence slat step above, and install wood fence panels instead.

Wood Fence panels are pre-built panels with slats and rails pre-assembled.  Home Depot’s wood fence options include treated Wood Fence Panels for simplifying your project.

Pre-made 6ft. high x 8ft. wide “fence panels” are already purchased, pre-assembled and mounted to the three railings. One primary consideration between the two methods between panels or picket slats is whether you have a lot of contours (bumps and dips) in your lawn.

The single picket/slat method will allow you to install them with the contour of your terrain. At the same time, the pre-assembled panels are fixed at 8ft wide and do not allow for variation and, therefore, a tighter tolerance to the slope of your yard.

9)   “Fence Picket” wood fence (vs. Pre-built “Fence Panels”)

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

Picket Fence - Best Home Gear
Installing Picket Fence – Besthomegear.com

10).   Install Fence Picket Slats

Reminder: No matter what wood you choose 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 four 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 Fence Height Correct

Lay a 2 x 4 (1 1/2″ thick) on the ground to use as a height spacer – which will keep each picket level 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 two 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.

Completing The Fence

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

The 1″ width spacer is there for two reasons: 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.

Stain or Paint for Wood Privacy Fence?

Usually, pressure-treated lumber shrinks as it dries, so you should have a little tolerance for expansion after the wood has 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.

Once you’ve completed the above steps and cleaned up, the fence is technically done. However, to protect your new investment – start to research the best wood finish for your new fence.  We recommend an excellent transparent wood stain or clear coat finish in almost every case.  For this step, refer to our FAQ section below, “Tips for Privacy Fence Maintenance.”

There you have it; now you know how to build a cheap privacy fence in your backyard. Now let’s build a new cornhole board set for that private yard!

How To Build Privacy Fence

 

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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 the cheapest 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 costs – in 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:  Read our “how to build a Wood Privacy Fence – Step by step instructions above – and in no time – you will know 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 work around.

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 ground’s contour- 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 its 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.

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

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 it dries out.

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

2) Purchase Quality “Treated Fence Material.”

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 commonly treated lumber options due to their affordability.

3) Pick out “Straight” Materials For New Fence

When trying to build the cheapest privacy fence, you should be ultra-picky when you are shopping for your fence posts, rails, and pickets.

Just because you are trying to save money doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take extra care to get the best lumber. Instead of just buying a bundle of dog ear fence pickets, go through them one by one and find straight pieces without holes or large knots.

Yes, it is tedious, but wood does rot, and you don’t want to start your project with rotted wood. You should also make sure the lumber isn’t warped or split. Taking your time will save you the hassle of going all the back to the store and making an exchange later.

4) Weather Stain Treatment

Applying a 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 a minimum of 60-90 days and up to one year to allow the wood to dry and acclimate to the climate. There isn’t a way to stop the expansion and contraction of wood entirely, but a suitable weather sealer on your fence will go a long way to protecting your new investment.

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

5) Painting

As opposed to Vinyl fences, which never need sealing or painting, a healthy coat of paint or sealer will help prolong the life of your fence by shielding wood from direct sunlight. Think of it as sunscreen for your fence. But be careful; there is some evidence that darker shades of paint speed up the process of warping.

If you apply a transparent coat of wood stain/sealer instead of paint – you will not need to paint or touch up the paint on your fence annually.

Speaking of “Painting,” – See How Easy It Is To Repaint Kitchen Cabinets 

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 did it 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 the Comment Section if It Helped!

References & Further Reading

Kevin
Kevin
Kevin is the author and editor for Best Home Gear. In addition to his work in publishing, Kevin enjoys exploring the Outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, Hiking, Cycling, Fishing, Reading, and Completing Projects for the Home and Garden.

4 COMMENTS

    • Hi Rachel,
      That’s a good question. Our fence calculator follows industry norms, for 6′-0 high fencing. The reason being, most subdivisions and or city ordinances have a height restriction on fences of 6’0″ high in back yards. The restriction can be even shorter in front yards. For this reason also, lumber yards typically only offer 6′-0 high (or shorter)fencing, both in fence pickets or fence panels versions.
      I hope that helps!
      Kevin

  1. Hi Kevin!!! That was so very informative, thank you!! I’m about ready to finally to build my privacy fence, anybody with great skills you can recommend in the Ft Lauderdale area? Couldn’t get a recommendation from my neighbors because their fences did not withstand the test of 3-4 years life. So many “fencers” around here but so little talent!! Please let me know!

    • Hi Myrna – thanks for your comment on our post “Cheapest way to build a privacy fence”. Finding a reputable trustworthy fence contractor can be a tiresome search. I would start with google and search “fence contractors in ft. Lauderdale”. There you will see multiple contractors listed – look for exceptional reviews and ratings – this one called “Broward county fence and pergola” stood out when I searched but there are many others. Get more than one written estimate.

      A true “fence ontractor” will likely, however, only give you a labor/material price complete. Which is ok, just compare that to using a local skilled carpenter, and having a lumberyard or home depot give you a material-only delivered price – and add to the carpenter labor price. Make sure, you are in touch and in compliance with local building authorities, and get a survey to confirm your lot lines, which is what a professional carpenter or fence contractor would be sure to do.
      Good luck & let me know how it goes! Kevin

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