How to Build a Rail Fence

Here's where to learn what's involved in building a split rail fence, the tools and materials you need, and what to consider before you begin. This DIY information has the how to steps you need to know.

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required

  • GPS
  • Post hole digger or
  • Power auger
  • Shovel
  • Trowel
  • Carpenter's levelv
  • ape measurev
  • String and stakes

Materials Required

  • Fence posts
  • Fence rails
  • Gravel
  • Ready-mix cement

Before You Begin

Before digging any holes first check with your local building department to see if a permit is required to build a fence. Most do. Call Miss Utility (800/257-7777) or go online to www.missutility.net to find out if there are any underground wires or pipes located on your property. Also look at your property survey so you know exactly where your property begins and ends.

If you have a hand-held GPS it's a handy device to walk your property and calculate its dimensions. When you shop for the fencing material bring a sketch of your property with dimensions to get help calculating the number of posts and rails you need.

  • Step 1 : Locate the post holes with stakes and string

    Use a rail as a guide to the distance between post holes and mark it off with a string kube and stakes allowing for at least 3-5 inches back from the ends of the rails it is resting between. Since each rail fits into a post hole post it needs room to rest in the hole without pulling out of it.

  • Step 2 : Dig the post holes

    Use a post hole digger to dig the first post hole at least 24 inches deep or the required depth according to your building department. The depth depends son the height of the fence and the depth of the frost line in your area. The width of the hole or its diameter should be about three times the diameter of the post. Fill the bottom of the hole with gravel so it is set upright.

    When all post holes are complete, fill the holes with ready-mix cement making sure to work out any air pockets. Use a carpenter's level to make sure the posts are all level with each other and the holes in the posts are aligned. Use a trowel to smooth the concrete and slope the top of the concrete away from the post. Use the suggestions for working with the cement from the manufacturer for the best results.

  • Step 3 : Install the rails

    Lift one end of the rail and slide it into the post holes on the bottom then place the top rails into the top post holes.

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