Step-by-Step Guide: Building a Charming Picket Fence for Your Outdoor Space

White picket fence with decorative tops
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A picket fence is a classic symbol of suburban America. But picket fences can be a great addition to any home and add a touch of delicate

There’s something about a picket fence that makes you feel safe and at home. It might be the way they give your property boundaries an air of permanence or how in summertime when the breeze blows through them.

Whatever it is about them, if you’ve ever been enchanted by this ubiquitous image of Americana then read on!

This article will show you how to install a picket fence, from picking the right materials and surveying your land for posts to installing the fencing and painting it white.

Many people will tell you that building your own fence is easy-and they’re absolutely correct. In fact it’s one of the easiest things you can build (next only to a deck)

However, building a fence with quality materials isn’t cheap-even at bargain prices. So, if cost has been holding you back from adding this prized asset to your property then keep reading!

Picket fencing is one of the easiest types of fencing to install. Today we’ll be learning how to build a picket fence that is 1.2 metres high, but the techniques can be applied to fences of any height.

So lets dive in

Before starting the wood used should be treated and painted whatever colour you opt for. You can either buy it this way or paint it yourself.

1. Calculating the picket spacing

Picket fence with incorrect spacing

The first step to installing a picket fence is figuring out how far apart the pickets should be from each other. The width of the pickets will be the same as the distance between posts (the measurement from one post to the next) in order to make this fence look nice and uniform.

2. Install the posts

The posts should be 2 metres long and 75mm in diameter. They need to be set into the ground with a depth of at least 450mm in order to allow for the pickets and rails to fit on top of them.

Two posts are required per fence, one every 1.8m (or any number you choose).

Posts can be driven into the ground with a post hammer or you can dig out the holes and use post mix on concrete to fix them in place.

3. Mark out the rail positions

Measuring a piece of wood

Using your string line, mark out where your rails will go, spacing them evenly between on posts using a measuring tape

It can help to have another person hold the railings still while you measure from post to post and mark off their position on the board as you progress along each side of your fence. You might find it helpful if this is done by two people at the same time.

Also, before you start marking think about a curved fencing option as this can give much more interesting look to your fence and less of square ends.

4. Install the rails

Screwing in a rail

Now that you’ve marked out where all of the railings will go, fix them in place with 80mm screws, using 2 screws per rail per post.

Use a spirit level to make sure they are all straight before doing this.

To install the rails, first set them on a post and drill small pilot holes into the wood where each screw will go

Then position your rail on top of these pilot holes and using an electric screwdriver, insert each screw to hold it in place. Do this for every post along the length of your fence.

5. Set up a string line for the top of the pickets

String line tide to fence posts

Before you fix your pickets into place, it’s worth taking one last look at your fence to make sure everything is square and level

To do this, just set up a string line from post to post along the length of your fencing and adjust all rails so that they are square with one another. This way you can be sure that once you start fixing in your pickets they will remain completely straight-looking throughout the process.

6. Install the pickets

Screws ready to go into pickets

Now you’re finally ready to start fixing all of your pickets into place with 50mm screws, installing one at a time. You may want to drill pilot holes in the pickets where the screws will go, this will provide a slightly cleaner finish but is not essential.

Follow the string line and place each picket. Screw the top in first then use a spirit level on the side of the picket to make sure its straight.

When the first picket when the first packet is in you can use another picket turned on its side as a spacer to get a 20 millimetre gap. You can place each pick it by tightening up to the first one with this spacer between them.

It’s a good idea to recheck the level of the pickets around every five pickets to make sure a slight angle hasn’t got any worse.

Make sure none of the pickets touch the string line otherwise they will move it gradually, if this is done enough times the string line will become uneven.


With all of your pickets now installed, you should be left with a fence that is straight and level with a gap between the pickets measuring around 20 millimetres. In most cases installing all of these sections will take you less than four hours, however it does depend on how big your fence is.

If you’re planning to do this on your own then we’d recommend taking full advantage of the weekend; if possible start early in the morning or late evening so that there’s plenty of time for mistakes to be rectified and to avoid having to rush during the day

Also make sure your garden has been properly prepared before beginning work by checking for any underground pipes or cables and removing gravel and weeds from up close to the area.

If you are planning on installing your picket fence in winter there are a few extra considerations covered in this article.

Good luck and enjoy building a picket fence 🙂

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