How to install a wood fence.


Mark your property line, keep your dog where you can see him and protect your flowers from deer. Here’s how to install a wood fence, according to top-rated pros on Thumbtack. 

The best fence installation tips. 

Tip #1: Research the fence that’s right for you. 

No two fences are the same. Ok, that’s definitely a lie — they’re the same a lot of the time. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of different fence options out there.

Take privacy fences, for example. Some have panels high enough to block the whole house from sight, while others are short but staggered, making it almost impossible to see in from the sidewalk (also known as a “shadow box fence”). Even picket fences come in all different shapes. You can have a spaced dog ear cut, a close dog ear cut, a double convex or gothic point — a fence for every taste.

Before you plant any posts, do research to decide which wood fence is right for your home.  

Tip #2: Dig a big enough post hole.  

Your fence sees a lot of action throughout the years, and the main way it stays in place is a deep, concrete-filled hole. According to Thumbtack Top Pro Larry Karr of L&C Welding and Fencing Contractors in McDonough, Georgia, the depth of the hole depends on the ground you’re building on.

"For a 6-foot-tall fence, we dig a post hole that’s 20 to 24 inches deep. How we dig and how far down we go depends on the kind of soil we’re digging through — sand, granite, clay and so on,” Larry says.

Without a good post hole digger, the process of getting fence posts into the ground can take weeks. If the fence you’re building covers your whole property line, it can take months. 

Tip #3: Know your cement — and how to use it. 

Once you’ve used your post hole digger or power auger (the electric version) to drill a 20- to 24-inch deep hole, it’s time to plant your post.

Pros use concrete mix to hold a fence post in place. But it’s not easy. You need training and skill to know how the concrete should be poured, the amount of time to let it set and where it can help prevent wood rot. And fencing pros generally know more about things like where the frost line ends and how wide your post hole should be. They can also give you a step-by-step guide on how to maintain your fence without breaking the concrete seal. 

>>Get free estimates. Contact the best fence installers near you.

Tip #4: Stain your fence to seal it from the elements. 

Wood is porous — moisture seeps right in. If you want your wood fence to last longer than a season, you’ll need to stain it. As Larry explains, “If you stain your posts you’ll get more than 20 years out of them. Otherwise, you’ll get 10 at the very most.”

This is especially true if you live in a place that experiences all four seasons. Winter will not be nice to your wood fence panels, if you don’t protect them in advance. If you want a solid fence, stain it. 

building a wooden fence

Most common fence installation mistakes.

Mistake #1: You didn’t know the difference between a gate and a fence. 

You went into Home Depot asking for gate fixings, and they handed you a metal latch. No, they’re not hard of hearing — you just don’t know what a gate is.

A gate is that hinged barrier used to close an opening in a wall, fence or hedge. It’s the swinging door that lets you in and out of your yard, not the wall of wood grain that surrounds it. It’s a simple mistake — just don’t get them confused at a home improvement store. 

>>Hire a pro today. Here are the best fence installers near you.

Mistake #2: You didn’t keep an eye on the lumber market. 

As any fourth grader will tell you, lumber is a natural resource. And natural resources are valuable. In lumber’s case, the value varies depending on the month, the weather, the local housing market, any recent trade deals and the will of the lumber gods (we joke).

Larry says the lumber market is volatile. It’s also — you guessed it — the single most important item on your fence materials list. So keep an eye on the lumber market before committing to build your wood fence.

Mistake #3:  You tried a vinyl fence — and it broke.  

You thought vinyl would be cheaper and last longer. But that wasn’t the case. PVC vinyl fences are around three times more expensive than wood fences on average, says Larry. He admits that they look great, come in all shapes and colors and hold up in even the worst weather.

But when they break (and they do), they’re much harder to repair. Busting a vinyl fence means ordering new parts, a process that might leave your yard vulnerable for weeks, even months. Wood fences on the other hand are easy, fast and relatively inexpensive to patch.

How much does fence installation cost? 

Installing a fence may cost you a few hundred dollars — or a few thousand dollars, depending on the material, style and size.

A good-looking fence can do a lot for your home — boost curb appeal, add to your property value, protect your house from weather (and intruders), clearly define property lines, separate your space from your neighbor’s and protect your pool. 

Fencing pros can replace a damaged fence or install a new one. They can also install gates in your new fence, from walk-throughs to larger gates on rolling caster systems that you can drive in and out of. Popular wood fence choices include pressure-treated pine and cedar (which deter bugs and rot) and more affordable specialty choices like redwood. You’ll have to stain your fence every year and clear out post beds to get rid of leaves and sap that can cause rot. 

For more on costs, see “How much does a wood fence installation cost?

painting a wooden fence

Who to hire to install a fence. 

Last night you woke up to the smell of uprooted cilantro and the phantom thud of a bunny on the run. You can’t keep sleeping in your herb garden. Hire a pro to build a wooden fence that keeps the neighborhood critters out:

[Back to top]

Find local pros for your project

Tell us what you’re looking for and we’ll show you pros right for the job, with prices.