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Picket Fence - Picket Fences

Ahhhh, the picket fence. For years, the picket fence has been a symbol of family, comfort and the all-American home; you know life is just fine when you put up a picket fence. Popularized during the 1950's, the picket fence has become a staple of Americana.

Building A Picket Fence
The design of the picket fence is fairly straightforward: Dig and plant a series of fence-posts, connect them, and fill in sections with "pickets". Building a fence has been made much easier in recent years by the wide availability of pre-assembled fence panels, which eliminate the need to nail up pickets one at a time.

Like any solid, long-lasting wood fence, this one uses durable materials, reliable connections and deep postholes. Its panels are made of white cedar held in place by 6x6 cedar posts, mortised to accept the panels' rails and resting in 32-inch holes. If soil is tamped firmly around each post, concrete isn't needed – or advisable, since it fosters rot.

Before you begin digging, make sure to find out where power and utility lines are buried.

When building your picket fence, look out for minor problems. Sometimes a section may need to be cut to fit your lot. The solution is to trim one (or more) down by cutting through the top and bottom rails. You can hide a shortened panel behind a shrub to make it less conspicuous. Or, cut down two panels equally and put one at each end of a fence run.

Sloping Lot?
And what if your lot slopes? Well, panels can be racked out of square for terrain that drops (or rises) up to 12 inches for every 8 feet of run. That way, the rails parallel the slope, the pickets are plumb and their bottoms aren't more than 5 inches above the ground. But if the slope is any steeper, racking will bring the pickets too close to each other. For such slopes, carefully pry pickets from rails, screw the rails between posts and re-nail the pickets, using a level to make sure they're even.

Aesthetic Effects
If you're lookinng for a way to get a sense of privacy but don't want to actually block out the rest of the world, then installing a picket fence may be the best choice for you. Picket fences are a great way to mark the boundaries of your land without being intimidating to neighbors. In fact, picket fences can give your home a charming and welcoming feel. However, if your goal of a fence is to keep an animal in (or out) of your yard, then this type of fence may not be high enough.

Hammer Share DIY tips on picket fences with others in our Fence forum!