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Building a privacy fence is essential for turning a yard into an outdoor extension of your home. Chain link fences are cheaper, but they look cheaper, too. No one has ever commented on the beauty of a chain link fence.

Additionally, chain link fences allow your neighbors to see into your yard. It can feel like you are being watched any time you are in the yard, and that can make it much less pleasant to spend time in your yard.

Whether your yard has no fencing or you just need to replace an old fence, a privacy fence can make a great addition to your yard. Although it is a project that many homeowners can complete on their own, it is best to be sure that you know what you are doing before you start. Here is our quick guide to building a privacy fence.

Standard Practices For Privacy Fences

People have been building wooden privacy fences for a long time now, and the design and building process have been more or less perfected. These are the basics:

Local Codes

The first thing you should always do is refer to the local building codes and HOA regulations. These will often have clear limits on how tall your fence can be, how deep the posts have to be sunk and other elements of your project. They may also have guidelines for the placement of the fence. For instance, some neighborhoods will not allow you to build a fence in the front yard.

In some cities, you will need a permit to build a fence. This is important; if you need a permit and do not get one, the city may fine you and require you to tear down the fence at your own expense. Consequently, it is important to make sure any fence you build is legal in your area.

Property Lines

If you are going to build a fence around your property, you need to know where your property ends and the next one begins. If the neighbors already have a privacy fence in place, you may want to reconsider building one. Be sure to discuss any plans you have with your neighbors. Building a fence may require access to their property at times.


Drill being used to build fenceFor a true privacy fence, six feet is generally the minimum height. Eight feet will give even more privacy, but fences that tall are rare. They are less stable than six-foot fences, and many HOA’s will not allow fences that tall. An eight foot fence is usually used when your property is at a lower elevation than your neighbor’s.

If your house is at a higher elevation than the neighbor’s, a four feet fence might be all you need. In most neighborhoods, though, the houses are more or less level with neighboring property, and a six foot fence is ideal to ensure privacy.

Fence Posts

The fence posts are the support for the whole structure, so the placement of fence posts is critical. Never space your posts more than eight feet apart. Doing so will cause the fence to sag over time and eventually collapse.

The more posts you have, the stronger the fence will be. However, you will rarely see fences with posts much closer than eight feet apart. Digging post holes is a lot of work, and fence posts cost money. Most people find that eight feet is the sweet spot — you have enough support to keep the fence strong for a long time, but you will not spend too much time or money on the fence posts.

Horizontal Supports

Each fence panel (the pickets between the fence posts) needs to be supported by two, 2×6 horizontal planks or three, 2×4 horizontal planks. Using any less than that may result in sagging even with proper spacing between fence posts.


You will want at least two gates, one on either side of the house. These gates should be extra wide, as you may find yourself needing to push wheelbarrows, lawnmowers, outdoor furniture and other large items through them.

Consider how much access you want and where you would like the access points to be. If you are friendly with the neighbors, a pedestrian gate on the side or back of the fence is a good idea.

Costs Involved

Lumber leaning up against fence posts Building a privacy fence on your own is definitely cheaper than paying a fencing company to do it, but it may still be more expensive than people expect it to be. There are a lot of costs involved, but these are the main ones.


You will need wood for the fence, of course. You will also want concrete to set the fence posts in the post holes, nails for the fence itself, and hinges and latches for the gate. If you buy untreated wood, you will need to stain and weatherproof it. You may also end up needing fill dirt to grade out the area and make the fence level.


You will need more than just a hammer and nails to put up a fence. In fact, considering the number of nails you will be driving in, renting or buying a nail gun is a good idea.

You will also need to rent or buy equipment to dig the post holes. A post-hole digger is the simplest and cheapest option, but it is backbreaking work to use one. For posts close to the house, you will not have much of a choice. However, for post holes in more open areas, a powered auger is worth every penny.

You will also need special equipment to drive the posts into the ground, as well as equipment to mix and pour the concrete for the fence posts.

Leveling And Grading

Your fence needs to be as level as possible, and that might require you to level and then grade portions of the lawn. This requires equipment to move the dirt, and it usually requires some fill dirt as well.

Creating Your Blueprint

It can be helpful to put together a blueprint for your fence before you start building. This way you will have a plan to follow when you begin construction, ensuring you will not feel lost at any point.

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