Introduction: Halloween Cemetery Fence
This year, I wanted to build a cemetery fence for my home. It is my first Halloween here out of an apartment and it is time to put my haunted house experience to work. I looked through this site and saw, to my surprise, there was not a good instructable on how to create a cemetery fence. There is one on a simple graveyard fence out of trelis but I wanted the wrought iron look.
Well, this is my first Instructable. I hope it helps you create a slightly more enjoyable Halloween.
Through research, I found all kinds of wrought iron fences which would do the trick. Now not being able to afford an iron fence, and with the neighborhood restrictions in place, I had to go about making a temporary fence for just the month of Halloween, which was what I wanted to do in the first place.
The most common types of fences for Halloween home haunts are pvc, lath boards, old pallets, trelis sections, cheap wooden fencing torn apart and rebuilt, or garden stakes (which is just silly).
I chose to build and create an Instructable on the PVC style of fence using 2x2s as rails.
After researching the style of fence you want, or if you decide to keep with the design here, follow the next steps and learn from a few of my mistakes.
Step 1: Step One on the Intro Page Makes the Intro Too Long
So here is a short and sweet step.
Happy Halloween (Me and the wife last year)
Step 2: Gathering Materials and Measuring the Yard
Before you begin making your fence, you need to measure the area you want the fence to go. I have a rather big front yard so running across the front and down the sides, I came up with 190' of fencing, or twenty three 8' panels and one 6' gate panel. Your yard haunt will differ. You may decide you want 10' panels vs. 8'. That is up to you and may be dictated on how much room you have and your dimensions. Say you have a yard with 20' before a sidewalk and 20' after the sidewalk. Two panels 10' per side may be warranted .
Once you find out how much fencing you will need, the next step is to gather the materials. Below is a material list.
For one 8' fence panel:
>>> (3) 10' pieces of PVC 1/2" diameter. I chose to use the gray electrical PVC called JM
Eagle as it was 92 cents a stick vs $1.46 for the white stuff.
>>>(3) Furring strips 8' long. You can use 1x2 or 2x2. I chose the 2x2 for added strength
>>> (1) 10' piece of JM Eagle 2" PVC
>>> (2) pieces of 1/2" rebar 4 foot long or 2 four foot T posts from someplace like Home Depot.
>>> (9) 3/4" plastic fence finials. You can pick them up online at sites such as
mcfrugal.com With shipping, they came out to about 30 cents each.
>>> Sand paper, 120 to 180 grit
>>> White kilz primer. The cheapest primer that stuck well
>>> Exterior Black latex paint. I chose Behr and it was $19.95 a gallon with $5 back in the
mail making it under $15 in 8 to 10 weeks of course
>>> (1) box of 1 1/4" screws
>>> (1) box of 7/16" panhead screws
>>>7/8" spade bit
>>>Drill press ( not needed but really handy)
>>>Phillips bit to drive screws
>>>Paint brush, paint roller, paint pan
>>>An old sock ( to paint with)
>>>Heat gun ( real use to strip paint from a house)
>>> Sledge hammer or post driver ( for rebar stakes)
>>> PVC cutter ( about 12 dollars at a home improvement store and will save time and headache)
>>> A saw to cut the 2" PVC as the cutter only goes to 1 1/4"
>>> Tape, duct or electrical. You will need it for a few things.
>>> Pocket knife
Next recruit help. It takes much more time than you think to create a fence.
Step 3: Cutting the PVC Bars and Posts
In order to create a single 8' panel, you will need 3 pieces (sticks) of 1/2" PVC and 1 piece (stick) of the 2" PVC.
The look I wanted for my fence was an arched rolling top. To get this effect, I had to cut different sized pieces. When you take the 10' piece of PVC, you can see there is a bell on one end, (only for the electrical PVC). This bell is used to couple two pieces of PVC together. We do not need this piece and it is not helpful to the finished look of the fence. It will be cut off with your third cut.
To get the rolling look, you will need 2 tall, 4 medium, and 3 short pieces. Out of the 10' section of pipe, the most you can use is 116" of the 120" due to the bell. My cut list is below
stick one: 42", 38", 34"
Stick two: 42", 38", 34"
Stick three: 38", 38", 34"
2" PVC end post: Cut off the bell, measure and cut in half the remainder, should be about 57" each. The fence post will be much taller than the fence. You may want to resize it to be about the same height as your fence. I will cut the middle pieces shorter (about 38") and leave the corners long (57").
This is where the PVC cutter comes in handy. It will save you time and effort. It cuts the PVC clean and very easily. It can only cut up to 1 1/4" diameter so you will need a saw (hack saw or sawzall) to cut the 2" end posts
If you bought a ratcheting PVC cutter, be careful with the blades. The opening will be much bigger than the pipe. If you click the handle to get the blade closer to the pipe before putting the pipe inside the jaws, it may snap down fully. If you have a finger in the way, it will not care and you will get to visit the ER.
Step 4: PVC and Finials
In order to get your fence to look like a fence, you need finials. I spent a week trying to find small plastic skull whistles which were used by toyguy710. These are found on multiple sites for Halloween fences and are a great look to the design. I searched forums and even contacted Toyguy for information. Unfortunately the supplier overseas stopped making them. I guess they caught on that no one wanted a skull whistle but instead just used them for a fence.
Anyway, that leaves you with ordering actual finials from a decorative iron store. You can get the true metal ones but that is silly. This is a plastic fence. Metal is not needed. I ordered from McFrugal. I called and got a better price. Each finial was 23 cents, add shipping in for the lot of 300 and it was somewhere between 28 and 30 cents each.
Now the finials only come in square bases. Your PVC is round, unless you have a specialty PVC which is unlikely. So how do you go about fitting a round peg in a square hole?
Can you roast a marshmallow without burning it? Well you are about to get a lot of practice.
Take your heat gun and set it upright.
Turn it on and let it heat up. I had mine on the highest setting.
Now, take the PVC pipe and hold it above the heat gun about 1/2"off the nozzle. Slowly turn the PVC, about a full revolution every 5 seconds.
You need to turn the PVC around until it becomes golden brown just like a marshmallow.
Now pick up a finial, and push the two together. The PVC should peel down the sides of the finial and stay in place. (see picture below)
There is a fine line of heating the pipe up. If you overheat it, it becomes mushy and it squishes and will not go into the square base. The pipe should be hard but soft enough on the outside to peel away. You want the PVC to peel away on the exterior of the finial so that you have a square left on the inside (see pictures below)
After you complete your 9 pieces you are all set, unless you are making more than an 8 foot section of fence. In that case, you may want to make a jig.
A jig is a device used to speed up a process and make it easier on you.
Remember those ends we cut off earlier with the bell? Well you can use one of those. With a little bit of lumber, and a saw to cut groves, you can create a holder for the finial. (See pictures below) This allows you to set the finial in the base, heat up the PVC, push the hot end of the PVC into the base with both hands, and repeat.
PVC is not good to breathe in when heated. Do this project outside with the wind going away from you
Also, PVC when heated is hot. I know that sounds silly but don't touch the end of the PVC or touch the melted peel that comes out of the sides of the finial. It is still hot.
Side note: boiling water is not hot enough to melt the PVC. Save yourself the trouble and don't try it. Just use the heat gun.
Step 5: Remove the Pvc Peels and Prep to Paint
Now that you are done with the finial fitting and the PVC has cooled, it is time to remove the peels.
The melted plastic is now hard again.
Pull off the finials, they don't stick to the PVC. (That is a problem later)
Take your pocket knife and scrape off the peels. A blunt force hit by running the knife up the PVC quickly breaks them off almost even. They don't have to be perfect, just not sticking up and out.
Always aim the knife blade away from you. Also wear gloves if you feel the need.
The time has now come to paint the PVC, or has it?
Latex paint does not like the PVC pipe. You can peel it off with your fingernail. Even the Krylon Fusion spray paint meant for PVC and plastic says to rough it up with sand paper before painting.
So grab your sand paper and start twisting to make it rough.
Arms hurt yet? Mine did so I made another jig. After doing all of the 2" PVC and another 50 of the 1/2" PVC, I decided my forearms had enough punishment for the day.
To create the jig needed here, take the same stand you made for the last one, Use the slotted PVC from the last jig and insert a 7/8" spade bit into the slots. Now tape it up really good. Put this into your drill and mount the drill to the floor using the 2x4s. Create a foot press for the trigger with another scrap piece of PVC and you have a spinning jig with a bell on top. (see pictures below)
Insert the PVC into the bell and hold the sand paper at the top. Spin the drill slowly and run the sand paper down.
The sand paper will heat up with friction. Wear a good pair of leather gloves for this step. Also the dust coming off the sand paper is not necessarily good to breathe. Do this outside or wear a dust mask/filtering facepiece.
Be careful not to spin the drill too fast or the jig will break. It is only PVC and tape you know. When you are all the way down with the sand paper, hold the PVC tight and keep the drill spilling. Pull up as you do this and it will come right apart. Sand the 1/2 inch end that was in the jig and put the piece in the pile.
Repeat the process until you are done with all pieces. Change the sand paper often to ensure it is still roughing up the PVC.
Step 6: 2x2 Preparation
You can create two different effects with your fence. You can have the iron fence that has the uprights through the crosspieces, or they can be mounted on the front of the crosspieces.
I chose to drill through the crosspieces to create a finished look on the fence.
To do this you need to drill holes and lots of them. A 7/8" spade bit works perfectly for the PVC once a few layers of paint are added.
The spade bit when mounted in a drill press will give you an even hole though the center of the board and not angled, unless you are not good with a drill press.
You can get away with drilling by hand but that would be rather tedious.
Set up a jig on the drill press if you like to get all of the holes even, or mark each one.
At least set up a stopper board (fence) to make sure each hole is centered in the 2x2.
For an 8 foot section of fence, you will have 9 uprights.
Measure in 8" from the end of your 2x2 and mark the board. That is the center of your first hole. From there measure over 10" and repeat.
Your measurements should be 8, 18, 28, 38, 48, 58, 68, 78, and 88. This leaves 8" on the other end creating an even fence panel.
Upon assembling the pieces, I found that the paint dripped into the holes and made it difficult to push the PVC through. I ended up boring out the holes with the 7/8" bit and a hand drill to clean out the paint. You may want to paint first and then drill, but that could gum up your bit quickly. Boring out did work, just took a little extra time.
Step 7: Dry Fit the Fence Pieces Together
Before you paint any of the pieces, you will want to dry fit the assembly to ensure it looks the way you want it to. Slide the PVC tubes through the holes drilled and ensure they line up they way they are supposed to. At this point you can also check the height of the poles and make sure they are up to your standard. It is better and easier to make a change at this point than when you are finished painting and you have wasted valuable time and resources.
Step 8: Painting
Remember those rebar pieces you bought? Lay them out on top of some plastic to hold the 2x2s up off the ground.
The plastic protects your yard or basement from getting paint all over it.
I tried spraying the pieces, rolling the pieces, and brushing the pieces. Here is what works best.
Roll the 2x2s. Line them all up together and roll them like you would a wall. Remember to get the ends as well.
Flip them over 90 degrees and hit the second side. Space them out and let them dry. Then paint the other two sides.
For the primer, which you need to get the paint to last more than one season, you can paint all 4 sides without letting the two sides dry. They are laid on rebar and the rebar won't stick too badly. Don't worry, its only primer, not your finish coat. You will need two coats of black on top of this. Don't rush the next coats and don't skimp and only paint one coat of black, white will show through if you do. Let everything dry between coats or you will end up with sticky paint.
You will need to get the paint out of the inside of the holes. Let it dry and use the 7/8" bit to bore it out just enough to clear the paint. (as mentioned in step 6). This took about an extra hour of time as there are nearly 700 holes I had to do.
To paint PVC:
Ah, the PVC was a nightmare, but you know what works? A sock.
Put on a rubber glove, Latex, nitrile, whatever you like to keep the paint off your hand. Put the sock over your hand over the glove. This is your paint transfer medium or brush as it would be.
Pour some paint into a tray and put your hand in it only getting the palm wet.
Now grab the PVC and pull it through your hand. Do it twice and it should be coated fairly well (see pictures below).
Lean them up against something to dry, preferably not your house or car unless you put plastic up.
Repeat the process until all are done, or until you run out of sunlight, which was my case. I hate only 2 hours of working time in the evening.
Now you only have the primer done. You still need to paint everything twice with the black exterior latex paint you bought if you want it to look like a true iron fence. If you are going for a metallic look coming through the paint, then one coat of primer and one coat of black with the sock will give you that effect (see picture below).
Roll the 2" PVC, and use another sock on the 1/2" PVC (you will need a new sock per coat). You may also find that the sock shreds a bit. Try doubling up the sock to avoid the holes it creates.
After trial and error, I found that the roller works best on the 2" PVC vs. the sock. It gives a nice even coat. You roll vertically and spin the pipe a little at a time to get the outside covered. Shoot for only rolling the top foot to begin with. Now flip it over and roll the center up to about 12" from the top. Now finish the top. Rolling in three sections makes it faster and easier to control.
You can try to roll the 1/2" PVC if you would like. I would suggest securing the roller and pulling the PVC back and forth across it. With as many as you have to do, the sock is much more efficient, but it's your call.
For a good aged look to the wrought iron, you can paint the final coat with the hammered spray paint by Rustoleum. It is a bit pricey per can and was not in my budget, but if it fits in yours, then why not.
Step 9: Attach the Finials
Your uprights are now primed and painted. The paint should not peel off of them anymore since you sanded and primed them.
It is now time to attach the Finials.
Attaching the finials now is an important step. If you wait to attach them until after your fence is assembled, they may not line up square with the fence. It is easier to attach them now than looking at the PVC tops and hoping you got the square face even when assembling your fence.
To attach the finials, glue is not really an option. One would assume that you could glue plastic together. Well, the two plastics are incompatible.
I tried PVC glue and Gorilla glue (urethane that sticks to everything and its brother, foams as it cures).
The problem is the PVC and finials are incompatible so PVC glue is out. It just pulls right back apart. Gorilla glue is bottled in the same kind of plastic as the finials, which means it doesn't stick either, even when cured. I even called the company I got the finials from and they said painting isn't even an option for the finial as nothing sticks to them. So there you go, save your money and don't buy glue, instead buy screws,
You want to put a screw through the side of the finial and into the PVC. This screw should be hidden on the back of your fence when finished so don't worry. You also need the right sized screws.
The finial is a little less than 7/8" from outside edge to outside edge. That means you need a 3/4" screw or shorter. I prefer a 1/2" screw so it doesn't bubble out the opposite edge with the tip of the screw. Now my preference for a 1/2" screw didn't work out because Home Depot didn't have any. So I went with a 7/16" screw instead.
An important note here is that you are screwing plastic together. You do not need a tap head screw but a sharp point screw. As well, you want a pan head(flat underside not tapered to countersink into wood). The pan head screw will sit flush on the plastic. The tapered screw will not sit flush but will still work. Pan head is better.
The finial will already sit tight on the melted and re-hardened PVC but it is important to keep them in place so trick or treaters do not steal them or knock them off.
Put the screw in but don't strip it out. If you use a black panhead screw, it will blend in and not need painted. Since they are for interior work, it may rust, which will add to the effect of the fence, at least that is what I am telling myself.
Step 10: Making a Fence Section
This is the point where you get to put all of your hard work together to see your creation.
Remember, for an 8 foot section you will need:
(2) 42" pieces
(4) 38" pieces
(3) 34" pieces
(3) 8' 2x2s with holes drilled.
You will also need 1 1/4" screws. This will hold the PVC pipes in place. Now I know what you're thinking. Why not use 2" screws or 1 5/8" screws?
Well, if you have ever taken wood shop or read a book about work working, you would know that a 2x2 is not a 2x2. The 2x2 dimension comes from the rough cut. When it is milled and finished, it is roughly 1 1/2" by 1 1/2". So the longer screws would stick through the other side.
Since your fence has the arch to it, it will be easier to line up the bottom of the PVC pipes vs. the top. This will keep the fence uniform for your arch.
But do not screw in the bottom board without first putting all 3 boards on the bars. If you do, you will have no way to get the remaining 2 boards over the finials.
So the process here is, fish the PVC pieces through all three boards.
Rotate the PVC pipe so the finial is (a) square with the boards, and (b) the screw is facing you
Line up the bottom evenly and put a screw dead center of each PVC pipe through the 2x2. This way all the screws are on the same side of the fence.
>>>>A suggestion was also given in research to drill holes clean through the PVC and 2x2 and put a short piece of black coated wire through and bend it down. This would allow for easy breakdown at the end but would be a nightmare trying to fish each piece of wire through. Its your choice<<<<
Now slide the remaining two boards up. The top board should be about 2" below the lowest finials. The middle board should be down about 4" below the top board.
Screw each piece of PVC on the top board. The middle board you can go every 3 or so. If you want to do every one, then more power to you. For only 6 extra screws per section of fence, I put a screw in each on all 3 boards.
You should now have a finished piece of fencing, just like the picture below. Now only 22 more to make, at least in my case.
Because I had 23 fence sections to make, I wanted to build another jig to help line up the boards and PVC quickly. I have some pictures below. I spray painted the jig pieces red so they are easy to see. I used two pallets and some scrap wood to build a frame that the boards would go into. Then I could slide the PVC in and rotate the finials to the screws up. At that point, it was just putting a screw in each board on each piece of PVC. It made the process much quicker and more exact.
I also found that during painting, some paint got into the holes making it hard to push the PVC through. Below are a few pictures of me boring out the holes with the same 7/8" bit and a hand drill. The gloves are on for safety from the friction of the bit. As well, wear some safety glasses.
Step 11: Fence Posts
Ah, the fence posts.
These babies are needed in order to hold the fence pieces up.
Each post is a little less than 5 foot tall so it will be taller than your fence. You can adjust the height to whatever you like. I shot for the middle height of the fence section which is at 38" to 40"
You can not top this with the standard finial so you have options.
>>>Option 1, buy a 2" PVC cap. Simple enough right?
>>>Option 2, buy a small skull for each one, the route I went. You can get them from the skeleton store online, or go to a dollar tree and see what they have.
>>>Option 3, minimalist, Just leave them open
>>>Option 4, cover them with a prop or some spanish moss.
I personally like the spanish moss. Expensive in stores but you can buy it by
the bag on Ebay for 15 dollars or so
Once you figure out how to top your posts, you need to put them up.
You may have to cut your rebar in order to do this. If you do, cut it with a hack saw, sawzall, or a cut off wheel on a metabo. I used the metabo,
Year one I used Rebar to secure the fence post upright. They had more wobble than I wanted in the long runs along the front of the house. Last year I used 4 foot T Posts you would get at Home Depot or a store of the like for about 3 to 4 dollars each. You only have to plant them 1 foot into the ground and they are way sturdier than the rebar. They stay where you put them and don't wobble around at all. This is the way to go and it works much much better.
I will leave the Rebar way in here as a second option.
Use safety glasses, a face shield, gloves, and long pants to use the metabo. It will shower you in sparks. You don't want a trip to the ER with metal in your eye.
Take that piece of rebar you used to paint on earlier and pound it 18" or so into the ground. Start at a corner of the yard, it will be easier.
Now put the post over the rebar and congratulations, you have a post mounted upright
There are two ways to put all the posts up. One is to put the posts up before you put any fencing. The other is to put one post in place and attach a piece of fence and then put the next post up. I did the latter. Putting up on one post at a time helped to achieve a very tight fence with no gaps between the post and cross bars.
If you want you can skip ahead to the next step and mount a panel in place each time, just revert back to this step if you really need to. I think you will get it though.
Volunteer help here would be helpful as many hands make light work. It took me 5 hours by myself to put up my fence. Apparently when it is sprinkling, no one wants to come help.
Wear gloves while pounding the rebar in. Also, put on some safety glasses. This might seem silly but if you hit the bar wrong and a piece of metal flies into your eye, your whole Halloween season will be ruined. Trust me, I'm a safety manager.
Step 12: Attach the Fence to the Posts
You have options here as well.
You could use a 2" plastic conduit bracket and screw it into the 2x2.
You could use plastic or metal strapping and screw it into the 2x2 and PVC post.
You could cut squares into the PVC and insert the 2x2s inside the post.
You could use a long screw and screw through the board and into the PVC.
You could even zip tie the pieces to the poles. I would suggest getting black zip ties.
Or you could make a hanging bracket that the 2x2 slides into and is then screwed in place. That would be most realistic to a real fence, but also the most time consuming.
The choice is yours.
Myself, I chose to recycle a little bit of band strapping that was on some pallets at work. This allowed me to get free material which is always good. The band strap is too thick to get a normal screw to go through. You will need to predrill it. I also bent it into shape. I used 9" pieces for the rails and 12 inch pieces for the ends and corners.
Once all the pieces were drilled and then bent into shape, the job of attaching the fence is at hand.
Attach the top of the fence, first with two drywall screws 1 1/4" long. Next put two 7/16" pan head screws into the PVC post.
Repeat with the bottom of the fence.
If you chose to do one post at a time, drive the next piece of rebar and put the next post in. Then attach the other side of the fence just like you did.
You will need a piece of band metal on the top and bottom rails. I put a piece on each of the three rails on the corners and ends of the fence.
Remember, you not only want your fence to look good but you want the kids to be safe on trick or treat night. Put the metal band strap on the inside of the fence, facing your house. This will keep sharp edges away from little hands.
Continue until your fence is complete.
Step 13: Decorate and Age the Fence a Little
If you think about it, you are making a cemetery fence. Most of your gravestones probably have a creepy name and old date on them. So, why have a brand new looking fence? Silly isn't it?
So what you need to do is age it. A little rust here, some moss there, maybe get the heat gun out and melt a piece of pipe enough to bend it some?
The possibilities are endless if you think about it.
For my fence, I mixed up some latex paint that looked rust colored. From there, grab a sponge and sponge on the paint randomly to look like rust. This painting step is best done when the thing is assembled so you can go from upright to rail and make it look seamless, like it rusted together. I ended up not liking the rust look after trying it on a practice piece. I am going to skip this for my fence.
If you go to Ebay and get some spanish moss, you can add a creepy old effect. Craft stores sell the moss in 4 oz packages for $4.99. You can get 10 pounds on ebay (160 oz) for $10 and $7 shipping). So 4 oz for $5 or 160 oz for $17, your choice. I have 20 pounds on my fence. That covers 190 feet or so.
Something else you want to consider is lighting. If your fence is lit up at all, it may add to the effect or it could ruin it. Lighting is key to keeping the effect haunt worthy and not something that blends into the dark, or is too bright to be effective. Keep lighting in mind when putting the finished product on display.
Step 14: Sit Back and Enjoy the Festivities
So your fence is done, the neighbors are wondering how you got approval in a historic distric for an iron fence, and halloween is coming up fast. Now what?
Well, if your me, you are rushing like mad to make tomb stones, decorations, and warding off the architectural board for wanting you to tear the fence down because it wasn't approved. Good thing I have approval from the Building and Zoning department. They actually wanted a drawing of the yard on file. Imagine that.
Or you can just sit back, relax and watch the cars slow down as they look curiously at your yard. It is great to hear the kid walk by and say, we are definitely coming here for Halloween, or see a car stop and take a picture. It makes the hard work worth it in the end.
Enjoy the holidays and be safe trick or treating this year
If I get a letter from the architectural board, I will be posting a picture (of my trophy letter that is).
The president of the architectural board actually loved my display and is wanted to see it again bigger and better next year. Maybe it had something to do with her name on a tombstone. Of course all of the neighbor's names were on tombstones so maybe that wasn't it. Hmm.....
I am posting some pictures of the haunt from 2010 as well to give all the Halloween fanatics some eye candy.
Step 15: Pictures From Halloween 2010
Attached in this step are a few of the pictures from this year's halloween, and a few earlier set up pictures.
The windows are boarded up with real boards. They are pallets which were cut apart and screwed together with metal hooks on top. The hooks, like what you hang a Christmas wreath with, fit behind my storm windows to hold up the wood. No screws went into the house for the window covers.
The zombies were a take off of the popular game out now with kids called Call of Duty Zombies. There is even an outline of the Thompson gun on the wall behind the zombies just like it is in the game, where you would buy it off the wall to keep shooting.
I mounted a full size anatomical skeleton on the roof edge climbing from the spider. That took abour four 3" screws to mount but he looked awesome.
The grave stones in the yard were each hand carved with the last names of all of the surrounding neighbors. Isn't it great what information you can find on an auditors website.
One grave stone is different. It is of Ichabod Crane and has a freshly dug casket, care taker, and pumpkin head close by. The caretaker had a lantern which was lit up using a flicker bulb.
I have a picture of a ghost I "caught". The kids seem to like that one.
I ran a fog chiller, home made of course, to put fog through the haunt. I used Froggy's fog as it is super thick and long lasting. You could see the fog 5 houses away.
Hope you enjoy the eye candy. Have fun planning for next year's haunt.