Build a Dog-Ear Fence From Scratch




Introduction: Build a Dog-Ear Fence From Scratch

About: Hopefully I don't make as much a fool of myself on instructables as I do in everyday life.

Only a few weeks after purchasing our first home in Florida on the Gulf Coast we lost a good portion of our back fence to Hurricane Sally. I found out from my neighbor it was her fence and she was quoted at a ridiculous price since so many people needed their fence replaced - and since she and I had dogs, the sooner it could get done the better. We discussed it and I told her I would happily build the fence if we could split the costs. (I was waiting on work anyway so I had free time).


So the first step here was to figure out the amount of materials needed. The materials were posts, pickets, cross beams, cement, and nails. A basic fence panel has two vertical posts on each end with 3 2x4s going across and the pickets nailed onto the outside of the crossbars. My back property line measured about 100 feet across - but there were two big trees right on the property line. To combat this we decided to build a box around it which added some extra materials - check out the spreadsheet picture for exact numbers. For the pickets each one was advertised as "6 inches" but were truly 5 1/2 inches. So I did some quick math for each material:

fence length in inches divided by picket length ; (104x12=1248 inches) / 5.5 = 227 pickets

(fence length divided by 8 foot 2x4 cross beam) x 3; 104 / 8 = 13 x 3 = 39 2x4s

fence length divided by 8 foot separated posts; 104/8 = 13 posts

So these numbers aren't the same as the spreadsheet but that's because I added about 10% of the material incase of seriously warped wood or if I calculated wrong. Also I added a 6 2x4s and 3 extra posts for box. As for cement I picked up 16 bags for each post which I didn't end up using entirely and I returned several to the store.

Luckily my neighbor had a big trailer so she was able to pick up the wood from Lowes in one go.

Step 1: Marking the Post Holes

Now that I had all the materials I needed, I had to figure out where to place the posts.

The posts had to be 8 feet apart since that was how long the 2x4 cross pieces were. So I started from one end of the fence and measured 8 feet exactly from where the center of the hole/post would be. Then measures 8 feet to the next hole and continued across the property line. Since I had to build the box around the tree, I picked a spot a few feet away from the tree where I wanted the corner post to be which left me with a distance of only 4 feet between the previous post. Then I measured 5 feet away from the property line for the box around the tree and continued parallel to the property line until I reached where I wanted to connect back with the property line - and then marked another hole/post on the property line perpendicular to the previous post.

As I measured each distance, I laid down a 2x4 along the property line and also laid down a post so I knew where it was going to be. Once I was done I had a general idea of where the posts would be and as long as the 2x4s could reach each one and I also made sure the 2x4s were straight in line with one another for a straight fence.

In hindsight, this was not the best way to do it. The better way would be to use tight string across the property line and mark (spray paint) exactly 8 feet across on the string to mark the placement of the posts. This results in a much straighter fence - however my fence came out okay but was more work!

Be mindful of where you place the post wholes as you have to dig deep so choosing spots with less roots is better - also be sure you aren't going to hit underground cables or septic lines etc...

Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of this process!

Step 2: Digging and Setting Posts

Now that the holes were marked I began the digging process. Using a post hole digger or as my neighbor calls it: a PhD, I dug down 30 inches for each hole. Then I placed the posts loosely in each hole and saw how high they were compared to each other and added or removed some more dirt so they all looked relatively level. And as the yard sloped downhill a little bit I adjusted the height of the post. So a post uphill would not be the same height as one downhill.

Now using a level and some bricks/cinderblocks I leveled the posts. Once level, I followed the direction on the bag of cement (Sakrete Fast Setting Concrete Mix) which was the fill the hole half with water and then the rest with concrete. Trying this led me to dry concrete on top so I just did what the bag said then added some water on top and mixed the top couple inches so help the water get into the concrete. I think most holes only used about half a bag. After about 30 minutes it was good to go and start putting the cross beam 2x4s up.

I would add after setting the posts to dig the hole a little wider than just the size of the PhD since you can fit more concrete in a wider hole and it makes it stronger.

Step 3: Putting Up 2x4s

With the posts set, I used a cinderblock to set the height of the bottom 2x4. Placing a block at the bottom of each post, I rested the 2x4 on them and screwed the beam into place making sure I left room on each post for the continuing 2x4 to fit. The 2x4s go on the side of the post that the pickets are going to go on - in my case they all went on my neighbors side.

Once the bottoms were all set, I measured how far up my neighbors fence cross pieces were and the all had 23.5 inches between the bottom to the middle and middle to top. So copying that design I measured 23.5 inches from the top of the bottom 2x4 and marked it with a pencil. Then I placed the middle 2x4 so that the bottom of it was on the marked spot.

The process of putting up the 2x4s was difficult alone. If you could get help, I would recommend it. I had to put one screw in on one side then lift up the other side and put one screw in and then adjust each side to be on the mark from there.

For the top 2x4s, repeat the process of measuring 23.5 inches from the middle 2x4 to the top.

Now for the box: It was a similar process with regards to the height of each 2x4, however connecting at the corners was tough. I had to use metal brackets for each corner at the bottom, middle and top. This helped keep the flow of the fence fluid and fit together well.

Step 4: Placing the Pickets

With the 2x4s placed, I could put up the pickets now. Using the adjacent fence and best judgement, I figured how high off the ground to place the pickets.

To place my pickets I used galvanized brad nails with a brad nailer/air compressor combo. This made placing them very easy to do alone. After the fence is complete go through and place galvanized/outdoor screws in each picket as the brad nails aren't enough to keep the pickets from warping long term!

After placing my first picket and making sure it was level, I took a picket from the old fence and screwed a screw into the very top of it. Then I attached string to it. At the other end of the string was a nail placed in the top of the first picket. Now nailing the old fence picket over about 10 feet and ensuring the top was the same height about the 2x4 as the previous picket, I had a tight string which would serve as a guide for the top of the fence line.

Using a very thin piece of wood, I placed it between the first picket and the next one about to be put on. With the distance set, I made sure the top of the picket was just touching the string. With it touching the string, I used a level to ensure it was going to be level up and down. When this was all set, I nailed it into the 2x4s behind it, twice at each level so it had 6 nails securing it to the 2x4s behind it. (It is much easier with 2 people but if alone you'll be using both your hands and feet to pull that off!)

Once I reached the old fence picket, I removed the nail from the previous picket and placed it in the top of the most recent picket and moved over the old picket with the string still attached until the line was tight and then nailed it into the fence. I continued this process all the way across the fence. And when the fence/yard sloped, I followed the contour to ensure the distance from the ground was similar.

At corners I overlapped the pickets which ended up looking alright. Having some foresight a few feet down the line helps at corners as you can make the gaps a little larger/smaller to account for trying to have an even corner without the overlap.

Step 5: Your Fence Is Done!

Once you've placed all your pickets and screwed them in, you are all set and can worry about the next home project!

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