Introduction: Hog/Sheep Panel Fence

There are lots of designs of exterior fencing using welded, galvanized wire panels - aka "hog" panels or "sheep" panels - I like them because they hold up well to the elements, are cost effective, relatively easy to use, and have a clean look with excellent visibility. See this design as an example on Instructables - I love it!

I wanted to share my design for a few reasons:

  1. The double top rail minimizes any sag when spanning distances over four feet, just be realistic and conform to any building codes
  2. Pre-made lattice caps makes for a more discreet frame to hold the mesh
  3. The design can be built without an specialized tools like a router or dado blade to frame the mesh, and doesn't require you to drill a million holes to hold the mesh
  4. The wider top rail allows you to hide LED light strips - see photo at the end for effect!

I won't go into construction techniques to meet building code, especially for things like fastening the railing posts to the joists (hint - use Simpson Strong Tie DTT2Z Deck Post Connectors) - this design does conform to general code requirements:

  • No gaps in the rail exceed 4"
  • Finished rail height is minimum of 36"

As with any deck project, expect that your deck is not level, and make provisions when you construct the rail. The most important thing to remember is that the highest point of the deck needs the lowest rail - in this design 36" - lower parts of the deck will have a higher rail height as the rail stays level and the deck undulates!

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Materials - Wood

I aassume the joists are already in place, and you have the deck boards. I use cedar for wood materials above the level of the deck, here are the types of dimensional lumber needed:

  • 4x4 - Posts. You should budget for about 4' per post, so an 8' length will make 2 x posts, a 12' length will make 3, etc.
  • 2x4 - Bottom and Top rails. If your posts are 4' on center, estimate 8' of 2x4 per fence panel
  • 2x6 - "Cap" rail - If your posts are 4' on center, estimate 4' of 2x6 per fence panel
  • Lattice Caps - you may need to hunt for these (example) - I buy them in 8' lengths - each 8' length will make either 2 x horizontal frame pieces or 3 x vertical frame pieces. Rule of thumb is 5 x 8' lattice caps will make 3 x complete fence panels (3 caps for the horizontal frames, 2 caps for vertical frame pieces). If you can't find pre-made lattice caps, try buying 1x3 cedar and routing a channel down the middle

Materials - Mesh

This can be tricky to find, try a farm supply store. I purchase panels that are 4' x 16' with 4" squares. These are called everything from hog panels, to sheep panels, to utility panels - the important thing is to get 4" squares to meet code. See picture in this step to see how to maximize the number of panels to be cut from a sheet. It is important to start each panel in exactly the same place on a sheet so that the horizontal wires all line up!


  • Circular saw or chop saw
  • Impact driver
  • Level (laser level preferred)
  • Bolt cutters (for the mesh panels)
  • 2.5" deck screws
  • Air gun for fastening lattice caps to posts/rails - nailing these by hand is a pain

Step 2: Install the Posts

Check your local building codes on the requirements for attaching rail posts, I use 1 x Simpson DTT2Z deck tie and 2 x 1/2 inch galvanized bolts. If the joists are 4' on center your spacing will be 44.5 inches between posts. Let the posts run long (don't cut them yet).

Step 3: (Re)install the Deck Boards, Cut the Posts

I install or replace the boards before building rails because it is easier to install notched boards (if this is your design) without the rails, and building the rails with boards in place is easier for measurements, safety, etc. Cut the tops of the posts level. A finished 36" rail height will require the posts to be cut 33" above the deck.

Step 4: Install the Bottom Rail

I install the rail 3.5 inches above the deck to allow for up to 1/2 inch of variation to not exceed the 4" code requirement. This is also the thickness of a 2x4 on edge which can be placed under the rail as a spacer to hold the rail while you attach it to the posts.

I pre-drill and toe screw the bottom rail to the posts - screwing from above provides extra strength so that if someone stands on the rail and bounces, the screws transfer load into the post (and kids will never do this, right?)

Step 5: Install the Side and Bottom Lattice Cap

Cut 2 x 28" pieces of lattice cap and attach to the center of the posts using a nail gun (or hand nail). Next, measure and fit the bottom lattice cap piece. Leave a small gap between the horizontal and vertical lattice cap pieces to allow rain water to drain out.

Step 6: Install the Mesh and Finish the Frame

Measure the width and height of the mesh panel and cut using bolt cutters. Always start a panel in the same place in the sheet of mesh (like bottom left of panel always starts on a new mesh square) so that the horizontal wires in the mesh will visually align across all the panels. Allow about 1/8" gap between either side of the panel and frame, and 1/8" gap on the top with the top lattice cap installed.

Measure and place the top lattice cap on the mesh.

Step 7: Install the Top Rail

Install a 2x4 across the top of all the posts. Make sure any joins are centered on a post. Screw down directly through the top of the rail into the post - these screws will be hidden.

Use your nail gun (or hand nail) the top lattice rail to the underside of the 2x4.

Step 8: Install the Cap Rail

Install the 2x6 "cap" rail over the 2x4 top rail. Joins do not need to be centered over posts. To attach the cap rail, clamp to the 2x4 and 2x6 together, and then screw up from underneath so that the screws remain hidden.

Step 9: Finished Fence Panel - With LED Bonus!

We love our deck! To extend its use in winter, last year we built a gazebo and custom "fire table" (probably the topic of another Instructable). To increase the wow! factor I installed 12v RGB LED light strips under all the deck rails, the fire table, and inside the gazebo. They are all run from one controller so that the whole deck can change color depending on occasion and mood!

Step 10: New: Fence With Only 2x4

There have been some questions on building this design with only 2x4 (and I included a picture from a house flip we did) - following instructions are for the design of the gate in that picture, you can modify to build it into a fence panel...

Build a basic box with 2x4 - add a diagonal to square it. Diagonal brace is flush with back of 2x4 box.

Step 11: Finish Framing the Back of the Panel

Add interior frames to hold the mesh.

Step 12: Add the Mesh

It does not have to fit exactly into the frame. If needed, you could staple the mesh to the inside of the frame (romex staples work well).

Step 13: Add the Other Side of the Interior Frame to Hold the Mesh

If this were a fence panel instead of a gate, the sides of the "box" would be the fence posts, and there would be no need for a diagonal brace. Instead, the interior framing would be the same for the front and back of the "sandwich". You could also use a 2x6 across the top for aesthetic.