DIY Fence With Removable Sections

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About: I enjoy figuring out how things work, building with wood and metal, and making things with my family.

We live on a corner, so half of our yard space is exposed to the public. We also built a bocce court alongside the house. For those reasons, we wanted to build a fence to cover our air conditioning equipment. This is also where we keep our garbage cans and recycling bins.

The challenge was to build something that would still allow for easy servicing of the equipment. Our solution was to build a fence with removable panels.

The project is pretty much the same as building a fixed fence. The secret is to use fence brackets and leave out some of the screws.

Be safe

Any construction project can be dangerous or fatal, so please take appropriate safety precautions and consult a professional when you need help.

Use a respirator when cutting wood, especially if it's pressure-treated. Use hearing protection when using power tools. Always wear safety glasses.

I am not a professional, and I am just sharing my experience for information and entertainment purposes. I cannot be held responsible for any damage or injuries that result from actions you take.

Steps

These are the steps:

  1. Choose materials and determine dimensions
  2. Prepare the posts and set them
  3. Mount brackets and horizontal boards
  4. Attach pickets
  5. Add decorative boards to the top and bottom of each section
  6. Make the gate

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Step 1: Materials and Dimensions

Our fence is built from cedar. It's lightweight and great for outdoor projects. While cedar can sometimes be expensive relative to pressure-treated pine, siding and fence boards are often cheaper because they're knotty and only surfaced on one side.

Cedar ages nicely and doesn't require painting or staining.

The fence pickets are knotty green cedar 1x4s that are surfaced on one side and rough on the other. I ran mine through the planer, but it wasn't really necessary.

The horizontal supports and gate frame are made from cedar 2x4s.

The posts are cedar 4x4s, installed with "no mix" post cement.

Everything is attached with 2" or 1-1/4" stainless steel screws. If you use pressure-treated wood instead, choose compatible screws.

The key components are fence brackets that are attached to the post to hold each fence section. They are similar to joist hangers. The 2x4 horizontal boards just rest in the brackets instead of being screwed in like they would be in a standard fence.

You can make the fence any size you need to suit your purpose. Ours has 1 gate and 4 separate sections. The sections are about 44" tall and 50" wide, but the exact dimensions will be determined by where you have to place your fence posts.

Sources

I have included links to some of the materials and tools I used. I highly recommend shopping from local suppliers when you can. With any DIY project, you're likely to make multiple trips to the store, and you're going to want advice from experts.

None of this content is sponsored.

The wood for this project is from Boards and Beams in Fairfield, NJ. The fence brackets and some of the hardware and tools are from American Royal Hardware in Montclair, NJ.

Tools

Depending on the dimensions and how fancy you want to get, this build can be done with a saw and a drill/driver.

However, I used a miter saw to cut the wood and to bevel the post tops, a table saw to rip some of the pickets and bevel the top boards, and a surface planer to smooth the pickets.

To attach the top boards, I used a pocket hole jig. You could also use glue or drive screws from the top, or you can leave out the top boards.

Here are many of the tools I used. Some of my tools are older and these links may be to newer models or similar items.

  • Drill/driver
  • Circular saw or miter saw for cross cuts
  • Table saw for rip cuts
  • Pocket hole jig and screws to attach top boards
  • Speed square, a guide for making circular saw cuts and squaring up joints
  • Clamps to hold pickets in place before they're screwed in
  • Level and post level
  • Tape measure
  • Post hole digger (try to borrow one from a neighbor before you buy one)
  • Bucket for water for post cement
  • Safety
    • Ear protection
    • Safety glasses
    • Respirator with 3M 2097 cartridge

Don't let the lack of a table saw stop you from a project like this. If you plan your post spacing well, you won't need to rip any of the pickets.

Step 2: Posts

The post locations and height are going to depend on your situation.

To keep water from pooling on top of the posts, I used my miter saw to bevel all four edges.

The biggest challenge is to get the posts to be in a line with each other and to be the right height. I wish you the best of luck! As Jimmy Diresta reminds us, if it looks straight, it is straight.

Initially, I laid out the posts to only surround the A/C condensers. But then I decided to add another post so we could store our garbage cans within the fence. I was able to reuse an existing post from the old garbage can area. It doesn't match, but I can live with that.

If you are enclosing A/C equipment, be sure to leave adequate clearance for air flow. Check your manufacturer's specifications. I probably do not have enough clearance for mine.

On the other end, I attached the "post" to the house. Existing pipes and wires running to the A/C gear required some creative layout.

Step 3: Brackets

With the posts set, the next step is to mount the brackets and install the 2x4 horizontal boards that the pickets will be attached to.

The position of the horizontal supports is not really critical.

Step 4: Pickets

The pickets will be attached to the horizontal 2x4 supports. Based on the width of the posts, roughly lay out the pickets to figure out how much space you want between each one. If the spacing isn't even, you'll need to rip down the side pickets to make everything fit.

In my fence, one section needed the side pickets to be cut, but the rest didn't.

I ran each picket through the thickness planer to make each side smooth. That allowed me to pick the better-looking side as I arranged things. This was totally unnecessary, but if you've got a planer, you might as well enjoy it.

The pickets are attached with 2" stainless steel screws. I didn't find it necessary to pre-drill the holes.

Step 5: Flair: Top and Bottom

You could stop after adding the pickets, but I did a few things to make the fence fancier.

I added a horizontal piece to the top and bottom of the fence panel using the same 1x4 material, and then I added a top piece that I beveled on using the table saw to try to keep water from pooling on top.

The top pieces were attached using pocket screws. If you're going to do this, you will want to drill the pocket holes before you attach the pickets. Alternatively, you could screw them down from the top, nail them, or possibly glue them.

Step 6: Gate

The last step was to add a gate for the garbage and recycling.

The gate frame is made from 2x4s with half-lap joints that I cut on the table saw and then glued and screwed together. To keep the frame square, I added a diagonal support. Then I attached pickets and the rest of the decorative boards.

Finally, I attached the gate hardware.

Step 7: Enjoy!

The Good

We're really happy with the way this project turned out. The view from the street and from the bocce court is much more pleasant. It was fun to build, and I really enjoyed trying to figure out a design that would work within the constraints we had.

It's easy to remove the panels, and it's not difficult to reinstall them. Everything is still pretty sturdy, and the gate has not sagged.

The Less Good

The boards on top of each section aren't as secure as I'd like, and they've warped a bit. The pocket holes might not be deep enough, or it may just be inevitable given the exposure to the weather.

The top hinge on the gate also has a spike sticking out that I didn't plan for. I should have chosen different hardware, but it's not the end of the world.

The gate would also look nicer if I'd replaced the post attached to the house, but I ran out of 4x4 material.

Even with those issues, I'm still really pleased. I hope you're inspired to tackle an outdoor project!

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    15 Discussions

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    JohnM1569

    2 months ago on Step 1

    Great project, BUT there should be a minimum clearance of 2' around heat pump condenser units. You will reduce the effeciency, make the units work harder and reduce their life expectancy.

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    MarkSindone

    5 months ago on Introduction

    Does your fencing keep out the wildlife though? I reckon I could use a setup like this for my home in Sydney too, but I think we get quite a lot of critters out in the night so we want to make sure that if we've got rubbish storage cans in the enclosure that the critters would be deterred from sniffing around and getting to them. Looks like it might be worth our while to install a netting over the top eh?

    2 replies
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    ToolboxGuyMarkSindone

    Reply 5 months ago

    Bungee cords (adjustables, so you can tighten them down!) on the trash bins to keep the lids on should do the job in most cases. Just pop them off when they're brought to the curb for trash day. The enclosure would just keep the bins from being tipped over, and make the outside look nicer.

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    UdyRegan

    6 months ago on Introduction

    It is really smart to use fences to conceal the eyesore of the compressor units. Previously, we only used partition panels but they wouldn't stand strong winds for too long. Fences are a better idea that would work!

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    Alcheese

    6 months ago

    This looks great! I may have to build something like this to conceal a propane tank that we have on the side of our house. How long have you had yours up? I'm curious if there's been any wood movement with time that may affect the alignment of the horizontal 2x4's of the fence panel that sit into the brackets.

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    jasonlutherAlcheese

    Reply 6 months ago

    It's been up almost 3 years. The decorative top boards are warping, but I think they're also protecting the top 2x4s pretty well. The 2x4s seem to be in good shape, and I haven't have trouble removing the panels.

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    jeanniel1

    6 months ago

    I love the modular design, and making it accessible. I'm going to consider something like this as we have a long row of garbage bins alongside the building. Great idea!

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    MichaelP585

    6 months ago

    It looks great, and I like the idea of using the fence brackets. I think that you put the fence too close to the air conditioner condenser where it can impede air flow. It will make the AC work harder to pull air across the coils. I am thinking of build one of these too, but I think I'll leave at least a foot around the condensor or put more space between the fence slats.

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    Syncubus

    6 months ago

    I'd be interested to know how having the fence that close to your air-exchanger affects your power bill. Typical guidelines call for two feet of clearance around the unit and five feet above it. Not being able to 'breathe' makes them work harder and can shorten their service life.

    Check with your manufacturer for specific recommendations.
    https://inspectapedia.com/aircond/HVAC_Clearance_D...

    2 replies
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    jasonlutherSyncubus

    Reply 6 months ago

    Thank you for the comment! I did not consider that. I'll add a note about that to the writeup.

    My air handler is in an unconditioned attic, and the house has no insulation, so I will add that to the list of my A/C woes...

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    gblome1Syncubus

    Reply 6 months ago

    That was my first thought too.

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    HelenaTroy

    6 months ago

    I can find a real use for this! well, with some slight tweaks. I need a "corral" for my wheelie bins to stop them getting blown about [I live in a wind-tunnel] but I also need access for collection. Never occurred to me to put a gate on it! till now. Thanks so much for posting.

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    GrueMaster

    6 months ago

    Looks great. I did something similar with my picket fence that surrounds my back yard. One section in the upper yard can be removed so I can back my truck in, one in the lower yard so I can get my riding lawnmower in. They have been extremely handy.

    I used mostly prebuilt fence sections from the Home Depot, but a few had to be done from scratch (slope area, gates, etc). I too have a problem with the pockets I used (2x4 joist hangers).