Fancy Fence




About: We are Matt and Brooke Mullens! We have been married since 2013, started our rental business in 2014, and spend all of our free time fixing up our 1926, 1930 and 1937 Tudor style homes in a well-established...

As a couple, we have built several other fences (seem like every house we buy always needs a new fence), but as we plan for this house to be our house for the long haul, we wanted to make this fence special and striking. Luckily, we only had to enclose 2 sides of the backyard since our neighbors already had fences around the other two sides.

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Step 1: Demo!

We spent a few days painstakingly getting our backyard ready to build this fence. We downed a large pine tree, got rid of a ton of ivy, slightly regraded the yard, and also took out as many irises as we could. The battle of the irises is not over yet as we still get 1 or 2 popping through the grass.

Step 2: Day 1: Installing the Posts

We first started to lay our string lines and mark where the post holes would go. We went from the corner post of our back neighbor’s fence to the corner of our yard, and from the edge of our garage to the corner.

Quick Tip: to make sure you have a right angle between the 2 string lines use the 3-4-5 rule. Mark 3 feet from the line intersection on one string, 4 feet from the line intersection on the other string, and adjust the lines until it is 5 feet diagonally between the marks. Perfect 90 degree angle every time!!

Math time: Now that we had our corner marked out, we measured the distance accurately from each line of fencing to calculate out post spacing. Between each post we wanted to have approximately 6 feet spacing. We took our overall length and divided it by 6 and that got us the number of bays (bays = spots between posts we need). For instance, for 32 feet of fence, 32 divided by 6 equals 5.3333 so we needed 5 bays. Now to knew the center of each post, we took our 32 foot and divided by 5 (number of whole bays), which tells us each post is 6’-4.8” feet center of post to center of post. In this instance, I would make each post 6’ 5” until the corner post and that last bay would be slightly smaller. This wouldn’t be noticeable overall.

Now that we had the fence locations all marked out (by use of strings), we had to mark the ground where the posts were going and start digging. Luckily, we own a post hole digger and auger (we pretty much own every tool out possible)! So, we made relatively quick work of most of the post holes. However, some of the post locations aligned perfectly with where old posts were (from an old chain link fence), so that involved digging out old concrete in one case, and using a sledge hammer to bust out old concrete in another case. This was the end of our DAY ONE!

Step 3: Day 2: Installing the Rails

With all the posts set and perfectly plumb, we began to put in our rails for the fence. The fence design we chose involved attaching the rails to the sides of each post instead of the norm of attaching the rails to the face of the post. To do this, one could use a concealed flange joist hanger, but we did not want the look of that. So, we used our trusty Kreg Pocket Jig and the Kreg blue coated screws. We first put 2 pocket screws on each side of the rail, then we put a Deckmate screw at an angle on the top and bottom of the rail as well. The rail was installed flush with the back side of the post (the side facing our backyard).

Also, in addition to the top rail, an additional 2x4 top rail was put across the top to put a “cap” on the fence, to add to the aesthetics of it. We continued this for 3 rails on each bay. We made the sidewalk side fence rails perfectly level to each so you would see a clean line when walking your dog, the driveway side of the fence we stair-stepped the top rail.

Step 4: Day 3 (1/2): Installing the Pickets

Next, we split up our tasks. Brooke worked on the pickets of the fence, while I worked on the gate frame and post caps. Luckily we each have our own "his" and "hers" Dewalt impact drivers!

Brooke’s job: The pickets. Due to the design we picked for our fence, each picket had to be cut individually (custom to the MAX). Also, since we did a layered picket design, more cuts were required than normal. The way we chose our layer design was to start with a whole picket at one edge of the bay and space the next picket 3 ½”(a standard 2x4 width) apart. The whole first layer of pickets was spaced that way. If there was a gap between the picket and the second post of a bay, a piece needed to be made for a level screwing surface for the second layer. Each picket was attached with Deckmate screws.

Step 5: Day 3 (2/2): Installing the Gate

Matt’s job: The gate. For the gate frame we attached a 2x4 to the garage for the latching side then measured the exact distance between the post and the 2x4. I subtracted an inch off this distance to make sure the hinge and latch had the proper clearance to close. To build the frame, I made sure the rails of the frame were spaced the same as the fence rails. I made sure the verticals were the length from the bottom of the lower rail to the top of the top rail. I assembled all of these pieces by using the Kreg pocket jigagain. After I had that assembled, I put a piece of wood under the partial frame and traced the cuts for the cross member of the frame for the upper and lower portions. These diagonal members are important as they prevent the gate from sagging. Again these were attached to the frame with the Kreg pocket jig.

Then we had to attach the frame for the gate to the rest of the fence using gate hinges and a latch. Then the “cap” was added to the top of the gate frame and the pickets as well. With the gate closed, it is hard to tell there is even a gate there.

Step 6: Day 4 (1/2): Installing Post Caps

Post caps. Next came the post caps. Each post was cut to 3” above the highest top rail. Then, a post cap was installed - relatively simple task. We did have to add a 4x4 entender piece back to the end post to make the end post the same height as the other corner height. Then to hide our mistake we added some trim to the post.

Step 7: Day 4 (2/2): Installing Arches

Arches. The last thing that needed to be done was the arches in each bay. First a template piece was cut using our Dewalt jigsaw. After the template was made, we used our Dewalt router with a guide bushing to “trace” the template so that every arc in each bay would look the same. For the gate, we just used the jigsaw to cut the arch

Step 8: Enjoy!

The last thing to be done is, always, enjoy our hard work!

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    10 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Very nice! And you do a great job explaining everything to us. Thanks for the 3/4/5 rule. So simple, duh, I remember that now from math class, but works great!

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Simple rules like these make the building process go so much easier. In my opinion, if you use less measuring tools, you will probably make fewer mistakes. I mark most things that are cut based on holding it there, as opposed to measuring 2 different things. Typically goes faster as well.


    2 years ago

    Gorgeous work. Your new lawn looks impeccable!

    1 reply