Halloween Cemetery Fence




After being the shame of our street last year in terms of Halloween decorations, we vowed to accomplish three things this year: 
1. Start early!  
2. Be thrifty but awesome! 
3. Out-do the decorations bought from big box stores!

We had some great materials in our garage from other projects, and a weekend to devote, so we built some PVC-based cemetery fences!

Step 1: Materials Needed

**We based the materials we needed from the amount of PVC we had on hand (ten 9-foot pieces) and the best way to cut them and arrange in our yard.  You should add or subtract materials if your design is different than ours**

MATERIALS NEEDED : Amounts we used in parentheses
1/2 Inch PVC pipe (ten 9-foot sections)
1"x2"x8' wood (5 pieces)
1.5" deck screws (40)
Black spray paint (3 cans- we used a Hammered Black textured one)
Drop cloth for painting on
1' rebar sections (we got two per fence section)
Masking tape

Saw for cutting PVC and wood
7/8 Hole-drill bit
Screw bit
Safety goggles
Spray Paint trigger handle

TIME NEEDED: About a weekend

PEOPLE NEEDED : We are two adults, but this project could be done by one, or an adult with children helpers.  As always, please supervise your kids and teach them the safest way to DIY!  

ADDITIONAL: Needed for adding plastic finials, see step 9
Heat Gun

Step 2: Think Before You Cut

We roughly drew out our plan and did some maths.  Here is how our logic went; if you already know what dimensions you would like your fences to be, then you can ignore the following:

1. Fence section length:  the wood comes in 8-foot sections.  We have a small car, and wanted a more segmented look to the fence, so we decided each section would be 4 feet long.  This meant one full piece of wood per section.  

2.  Height of vertical poles: Our pipes were leftover from another project, and already cut to 9 feet.  (I think they come in 10 or 12 feet normally).  We wanted to get as much out of the pipe and not waste any, so we decided to get 3 poles out of each.  Instead of getting three 3-foot pieces (which would give a very even and regular fence look) we staggered the cuts to get sections that were two inches different (34, 36 and 38).

3. Quantity of poles per section: This was easy for us- 10 pipes becomes 30 poles.  30 poles by 5 sections is 6 poles per section.

4. Distance between poles: We liked 8 inches apart, so we started with that.  Additionally, we wanted the poles to begin 4 inches from the edge, so the first pole was placed on inch 4, the second on 12, the third on 20, the fourth on 28, fifth on 36, the last on inch 44.  This left four inches on the far end (symmetry is pretty cool).    

This was all the planning we did- the rest we kind of measured after we could mock-set up the parts to see what we liked visually the best.   

Step 3: Cut the Pipes

Make a measuring template : I used the masking tape to make a "template" for marking the places on the pipes to cut. First, I put a piece of tape on the floor, and drew a line in the middle- this is where I would put all the tops of the pipe when I measured them.  Then I measured out the first length (34 inches) and marked the tape on the floor at that location.  From the 34" mark, measure out 36 inches and mark it on another tape.  The remaining length was 38 inches.  

Mark your pipes : using the template, mark each one on the lines you set up.  I used a sharpie.  

Cut on the lines : using the saw, carefully cut through the pipes as evenly as possible

Step 4: Cut the Wood

Measure to the middle (four feet) of the boards.  Mark middle and cut them.  

Step 5: Drill Holes in the Wood

Find the middle : Measure the longitudinal middle of the wood.  Since these pieces were 1x2, I simply placed one board on top of the other to make an upside down T shape, aligned the edge of one side, and then drew a line down the middle with a pencil.  This saved me from having to measure one inch into the short end and then drawing up a line with a ruler.  However you do it, make sure it's really the middle.  Do this to all wood (for us, 10 pieces)

Mark the locations of each piece : Thinking back to that earlier planing, mark a line to indicate where the center of each hole (and ergo pole) will be.  For us, this was at 4, 12, 20, 28, 36 and 44 inches.  Then use the first measured one as a template, and copy these locations to the other wood.    

Drill the holes : carefully drill the holes at the intersections of the middle lines and the pipe-location lines.  Do this for all wooden pieces.  


Step 6: Prep and Paint!

Set up drop cloths : spray paint is messy.  Be smart about using it to spray your project and not your yard/house/self.   We used a 20x15 plastic for the job.  

Use rebar to paint on : we used a hammer to put the rebar in the ground (poked through the plastic).  That way we could paint vertically, and not have to wait for stuff to dry to turn it.

Prepare the PVC : we used some scrap sandpaper to roughen the pipe so the paint would stick.  Use a damp papertowel to remove any dust before painting.   

Paint! : Prop PVC and wood onto the rebar and begin painting the primary coat.  This was just a first coat, so no worries about small missed spots.  Allow all to dry before removing and repeating on all the pieces.  

Step 7: Assembly

Design your fence : this was a fun part- trying to decide how to arrange the pipes (small on the outside and tall in the middle?  tall outside and small middle?  Alternating heights?) and how far up the pipes to put the wooden bars.  We settled on six inches from the ground, and six inches from the top of the shortest pole.  Also we put the tallest pipes in the middle.  Play with your pieces to see what you like.  

Drill pilot holes through the wood and PVC on the bottom wood : After you measure the bottom wood and have it where you want it, drill pilot holes strait through the wood into the PVC for all poles.  Then carefully put deck screws into the holes and tighten.   This will become the backside of the fence.

Drill pilot holes in the top wooden rung : Put the top wood where you'd like it and drill holes.  We only put in 2 screws on this top piece (one at each end) because the bottom part really holds it together already.   

Step 8: Finishing Touches

Paint final coat(s) : Take the assembled fence out to the protected area, and paint on the final coat to make it look really spiffy. Possibly ad extras like spider webs, finials, dead plant matter ect.  

Wait until you can put up your fences in your yard!!   Use the rebar to anchor your fences when they are put out.  

Step 9: Extra: Adding Plastic Finials

We were pretty happy with our fences when I posted them originally, but decided that buying plastic finials online would make them really great.  What I didn't realize until they arrived and had added them to the first fence was that this step made these fences absolutely stellar!  It nearly doubled the cost of our project (at 30 cents each plus a kind of silly expensive S&H), but I think it was totally worth it!  

Order the finials : I liked the shipping policies here best: http://txmetal.com/?controller=category&path=125.  Get the ones with the biggest openings for the pipe (3/4" was okay, if they had 1 inch, that would have been better).

Heat the tops of the posts to slightly soft: carefully sing a heat gun, aim high heat at the top 2 inches or so of the post.  Do this in a well-ventilated area, as heating PVC releases nasty fumes.  We used our driveway.  Be careful!  Heat guns are not toys and I am sporting a lovely small burn on my wrist from being careless.  

Press finials onto softened PVC : This was tricky, and took a while to do.  The trick is to get the PVC melted just enough, but not too much.  It got easier with practice.  Try to make them strait as possible, unless you are going for a more eclectic look.       

ADMIRE!  I' am so excited about our fences; our neighbors asked where we bought them!  Missio

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13 Discussions


5 months ago

To keep cost down I did not buy finials for the top of my "old" bent graveyard fence. I went to the $1 stare and got little toy jets. Six for a buck. I also added "rust" which was paprika.
As they never get closer than seven feet, none of the public has ever noticed the little toys on the top of the fence.

fence top 2.jpg

6 months ago on Step 1

Im having a problem with the finials. I bought 1" ones, and there is no where near enough room to get the PVC in there.. im really confused haha. could you post a close up of where the finial attaches please.


2 years ago

what size drill bit did you use for the pilot holes during assembly?


7 years ago on Introduction

A friend and I built about 40 feet of this type of fence for Halloween and added one more item, to join the 4 foot sections, we made short (just long enough to connect the last and first PVC upright) wood rail to slip over the main rails. These added stability to the fence.


7 years ago on Introduction

nice work, now go to the dollar store and get some plastic pitchforks, cut off the tines and super glue to the posts (another local Home HAUNTER showed me that trick).. thank you for sharing

6 replies

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Thanks! We are going to get something to put on the top of the posts for sure, I'm just not sure what yet. I have heard the suggestion that small plastic toys like whistles can sometimes be the right shape if you keep an eye out.

My guess is that we will probably buy plastic fence finials from a store online like this one. However, this will basically double the cost of our project, so I still haven't decided if it's "thrifty" enough. But they sure look awesome!


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

I did go ahead and order the pre-made plastic ones yesterday. They cost about $25 with shipping, so that was very much not thrifty, or diy, but I really wanted the finished look. I am tossing around the idea of using the fences for our Christmas display, but making them more Victorian looking with garlands than spooky-- I think these finials will give me the most flexibility.

When they come in and we put them on (might require a bit of heat-gun magic), I'll post more pictures. Thanks for all your great ideas!!


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

there's nothing wrong with combining DIY and store bought materials. Using the fences for dual purposes is a great idea, hopefully you'll post pics of both incarnations when decorated


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

I was thinking of using clay to shape some arrowhead finials but the pitchfork is a great idea, faster and probably cheaper, too.


I used polymer clay to make mine. I think I got about 8-10 from a $2 block. They've lasted about 7 years now.


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

You could form the shapes out of aluminum foil then cover in several layers of tissue and craft acrylic paint. That would be super cheap. Browse my "ibles" for more info on the technique


7 years ago on Introduction

I love your "ravens"!

If you heat their necks with a heat gun, you may be able to bend the heads down so they'll look more like vultures.

Great Instructable! It looks great, easy to make, reasonably cheap and easy to store.

1 reply

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Ha! We actually got the skeletal flamingos last year, as a kind of tongue-in cheek laugh at our HOA (tacky lawn ornaments are strictly forbidden). The only time we could get away with it was Halloween :) Not sure yet how they will figure in to the final display this year.

Total cost for us (remember we started with the PVC and tools on hand) was about $25 dollars