Hog/Sheep Panel Fence




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!

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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!

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    10 Discussions


    2 months ago

    This is freaking Awesome! Beautiful design and definetly even more badass with RGB's!! hats off.


    Question 10 months ago

    I've been wanting to build a hog panel type fence for my front yard for quite awhile and these instructions are some of the most complete I've found. Do you have any idea/suggestions for how to adapt this to a fence situation?

    I'm trying to keep lumber costs down as much as possible so will probably use 8' spread between posts. I really love your suggestion about using lattice cap, much easier than dado or multiple runs of the router.



    Answer 10 months ago

    I see a lot of these in fences, and you are really only limited by the depth of the panels. I have seen the panels in 48" and 44" depths, there may be wider but I have not looked at them. 8 foot length should not be an issue, one solution I have seen is to use 2 x 2x4 laid edgewise between the posts, with the mesh sandwiched between them - so double 2x4 on top rail, double 2x4 on bottom. What I don't like about this is it visually makes a 3.5" 'frame' around the mesh. May be OK for fence, but I don't like the visuals for a deck railing. Farmers actually use these as fences, so googling images may provide tips. I did find there are hog panels and sheep panels, and they vary by the mesh pattern. Hope this helps!


    Reply 10 months ago

    Thanks for the reply--& spot on! I saw lots of these fences around PDX but they're not common--actually they're not even known--where I am now (Wisconsin) so just trying to figure out some of design and material pitfalls before I dive in. There are plenty of images of these fences but few tutorials, which is why I was excited to find yours suggestions.

    I had been thinking to build frames for 8' panels and then affix those to 4x4 posts. After reading your instructions I think I will either a) use lattice caps on posts to create "channels" for the wire panels to slide into and then use a top runner board (2x4 or 2x6 as you have shown) and then staple the wire into the underside to improve stability, or b) utilize all of the 1x3s from the old fence I'm removing to create the frame like you mention above. This latter option would be more sustainable from the perspective of reusing materials and I imagine create a lot of overall stability. The downside is that the wood would be mismatched and each individual frame would weigh considerably more (since I'm doing this project solo, that's an important consideration).

    I either case I leaning towards digging a shallow channel and burying the bottom couple inches of a 50" cow panel--thus improving dig resistance, critter protection, and eliminating lumber cost for bottom of frame. Then the tricky bit would be getting everything aligned horizontally and ensuring posts are all evenly plugged into the ground.

    This is my first time undertaking a project of this sort, both in terms of planning & scale so trying to do more thinking upfront rather than wing-it... there will still be plenty of winging it ;). Thanks for the tips!


    Reply 10 months ago

    I just remembered that I built some gates from these panels for a flip I was doing. If this design looks OK, I can help with instructions (fence would not have cross bracing - but the look is similar)


    Reply 10 months ago

    Yes! That's exactly what I'm aiming at. You sandwiched the panels here, vs. carving out a channel with a router/dado?

    These are the best-priced panels I've found:

    Although I've also considered buying a roll like this but have heard mixed things about ease of use, stability, etc:

    Clearly you're a fan of these kinds of projects, thanks for any tips you can provide!


    Question 2 years ago on Step 2

    What is the maximum span between posts that can be used while maintaining the proper rigidity of the panels?

    frank b
    frank b

    2 years ago

    Even though it may meet general building codes, an inspector may still fail it because the horizontal wire. Children can climb it and fall off. Just something to keep in mind if you have children or are planning to sell your home.
    Good work, looks great.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks. I wondered about that at the time (being "ladderable") but when the inspector came out to approve my deck stairs (completely different design for balusters in the railing) he did not say anything about the panels in the deck railing itself. Good point though.


    2 years ago

    Ooooohhh. I really, really like the look of that. Saving this one for possible porch upgrades :D