Garden, Home

How to build a fence: simple guide and steps

build a fence

This guide outlines in simple terms the steps you need to take if you want to build a fence around your home.

When it comes to the characteristics of the proverbial residential neighborhood, several features come to mind; post-mounted mailboxes, curbside trash cans, manicured lawns, paved driveways, and children riding bicycles, just to name a few. However, none define “suburbia” quite like the white picket fences frequently seen in neighborhoods across the globe.

While a newly built fence may look pretty, it’s also very useful. Fences improve privacy, safety, and the value of your home. They also serve as a definite boundary of your property. As a result, most homeowners opt to maintain the fence already in place or build a fence themselves.

Steps to build a fence

With that said, putting in a fence takes more than an afternoon of driving stakes into the ground and attaching them to pickets and panels. Failure to follow the right steps when you build a fence can lead to damaged property, lawsuits, or the forced demolition of the entire fence. With this in mind, let’s take a look at how to properly install a fence around your home:

Pick a fencing material

There are several types of materials used to build a fence. There’s aluminum, chainlink, steel, wood, wrought iron, and vinyl. Each option has its own pros and cons.

For instance, steel fencing is very durable and secure but prone to rust and is typically one of the more expensive materials available. Vinyl is cheap, but will crack, fade, and degrade faster than other options. Weigh your choices to determine the right fencing material for your home fence.

Obtain the permit to build a fence

Most cities and towns have strict building codes regarding fences built around residential property. Generally speaking, this is meant to limit the number of disputes that arise between neighbors whenever one chooses to put up a new fence.

The bottom line is that you will likely need a permit before you’re legally allowed to build a fence around your property, so check your local building codes before going forward. Do what the law requires.

Do your research

Variations in climate, geography, and neighborhoods mean every fence-building project is different. While this article will prove helpful, it’s not comprehensive. Do your research to determine any special factors that may play a role in your particular effort to put up a fence.

If anything, at the very least make sure you know where any buried electrical cables and pipes are located around your property in order to prevent damage or serious injury.

Determine and define the perimeter

Okay, now it’s time to get to work. The process of defining the perimeter and plotting where posts will go will be the most tedious and time-consuming part of the entire process when you build a fence.

Use batter boards and mason tape to essentially map out where the fence will eventually be installed. Double-check property records to ensure you’re not overstepping your boundaries and building on land owned by someone else.

Start digging

Once you know where you plan to put the posts, it’s time to start digging. Use a post-hole digger to reach the appropriate depth according to the guidelines specific to the type of fence you’re installing. Find step-by-step instructions for building a wooden picket fence and a rustic garden fence.

Put in the posts

The posts go in first. Make sure every post is firmly embedded into the ground or anchored with concrete.

Attach the panels, rails and pickets

Once the posts are installed, it’s time to attach the horizontal panels or rails. Parents, this is a job your kids can help with, so consider drafting them into service.

The pickets are the vertical pieces that go between the posts if you are building a wooden fence. Again, this is a pretty simple and straightforward process, so think about having your kids help in order to speed things up.

Add the finishing touches

Put caps on the posts, coat the fence in a protective material, and do a final inspection to make sure everything is anchored, bolted, and fastened firmly in place. Step back and take in your new fence!


Few features define the modern suburban landscape like the “white picket fence.” Whether your fence is made of aluminum, steel, wood, wrought iron, or vinyl, the important thing is that it’s standing upright and remains that way for years to come. Good luck, and stay safe!

Vivien Bell is a freelance writer from Maryland. She enjoys writing about education, family, home living, and pet care.

Photo by Brie Odom-Mabey on Unsplash