Cheapest Way to Build a Wood Privacy Fence | DIY Guide

Grab some friends and Build a Cheap Wood Fence in One Weekend

Are you wondering how to build a privacy fence with step-by-step instructions?  If so, today we will guide you through the process of easy privacy fence installation – and spoiler alert, It’s easier than you might think 🙂

Easy for us to say, right?  Having built more than my fair share of fences, I think the cheapest wood privacy fence is a pretty straightforward project for most homeowners to take on.

Of course, if you’ve never built a fence before, you might need a little guidance, and hopefully, this guide provides all the answers you need.

Whether you use wood fence panels or standard wood slat fencing, we’ll show you How to Build a Simple Privacy Fence today.


The Cheapest Way To Build A Privacy Fence: 

So you’ve finally purchased your “Forever House.”  There’s enough room to raise a family; the kitchen is perfect, and there’s even a little doggy door for your future family pet to run through :-).

You’ve got a beautiful yard with plenty of room for the kids – and the dog. Add a gas fire pit table and chairs, and you are ready! 

Well, almost… Now you must find the cheapest way to build a privacy fence – preferably, a beautiful Wood DIY Privacy Fence.

How to  Build a Wood Fence in Five Steps: 

  • Know the Exact Boundaries of Your Property (Survey)
  • Have a Good Set Of Instructions – Make a Plan!
  • Get a Full List of Building Materials Onsite.
  • Set all Fence Posts in place – on Day One.
  • Complete the Privacy Fence by Fastening Slats or Fence Panels To Fence Posts on Day Two.

You can always call on a Privacy Fence Builder to build your new wood fence; however, a cheap wood privacy fence is not all that hard to build. Sure, it takes a bit of labor, but with a little help from a friend (or friends), the actual steps are pretty straightforward. 

Luckily, Cheap privacy fence options and do-it-yourself dog fence ideas go hand in hand.

You can have that beautiful privacy fence in place in two full days. A fence that allows you to sit around a fire pit with friends and enjoy your privacy – all while not worrying about the kiddos (or the dog) getting loose! 

Your yard can now be a safe place for kids (and dogs) to hang out – and you can brag about the “fence I built in my backyard.”

Building an Inexpensive Privacy Fence isn’t tricky. You need a simple fence plan, the right list of building materials, the right set of tools, and maybe a friend or two to get the project done quickly.

How Much Does a Wood Privacy Fence Cost?

What is the cheapest wood to build a fence with?

Answer: In the U.S., Treated Pine is the most popular and least expensive wood to use for a privacy fence.

For a typical installation, and by comparison – for all the fence panels, posts, gates, etc., a treated wood fence is approximately 50% less expensive than a typical Vinyl fence install.

A redwood privacy fence will be 10-15% higher than treated pine.

Lowe’s wood privacy fence materials often include redwood privacy fence options.

Granted, there is less maintenance with a vinyl fence, but then again, our article is about the “cheapest way to build a privacy fence,” and we also prefer the natural beauty of a Wood Fence 🙂

A wood privacy fence (material only) will cost between $7 and $22 per linear foot, depending on the type of wood used, fence type, and desired height.

The national average for a wood privacy fence is $2,610, with an average build length of 180 linear feet. The cost to build a wood privacy fence in your area will vary by the available resources you have in your area.

Privacy Fence Cost Variables:

Linear feet, fence height, type of wood used, and “extras” such as the number of posts affect the overall cost. 

Of course, if you need a wood privacy fence “Gate,” you can add more time for labor and approximately $50.00 for privacy gate hardware, such as Strap Hinges, Handle, Latch, and a Spring closure for the privacy gate.

Professional labor can run over 50% of the overall fence material cost. If you choose to purchase your materials but need help building your fence, expect labor to cost you between $30 – and $60 per hour.

To quickly determine a “ballpark” price to build a 6′-0 high wood privacy fence by the lineal foot, using regular fence pickets (not fence panels) – Use our handy Wood Fence Calculator below:

* Wood fencing material cost is based on the national average for 6′-0 high wood fencing (material only). Material cost is an estimate for fence pickets, posts, and cross-rails (stringers). It does not include building materials such as gates, cement, fasteners, rental equipment, etc.   ** Prices vary – To get an accurate price for your project, we recommend contacting a local building supply store to estimate a completed wood fencing package for your particular region.
 

“Tools” Needed To Build Wood Privacy Fence:

  • Post Hole Digger – Manual or Powered (Rental)
  • Shovel, Hammer, Gloves, Garden hose, Safety Glasses
  • Nail Gun (Rent or Own – If using nails) – 2″- 3 1/2″ Capability
  • Compressor and Hose (Rent or Own – If using a nail gun)
  • Drill (If using wood screws – instead of nail gun)
  • Ring Shank Nails – Ring shank
  • Wood Stakes (For setting batter boards)
  • Marking paint spray can – for marking grass – location of posts.
  • Wheelbarrow (To Mix Cement)
  • Cement – Ready Mix Bags
  • String Line (100ft. minimum)
  • 4ft or 6ft. Level

Before you build your Wood Privacy Fence, check out this “DIY fence Video”, which follows the steps of our article closely:

 

How To Build a Wood Privacy Fence – 10 Steps 

1)    Check with Local Authorities:

Every city has zoning laws that everyone must abide by, and fence restrictions are required in city ordinances. Check with local authorities, or go to their website to see the fence regulations for your neighborhood.

Even if you know the rules for the block across the street, it is still a good idea to check your address, as there may be different restrictions for different areas of the city (historic districts are an excellent example of this).

You may also need to check in with your homeowner’s association to see what materials you are allowed to use, what colors the fence will be, and the maximum (and minimum in some cases) fence height permitted in your neighborhood.

Word to the Wise – Do not skip these precautionary steps.

If you do and build an “unapproved fence” or build something even 1″ outside of your property line, you could be fined or forced by a neighbor to remove and relocate your new fence. Seen it happen – and it isn’t pretty.

2)    Survey Your Yard:

Survey Yard - Best Home Gear
Surveying Yard – Besthomegear.com

Before taking measurements for your fence, and assuming you don’t already have a surveyed/staked yard, have a land surveyor come out to your home and let you know precisely where your property ends and where the neighbor’s property begins.

Remember, your new fence isn’t portable – If you find yourself on the wrong side of a survey, you won’t pick it up and move your fence 3 feet.

A few trees in your way before you can build a new fence?  Check out the “best Electric Chainsaws” you can buy.

 

3)   Show Good Neighborly Behavior:

good neighbors - best home gear
Have a Conversation with Neighbors – Besthomegear.com

Now that you’ve got your land surveyed and understand the ordinances for your city and what the HOA requires of your fence, it’s time to get started. But first, we’d recommend giving your neighbors a friendly “heads up.” After all, you’re not planning to build an electric fence on your property 🙂 

There are also some gentleman’s rules to follow when building a privacy fence, similar to where the “mowing” lines fall for each homeowner. When it comes to a new fence, Give your neighbors the “good” side of the fence. See photos for the side that doesn’t show any cross rails.

That particular requirement may also be part of the city or HOA regulations. While you want to construct the cheapest privacy fence you can build, your neighbors will greatly appreciate your courtesy and goodwill.

Photo of “Your Side” of the Fence:  Keep Rails on Your Side.

Homeowner side of fence - Best Home Gear
Homeowner’s Side of Fence

The Photo Above shows your view of the privacy fence, which is “the bad side” after you’re done with the fence installation.

On the contrary, the photo below – shows your “neighbor’s side” of the same fence (with cross-rails on “your side”). Either way, either side of the new “dog ear” wood fence should look great and create the privacy you’re looking for.

Neighbors side of wood fence
The Neighbors View of Wood Fence – Besthomegear.com

While not as “private” as the standard picket or fence panel installation method, If you want to take the guesswork out of “who has the best side,” you or your neighbor can use an alternating picket method.

The alternating picket fence slat – also called Shadow Box fencing  – is shown in this video from Lowe’s Home Improvement:

4)   Setting up the Foundation

Alright, you’ve completed all your fencing homework, and now you’re ready to start your project.

First, make sure the land is clear of tree limbs, brush, or other junk that would hinder building your new privacy fence.

Here is how you get a straight perimeter when building a new privacy fence.

Get Measurements and Mark the Perimeter of the Privacy Fence location:

Since you’ve already had the land surveyed, you should already have the fence measurements but double-check to be sure. I also typically recommend getting a little more material than you need.

Mistakes are bound to occur, so it’s always good to have backup material when needed.

Now it’s time to mark the perimeter and layout your post locations. Mark the spots with batter boards and tie a string around the perimeter (should be nailed/screwed to each batter board).

This step will help you line the posts up correctly so your fence is straight.

Check out this great video: “How to Set Batter Boards,” from the fine folks at Lowes:

Pro Tip: Keep the string taut during this process. You’ll use the string to guide you when Setting the Posts in the ground. A loose string can result in a fence that looks more wavy than straight.

5)    Mark the Post locations:

Once the batter boards are in place, you can start marking where your fence posts will be. You can do this one of two ways; plant wooden stakes where the posts should go or use marking paint on the grass.

I prefer marking paint because it’s a more straightforward process, and this is a labor-intensive project, so I give myself a break from work wherever I can.

Ensure that you mark the post inside the string and space each stake between six to eight feet apart.

The spacing depends, of course, on the width of fence panels (typically 8ft. wide) or the rail and picket installation, which can be installed at 6ft or 8ft. Be as accurate and consistent as possible, and keep your tape measure on you.

Once this is done, mark where the strings are on the batter board and remove the string. This step isn’t ‘absolutely’ necessary, and you will end up putting the string back on once the holes are dug for the posts anyway. But it may make digging the holes a heck of a lot easier.

6)    Get The Materials –  Search: “Wood fencing near me.”

Before we get into the build details, Here are the tools and fencing materials required to build a privacy fence.

  • Pressure-treated fence posts (4×4 or 4×6)
  • 2x4s for the rails (pressure treated)
  • Pickets (These are the slats – they usually run 4″ wide x 1″ thick x 6ft. high- either Dogeared or Flat top – pressure treated)
  • 10 penny Galvanized deck nails(if using a nail gun) or 2 ½ – 3″ galvanized Deck Screws
  • Shovel
  • Posthole digger
  • Shovel
  • Digging/Prybar- for prying out rocks or solid ground
  • Power Auger (optional but highly recommended for a medium-large fence)
  • Marking paint
  • String
  • Concrete mix
  • Batter board material (be sure to watch the YouTube video below)
  • Spacer bar – You can use a 1″ thick picket for the spacer (spacing is required if you intend to keep space between slats for airflow and possible wood expansion issues in very high humidity conditions. if you want full privacy, you will not want any space between the picket slats)

7)    Dig Post Holes and Set the Posts

If you’re learning to build a wooden fence, hold on tight; this is where the actual labor comes in. You’ll need a shovel, a post-hole digger, and a digging bar. These can be purchased at any local hardware store or rented at Home Depot or Lowes.

You can also rent a good impact drill to save time to cut down on labor.

If your region is prone to deep freezes, we recommend you dig your post holes below the frost line. Frost lines usually are 42″ below grade for most Northern US states. The frost line is where the water will freeze in max.

The depth and digging below will ensure your posts don’t heave during those hard freezes.

If you aren’t sure where the frost line is, that’s fine; it isn’t difficult to look it up on Google. If you go below the frost line in this case, and you plan to build a 6ft high fence, you would need 10ft high posts.

Set the bottom of each post 45″ below grade (for a 42″ frost line), and you will have 6ft.

Note:  If frost is not an issue where you live, we recommend setting the bottom of each post at 24-36″ below grade.

Have Some Brush to Clear First? – Here Are The Top 5 Brush Cutters We Recommend

Avoid having fence panels or pickets touching the ground:

You do not want to have any portion of the pickets or fence panels in contact with the ground due to moisture-wicking, however, set the fencing any higher, and the neighbor’s dog might pay you an unexpected visit 🙂

Once you’ve got all the holes dug, reattach the string, and it’s time to pour some concrete mix.

Follow the mixing instructions for fast-set concrete mix, then set the post in place squarely on the strings you laid out and set up temporary wood braces to hold the post plumb and in place.

“Ever thought about adding a Beautiful Wood Pergola to your Backyard – Here’s a How-To Guide.”

8)    Install the Fencing Rails

After the concrete cures, and we recommend allowing two days, it’s finally time to start setting up the railing. This part seemed daunting when I first learned how to build a fence.

But after digging post holes and pouring concrete in the dead of July, it was a piece of cake. It’s just nailing horizontal 2x4s to the posts you installed two days ago.

To begin, you Install the horizontal railing (the 2x4s) in two locations, one at the bottom of the post and one near the top.

The top of the lower rail needs to be placed 9 1/2″ inches above the ground, and the bottom of the top rail should be placed 64″ above the ground. Keep this rail height uniform throughout the whole fence installation.

Important Note: The installation plan you’re reading here is, again, for the “Cheapest way to build a privacy fence.”

When attaching the rails, use hot-dipped galvanized nails (if you’re using a nail gun with a compressor), or for even more longevity, use 2 – 2″1/2 length galvanized deck screws. They take longer to install but hold longer than nails.

Fence “Panels” (Option):

The cheapest wood fences involve installing individual wood fence slats and horizontal rails. However, If you don’t mind spending a few more dollars and want to save a ton of labor, skip the individual fence slat step above and install wood fence panels instead.

So, for those wondering if it’s cheaper to build a fence (using slats) or fence panels, the answer is “with fence slats.”  However, building the fence will take longer and cost more.

Wood Fence panels are pre-built panels with slats and rails pre-assembled.  Home Depot and Lowes’ wood fence options include treated Wood Fence Panels for simplifying your project.

Pre-made 6ft. high x 8ft. wide “fence panels” are pre-assembled and mounted to the three railings.

Keep in mind that one primary consideration between the two methods, panels or picket slats, is whether you have a lot of contours (bumps and dips) in your lawn.

The single picket/slat method will allow you to install the slats to follow the contour of your terrain. At the same time, the pre-assembled panels are fixed at 8ft wide and do not allow for as much variation or a tighter tolerance to the slope of your yard.

9)   “Fence Pickets” Wood Fence (vs. Pre-built “Fence Panels”)

The picket method is the cheapest fence installation method.  Instead of pre-assembled fence panels, you install individual slats (pickets) individually. 

For many who are wondering “how to build a privacy fence on a slope”, This is the preferred method for un-level or uneven ground, as you can follow the contour of the land as it rises and falls.

Picket Fence - Best Home Gear
Installing Picket Fence – Besthomegear.com

10).   Install Fence Picket Slats

Reminder: No matter what wood you choose to go with, always, ALWAYS use  “pressure-treated wood.”

When you hang the pickets, be sure you are installing them at a uniform height; there aren’t many things as unsightly as a jagged fence. Also, an excellent tool to have on hand is a four ft. Level: this will help ensure you keep the pickets plumb and even the whole way through.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you choose to install “Fence Panels” – (found at most Home Supply stores) instead of pickets and rails, you’ll need to find a friend to help you hold the fence panels level – and nail them to each post, instead of fixing individual picket slats to the horizontal rails.

Getting Fence Height Correct

Lay a 2 x 4 (1 1/2″ thick) and a 1 x 4 (3/4″ thick) on the ground to use as a height spacer – which will keep each picket level – And keep the bottom of the fence 2 1/4″ above the ground.

Now set your first picket on top of the spacer, level it plumb, and fasten it to the top rail with two nails or screws side by side.

Then, ensure it is still plumb and attach it to the bottom rail. Put two nails or screws through the picket or fence panel and into each railing. Finally, fasten the picket to the middle rail.

Completing The Fence

Next, take your 1″ width spacer slat (approx. four ft. long), place it against the first picket, and install the next picket flush against the spacer.

The 1″ width spacer is there for two reasons: it allows air to flow through the yard freely. Also, wood tends to swell and contract depending on the weather. If you don’t space the pickets apart, they can buckle.

Acclimation to the climate will allow you to keep the picket slats tight, avoid the spacing, and maintain more privacy. Continue nailing the pickets to the rails until you’re finished.

How High Above Ground Should I Set the Wood Fencing?

Be sure to set the Bottom of the Wood Fence (Pickets or Panels) at least 2 1/4″ above ground.  This will prevent the wood fence slats from soaking up any moisture from the ground.

If your yard has low spots or any tendency to pool water, set fencing even higher to accommodate standing water.

Should I Stain or Paint a Wood Privacy Fence?

A:  Once you’ve completed and cleaned the fence, the fence is technically done. However, research the best wood finish for your new fence to protect your new investment. Wait for pressure-treated lumber to shrink as it dries. Wait a few weeks for the wood to dry in the sun.

To apply a protective finish to a wood fence, we recommend using a top-grade transparent wood stain or clear coat finish in almost every case.  For this step, refer to our FAQ section, “Tips for Privacy Fence Maintenance.”

There you have it; now you know how to build a cheap privacy fence in your backyard. Now let’s build a new cornhole board set for that private yard!

How To Build Privacy Fence

 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Much Does It Cost To Build A Privacy Fence?

There are many options when it comes to building the cheapest privacy fence, including height, design, type of privacy fence – panels or pickets, and the type of wood to use: Pine, Cedar, Redwood, etc.

My Advice for Estimating Privacy Fence Cost: 

  1. Use our Fence Estimating Calculator above.
  2. Bring your total length (linear feet) of fence required to a local Home Improvement store/lumber yard.  Have them estimate the full list of materials and fence costs with two options:

A) Using pre-manufactured Fence panels  (or)

B) Use fence Pickets that you install one by one.  This way, you can choose the best option to match your budget.

How Can I Build a Cheap DIY Privacy Fence?

A:  Read this article on how to build a cheap wood privacy fence and use the step-by-step instructions. You will quickly learn how to build a cheap privacy fence. 

If you’re still unsure after reviewing this post, check your local area for fence builders or a handyman who builds fences – that you could work alongside to make your privacy fence!

How do I build a fence on Uneven Ground?

If your yard has a lot of slope or undulation, that’s an easy problem to work around.

On the uneven ground – lay a scrap piece of 2×4 or 2×6 lumber (about 4 ft long) on the ground directly below your pickets before you nail each one in place.  Set each picket “directly on top of the scrap lumber,” and continue this method as you nail each picket in place. 

The scrap 2×4 lays flat and follows the ground’s contour- so will your pickets. The height of each picket will also be set accordingly.

Q:  What is the Cheapest Type of “Privacy” Fence to Build?

A: The cheapest type of fence material is “treated pine.”  Because of Its abundant availability as a wood fencing choice – treated wood fencing is approximately 50% less expensive than its closest competitor, Vinyl fencing.

In addition, Wood “picket slats” should be cheaper for wood privacy fencing than “privacy fence panels,” which are pre-assembled and sold in 8 ft. sections.  Keep in mind the additional labor it will require to assemble your entire fence – one picket at a time 🙂

Q:  Is there any Other Way to Make a Cheap Privacy Fence?

A:  Yes, If you instead want to install a Natural Fence – You can install a  “Green Fence” – Check out our article, the Fastest Growing – Evergreen Shrubs for Privacy.

Finally, plan on a bit of upkeep and wood fence maintenance. This may seem obvious for preserving and maintaining your new fence, but it also displays good manners.

Tips for Privacy Fence “Maintenance”

1) How to Stop Your Fence from Warping

After a while, wooden fence slats can begin to warp, twist, split, crack, and shrink. That’s okay; wood is a highly reactive material undergoing many changes. When it’s cold, wood likes to expand. When the wood is wet, it soaks up the moisture, getting bigger and shrinking as it dries out.

The bottom line is that wood is a difficult material to control, but thankfully, there are some ways to mitigate this problem.

2) Purchase Quality “Treated Fence Material.”

Getting pressure-treated wood will help it withstand extreme and varying weather conditions for much longer than it would otherwise be able to. When purchasing materials, always go with pressure-treated wood.

After all, you’re looking for the cheapest way to build privacy fence (s), but you should not use untreated wood.  If you do, you invite termite/insect infestation and dry rot to occur quickly.

You can also buy species of wood that are more resistant to weather. Wood materials like northern pine or spruce, cedar, fir, and redwood are great options for a privacy fence.  Pine and spruce are the most commonly treated lumber options due to their affordability.

3) Pick out “Straight” Materials For New Fence

When trying to build the cheapest privacy fence, you should be ultra-picky when shopping for your fence posts, rails, and pickets.

Just because you are trying to save money doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take extra care to get the best lumber. Instead of buying a bundle of dog ear fence pickets, go through them individually and find straight pieces without holes or large knots.

It is tedious, but wood rots, and you don’t want to start your project with rotted wood. You should also make sure the lumber isn’t warped or split. Taking your time will save you the hassle of going all the back to the store and making an exchange later.

4) Weather Stain Treatment

Applying a water-repellent stain or clear-coat treatment to your fence will prevent the wood from shrinking, cracking, and some common bug infestations.

We recommend you wait at least 60-90 days and up to one year to allow the wood to dry and acclimate to the climate. There isn’t a way to stop the expansion and contraction of wood entirely, but a suitable weather sealer on your fence will go a long way to protecting your new investment.

Pro Tip: Don’t just seal the pickets’ front and back; seal the edges. That’s where most of the moisture is gained or lost.

5) Painting

As opposed to Vinyl fences, which never need sealing or painting, a healthy coat of paint or sealer will help prolong the life of your fence by shielding wood from direct sunlight. Think of it as sunscreen for your vinyl fencing.

But be careful; there is some evidence that darker shades of paint speed up warping.

If you apply a transparent coat of wood stain/sealer instead of paint – you will not need to paint or touch up the color on your fence annually.

Speaking of “Painting,” – See How Easy It Is To Repaint Kitchen Cabinets 

Conclusion

There is more than one cheap privacy fence option out there.  One creative guy I saw buried/cemented the posts and then ran a continuous string of wood pallets side by side around his yard.  While this may not be the best look, it got the job done or did it for his needs.

However, as inexpensive fencing ideas go, we think the methods we’ve illustrated above are probably the best and the cheapest DIY privacy fencing you can install.

Now that your privacy fence is in place expand your new private entertaining area with one of the best Gas Firepit Tables on the market.

How about you? Do you have any shortcuts or installation suggestions? Feel free to share them in the comment section below, and thanks for visiting BestHomeGear.com!

Like This Post?  Don’t Forget to Share it and Let Us Know In the Comment Section if It Helped!

References & Further Reading

Kevin Carroll
Kevin Carrollhttps://www.besthomegear.com
Kevin is the author and editor for Best Home Gear, and uses his 25+ years experience in Commercial and Residential Construction Management to author and publish the work for this website. In addition to publishing Best Home Gear; Kevin enjoys the outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, hiking, cycling, fishing, golf, and completing DIY projects at his Home and Garden.

Thanks for Visiting Best Home Gear - Your One-Stop-Shop for Expert DIY Guides, and the Best Products and Equipment Reviews for Your Home.

Image of Kevin Carroll, author and publisher @ Besthomegear.com
Author and Publisher for Best Home Gear

Kevin is the Owner, Author, and Publisher @ Best Home Gear, which he began In 2018.

As a Professional in Construction, Real Estate and Property Management, Kevin uses that experience to publish Useful Articles, and help homeowners improve (DIY) their own homes, lawns, and outdoor spaces.

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