DIY wooden fence – how to do it

A plain, white picket fence in front of a garden
Even a simple picket fence that you have built yourself can really enhance how your front garden looks.
  • Difficulty
    medium
  • Cost
    50–200 €
  • Duration
    1–2 days

Introduction

Wooden fences not only give you privacy or separate your property from next door, they are also fantastic design elements for your garden or patio. So if you’re in the process of creating your dream garden, it’s best to plan your wooden fence at the same time.

With a little craftsmanship and the right tools, you can turn your own ideas into reality in no time at all. There are, however, some things you need to bear in mind when building a fence. This article tells you what these are and how you can build your own wooden fence.

You need

Planning

Building your own wooden fence is a great project for anyone who likes to be hands-on and realise their own ideas in the garden or on the patio. While there is almost no limit to how creative you can be with your wooden garden fence , you should still make sure that the fence meets your requirements. So it’s important to know first of all what purpose your garden fence will have.

Do you just want to create a boundary between flower beds or separate your garden from next door? Or is the idea to have a wooden screen to provide privacy in the garden? 

As always, the materials you need depend on the project you have planned: A lattice-style or hunter’s fence in the front garden or for separating your property is usually no higher than 1.20 metres. Wooden screens in the garden to block out unwanted views or for greening may well be 1.80 metres high.

If you want to build a wooden fence, you will also need posts to give the individual fence elements sufficient support. Depending on the type of fence, you should usually plan to have a post every 1.80 to 2.50 metres. Remember to also allow enough space for a garden door or gate.

DIY or ready-made components?

If you want to build your own garden fence from wood, you have a wide range of options. For example, you can work with natural materials such as branches, sticks or even recycled pallets. This is perfectly in line with the current upcycling trend: Give old items a new lease on life. By the way, we love pallets and have created a number of projects for you: How about a beach chair made from pallets or a DIY pallet sofa?

Of course, you can also use new materials if you want to build your own fence from wood and you’re not counting pennies. And a mixture of materials is possible too: Today, modern fences are often made from aluminium, but wooden elements can also be added.

Choosing between ready-made components and a project where you cut and finish every component yourself from the very start depends on your abilities, and also on your budget and the nature of the terrain. Ready-made components can make the work easier, but they also limit your creativity. A DIY project from scratch, however, can present a number of challenges, but gives you plenty of scope for creativity and individual design.

Wood or WPC?

Especially for outdoor use, many DIYers like to use WPC (wood plastic composite). This composite is not only durable, but also very easy to clean. Cleaning with water alone is sufficient. At the same time, cracking is very rare – despite the fact that the material is 70% wood. Undesirable discolouration is also rare, even when exposed to severe weather conditions. Only heavy use can cause a slight lightening of the colour due to abrasion of the wooden components.

Wood, on the other hand, is a natural material that responds to the environment and needs to be oiled or painted every now and then to remain durable, as moisture, strong sunlight or extreme cold can cause it to fade, become brittle or even rot.

Which type of wood is particularly durable?

Wooden fences made from larch are particularly durable. Due to its high resin content, larch wood can last up to 10 years, even when untreated. A protective stain and bevelling of all the edges is also worthwhile here, however, so that water doesn’t collect. This is especially the case for the posts and upper ends of the slats on a wooden fence.

Larch wood is relatively cheap and available in most DIY stores.

What types of fences are there?

Wooden fencing is not only about functionality; how it looks also plays a role. Fencing is always a design element too – for the house, garden, patio, pool or even the balcony. 

Whether you’re using slats or natural wood for a low or high fence – it can really set off your home nicely. We have many more design ideas for your garden, balcony and patio just waiting to be discovered by you.

If you have some material left over, despite your careful planning, there are lots of options for using it in other projects. How about a colourful garden bench made from left-over fence slats? Or an attractive wooden garden lounger?

You can use different types of fencing for the right garden design. The most popular garden fences are outlined below.

Slat fence

A slat fence can be a simple wooden fence or also a fence made of metal or plastic elements. Its horizontally running slats provide excellent privacy and wind protection. This fence can also be easily extended using the corresponding wooden elements from your DIY store.

Panel fence

A panel fence can also provide privacy. The slats usually run vertically, but they can also be arranged horizontally. For a small paddock or, if you live in a rural area, to stop the surrounding nature from getting into your garden, a wooden panel fence is ideal.

Lattice-style or hunter’s fence

The hunter’s fence is without doubt one of the classics in Germany. Whether you make it yourself or use ready-made components, these low fences add a rustic look to your garden without obstructing the view. This type of fencing, with its half-rounded, cross-connected components, is mainly used in conjunction with hedges or other plants or as a border for flower beds.

A greened hunter’s fence
The hunter’s fence – a classic in Germany.

Natural fence

A natural fence provides almost endless design options. Branches, sticks, greenery and lots of other materials can be used in combination with plants to fence off flower beds or properties. You can find more ideas for flower bed edging here. If you opt for a hedge as your natural fence, this video shows you how to properly care for the hedge. Also check out the tutorial on hedge trimming.

An existing wall can also be transformed into a natural-looking privacy screen: Everything you need to know about living green walls can be found here.

Paling fence

A paling fence also embraces nature. Natural materials such as wood, branches or even plants are put up vertically using wire or a simple frame to create playful, natural-looking boundaries. A paling fence can also act as an inconspicuous privacy screen.

A simple wooden fence on a beach
A paling fence, as found on beaches.

Single-sided/double-sided picket fence

A picket fence is certainly versatile. You can have half-rounded or flat slats, large or small spacing between the slats, a natural colour or painted, single-sided or double-sided – you decide what suits your house and garden. You can also put up the individual slats of your fence so they run horizontally, vertically or at an angle.

With or without concrete?

If you want to build your own wooden fence or your own wooden screen in your garden, you can secure the individual posts with concrete or use drive-in spikes. When deciding for or against concrete, the type of fence as well as the height and soil conditions in your garden are important.

In principle, you can secure any fence with ground spikes only. But if you want to build a solid foundation, you can use ready-mixed concrete. You must always calculate the length of the fence posts exactly because they will be sunk down to 50 centimetres into the ground, depending on whichever method you choose.

What factors do I need to bear in mind when working with drive-in spikes?

When working with drive-in spikes, accuracy is of the utmost importance. As you place the spikes in the ground at regular intervals, keep checking the depth. Your fence will only be upright if you take accurate measurements and carry out checks using tools such as a spirit level and folding rule.

You also need to factor in some space between the ground and the wooden slats so that moisture from the plants and the soil does not cause them to rot. You have to take this into account when choosing the length of the posts and slats for your wooden garden fence.

How and where should I plan to put a door in the fence?

Of course, your fence should not be without a door or a garden gate. Where you put these depends on the given situation. In all cases, however, you need to fix the wooden posts to hold your garden gate securely. Depending on the size and weight of your door, a concrete foundation for the posts is recommended.

You should also think carefully about how wide your door is going to be. Do you just want to have a small gate or will you need to fit a wheelbarrow or a trailer for garden waste etc. through it? If you are using a prefabricated wooden fence, you are stuck with the fixed dimensions of the individual elements, whereas a wooden fence you build yourself gives you complete design freedom.

How do I make my wooden fence weatherproof?

The DIY wooden fence project does not end with the last strike of the hammer. Quite the opposite: Wooden fences need to be painted regularly to remain weatherproof. Regardless of the type of wood you use, the material will need a little help to withstand the sun, the cold and also moisture for as long as possible.

Protective wood stain is used if you want to keep the actual grain of the wood visible. The stain protects the wood and you can choose different natural wood tones according to your own personal preferences.

Protective wood paint, however, requires a little more effort. Here, you must first apply a primer. You can then use any colour you like for the top coat, which you don’t necessarily have to apply by hand – check out our paint spray guide.

Wood oil provides your fence with long-lasting protection, but needs to be reapplied regularly.

What do I need to bear in mind when it comes to maintaining my fence?

If you have weatherproofed your wooden fence using wood oil or wood stain, you must reach for your brush regularly so that the material is not adversely affected in the long term. Before re-applying, the fence must be thoroughly cleaned for this purpose.

As beautiful as wood paints are, they require more work in the long run. Sooner or later the paint will flake off. This not only looks unsightly, but also compromises the protection for the wood. This means that you must first sand and clean the entire fence and only then can you impregnate it again with paint, stain or oil.

Also see how to sand and oil garden furniture properly to learn more on the subject. Maybe our sanding guide will also help you.

Let’s get started – step-by-step instructions

After spending plenty of time on planning and preparation, you can now start building your wooden fence. To ensure success, we will guide you step by step in the following instructions so that your fence is upright and stable and the project runs smoothly.

Step19

Determining the course of the fence

You need:

First, you should determine where you want to place your fence. Using a folding rule, tape measure or laser measure with a tape adapter, you can measure out where the fence will go and make a first sketch. The sketch is also used to calculate and draw in the spacing between the future posts.

Step29

Calculating materials

You need:

You can now use your sketch to work out the materials you need for your wooden garden fence.

Step39

Preparing the ground

You need:

Before you start working on the wooden fence, it is advisable to prepare the ground. This means that you first remove roots, stones, bumps, etc. along the planned course of the fence.

Step49

Setting the guide line

You need:

Now mark out the course of the fence with a guide line. To do this, you can stick a small wooden post in the ground every 50 centimetres and stretch the line between each of these posts. Take plenty of time to do this. The line should not only mark the course of the fence, but also the lower edge of the fence slats. It is therefore important that the line runs horizontally. You can check this with a spirit level or a line laser.

Step59

Inserting the drive-in spikes

You need:

To make sure your fence is secure, you can use drive-in spikes or hold the individual posts in the ground with an appropriate foundation. If you opt for drive-in spikes, you can first insert them at the respective corner points of the fence. Then, depending on the fence and height you have chosen, you should plan for additional spikes to be driven in at regular intervals. Remember that these elements provide the base for the fence posts and will support the fence elements later on.

Place a drive-in spike at least every two metres. Prepare holes for these using a spade or a square piece of timber. Insert the spikes and make sure they are straight and stick out of the ground at exactly the same height.

Step69

Securing the wooden posts

You need:

You can now secure the posts for your wooden fence in the drive-in spikes using screws.

When planning, allow a few centimetres of space between the ground and the wood so that moisture from the soil cannot cause the wooden slats to rot.

Step79

Attaching the cross-braces of the fence

You need:

Now, you can connect the posts you have inserted with cross-braces. For a picket fence, for example, you can screw two cross-braces between each two adjacent posts. This ensures good stability.

Step89

Attaching the fence slats

You need:

The only thing left to do is to attach the slats to the cross-braces. With the help of a spacer (possibly another slat) you can easily measure the spacing between the individual wooden slats.

If you want to build your own wooden fence at a low cost, you can choose wider spacing between the wooden slats to keep the material costs down. The spaces can be covered with plants. Fewer slats may also mean less privacy, however.

Tip
Make sure the fence looks straight
Especially in front of the house, a fence affects the overall look. Carefully check the vertical and horizontal alignment of all fence components during each construction step with a spirit level or a line laser.
Step99

Painting the fence

You need:

As mentioned before, wood needs to be looked after. Sun, snow, rain and other weather conditions can also quickly damage a new privacy fence. To ensure that you can enjoy your wooden garden fence for a long time, it is worthwhile painting it carefully with protective wood stain or wood paint as a last step.

Special cases and other info

Finally, a few words about some special cases and, last but not least, some legal information:

Building a wooden fence on a slope

Hardly any plot of land is dead level or has no bumps or slopes. But how can you build a wooden fence here? What seems difficult at first glance only requires a little extra planning.

For example, you can easily adapt a wooden fence to a terrain by using fence posts of different lengths. In addition, when building a fence from wood you can customise the elements, materials, height and other aspects. For a garden or property on a slope, you can put in wooden fence panels in a stepped configuration or attach them to the posts at an angle.

But the type of fence you choose can also help. On slopes, for example, a paling fence is particularly suitable for working playfully with the terrain.

Wooden fencing for horses

A horse paddock with a wooden fence already looks great. But aspects such as safety, visibility and durability must not be disregarded. Wooden fencing for paddocks needs to be particularly robust to prevent the horses from injuring themselves and from breaking free. Depending on the breed of horse, the construction height can vary between 1.20 and 1.60 metres. The height at the horse’s withers serves as a guide here.

Legal

There are also some legal aspects to consider when building a fence. Requirements for enclosing properties vary from country to country. Such requirements stipulate how high a fence may be and what type of fence may be permitted at all. In general, however, a fence must be at least 50 centimetres from the neighbouring property and, as a privacy screen, may reach an average height of 1.70 to 1.90 metres.

When you are building your own wooden fence, you will therefore need a permit if the fence exceeds a certain height or if fence construction is not provided for in the development plan. You can obtain detailed information on rules and regulations from your local building authority.