How to Build a Picket Fence

There may come a time when you have to replace your fence- whether it be for more privacy, to keep the kids and pets in, or to add a nice feature to the front of your house. This how-to shows you how to build the classic picket fence.

Project checklist


  • Stakes
  • String
  • Shovel or post hole digger
  • Fence posts
  • Gravel
  • Spirit level and concrete
  • Timber
  • Pickets
  • Paint or stain
  • Galvanised nails
  • Pencil
  • Hammer and nails
  • Nail Gun

Step 1: Get the posts ready

First up- remember to check your boundaries, and check with the council about local regulations as you may require a permit.

Locate where the end, corner and line posts need to be and mark them with stakes. If you attach string from each post, you will get a good sense of the space and if you need to alter. Dig a hole half a metre deep where each post will go. Make the holes double the width of the posts to allow for adjustments.

To avoid the posts rotting, cut the top of the posts on a slight angle to allow water to flow off, or you can chose to cap the posts.

Step 2: Setting the posts

It’s easiest to install the end post first, followed by the line posts which should be spaced evenly at approximately 2 metre intervals. Before you concrete the posts into position, add 50ml of gravel to the bottom of each hole. Make sure each post is straight and then pour in the concrete. Next step is to measure and cut the rails to length between the posts. Handy tip- remember the tradie saying to measure twice and cut once.

Step 3: Fasten the rails

Paint and stain the posts, rails and pickets before you start assembling the fence, this will save you time.

Fasten the rails to the posts using galvanised nails. The bottom rail should be 150mm from the bottom and the top rail should be 50mm from the top of the post. For extra strength, you can check the rails into the posts by using a housing joint: Measure the height and width of the rails and using a hand saw, cut into the post and chisel out the middle section until it is completely clean. Insert the rail and hammer into the post.

To keep the bottom of the pickets off the ground, use a plinth (see video above for example).

Step 4: Nail the pickets to the rails

Measure where each of the pickets should go along the rails at even intervals and mark with a pencil. A good tip is to use a small block of wood as a spacer to ensure all your pickets are perfectly even. Nail each picket to the rails and your picket fence is done!