Many prefabricated fence slabs are sold in sections, like the ones on this cedar fence. (Photo by Tracey Robbins)
Here's a step-by-step guide to erecting a privacy fence:
Most privacy fences are built 6 feet tall. While slats can be purchased individually, it is more common to buy panels in prefabricated 8-foot sections. Individual slats are normally used for fence repair and installation adjustments.
Begin by laying out the corner and end posts locations. Mark these locations with a piece of rebar or some other type of flag to will allow you to adjust the locations as necessary. Fences are easiest to build on relatively level surfaces; however, adjustments can be easily made for slight grades. Set these corner and end posts carefully because their placement can affect the look of the fence. For a 6-foot fence, use a post that is between 8 and 10 feet tall. A square 4” x 4” post can be used; however, a 6” x 6” post is recommended for added strength.
Dig a hole at least 24 inches deep, with a diameter that is approximately three times larger than the post width. If your fence location is unprotected and subject to high wind shear and vibration, it might be necessary to dig the hole deeper than 24 inches. Tamp the bottom of the hole to increase its density. It might be necessary to pour a small concrete footer first and allow it to cure before going further in very soft soil. Add the depth of the footer to the depth of your hole.
Next, place to post and secure it. While fill dirt can be used, it is not very stable against wind shear. Two other methods used to secure the post are filling the hole with a concrete mix or packing it with gravel. Using gravel to fill the does not require any curing; furthermore, it is much easier to pull out the post should that become necessary. Gravel will allow water to drain, preventing wood rot and will also make the fence somewhat flexible, allowing it to give slightly in the wind.
String a line between the corner posts at approximately 12 inches from the top. Do the same at the bottom. These lines will be used to set your mid-posts. Dig your holes in the same manner as the corner posts, setting the first post 8 feet on center, measuring from the outer edge of the corner post. This will ensure that the 8-foot panel section will fit properly. Successive mid-posts will all be set on 8-foot centers. Posts on 4-foot centers add stability and strength.
Once all fence posts have been set and allowed to cure, it is time to install the panels. Starting at the corner post, begin installing the panels by either nailing or screwing them to the posts. Spacers can be placed under the panels to assist in holding them, keeping the proper distance from the ground.