How to Build a DIY Garden Fence

Audrey Bruno
Written by Audrey Bruno
Updated June 21, 2021
DIY Garden Fence
Photo courtesy of Jamie Lott/Southern Revival

This low-cost project is simple enough for any homeowner to tackle

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Building a garden fence is one of the best ways to ensure your plants have all the room they need to flourish—without any interference from unwanted visitors like hungry bunnies or nosey cats. And building one is a relatively easy (and cost-effective!) project to DIY. 

Use this guide to figure out which type of fence is best for your garden, plus all the materials and tools you’ll need to get the job done. 

Cost Comparison: DIY vs. Hiring a Pro

The cost to install a garden fence will depend on both the size of the project and the materials you’re using. A wooden fence can cost as much as $7 to $15 per foot of material, whereas a chicken wire fence will be much less at $0.10 to $0.30 per foot of material

Hiring a professional contractor will speed up the process, but be a lot pricier. A pro can get the job done in a day or two, while the average DIYer will need double the time. You’ll pay anywhere between $17 and $45 per linear foot of fence for labor. 

And don’t forget about the tools. While you may already have a number of them in your shed—a heavy hammer, drill, and measuring tape—the cost for what you don’t have can really add up. In some cases, it will be less expensive to hire a local fence company than it will be to invest in all the extra equipment. 

If you decide to go the DIY route, here’s what you’ll need to do to build the most basic wood-and-chicken-wire fence:

1. Choose the Best Type of Fence for Your Garden

The type of fence you choose to build depends on what you’re trying to keep in—or out. While wooden fences are ideal for protecting your salad greens from hungry woodland creatures, they can be a lot easier for smaller critters to sneak through. 

Wood

Installing a wood fence around your garden is a great way to give your yard a classic look. These types of fences can last between 10 and 15 years with regular maintenance. But because they aren’t always sufficiently sealed off from the outside world, they can be prime targets for mice or rabbits. If your goal is to keep your plants as safe as possible, this might not be the best option for you.

Chicken Wire

Along with being inexpensive, this option is easy to care for and even easier to repair. Chicken wire is great at preventing both big and small invaders from entering, so it’s among the best options for keeping pests at bay. And because it also happens to be see-through, it won’t block your view of the garden.

Vinyl

While slightly more expensive than wood at $10 to $40 per linear foot of material, vinyl is easier to clean and maintain—and better at keeping pests out.

Metal

Aluminum, steel, and wrought iron fences are often stylistically intricate and a great way to amp up the decor of your yard. They’ll establish boundaries in your outdoor space without blocking out your view of the garden, but they also aren’t as great at keeping out small pests for this same reason.

2. Plan the Fence’s Layout

Figure out exactly where you want your fence to be before building anything. Use measuring tape, twine, and stakes to precisely map out the perimeter, and don’t forget to factor in a spot for a gate. That way, you know exactly how much material you need to complete the project—and won’t have to make any last-minute shopping runs after getting started.

3. Gather Your Materials and Tools

Building a garden fence is a project that requires a lot of tools. While you probably already have some, it might be necessary to rent others out for the weekend of work ahead. Here’s most of what you’ll need to get started. (Keep in mind, the types of materials may vary depending on the fence style you’ve chosen.)

Tools You’ll Need

  • String

  • Tamping bar

  • Heavy hammer

  • 4x4x6 (treated) posts (amount will depend upon fence length)

  • 80-pound bags of concrete (one for each post)

  • 1x4x8 (treated) planks

  • 2-inch exterior wood screws

  • Exterior paint or stain

  • Brush, roller or sprayer

  • Fencing roll

  • Measuring tape

  • Staple gun or crown stapler

  • Drill

  • Level

  • Miter saw

  • Brad nailer

  • 2-inch finishing (brad) nails

  • Bucket or container for mixing concrete

  • 2x4s (treated) planks

  • Gate hardware, hinges, and latch

  • Kreg jig

  • 2.5-inch pocket hole screws

Roses in a DYI garden
monika - stock.adobe.com

4. Stake Out and Dig Post Holes

Establish the ends and corner points of your fence and mark them with stakes. With a shovel or a post-hole digger, dig a 2-foot deep hole in each marked spot. When in doubt, digging a hole that’s two to three times larger than the post’s diameter will guarantee you have enough room to lay down cement. 

Use a level and measuring tape to ensure each hole is the same size so the posts will be evenly lined up. Be sure to dig holes for additional posts where the gate will be placed. 

5. Set Your Posts in Concrete

Mix an 80-pound bag of concrete for each post in an old bucket. Working one at a time, place a post into a hole and use a hammer or tamping bar to secure it into the ground. 

From there, fill the hole with concrete, using a level to ensure the post stays straight as you pour. Repeat until all posts are planted, then wait until the cement has fully dried to continue building.

6. Paint Fence Panels and Rails

While you’re waiting for the cement to dry, use a brush, roller, or sprayer to paint your fence panels and rails. It’s easier to do this step before the fence is built when all the elements are still separate. Even if you love the look of raw wood and would rather not paint it, finishing it with a protective spray will keep it in good shape longer. 

7. Dig a Trench Around the Perimeter of Your Garden

If you’d rather have a gap between the ground and the bottom of your fence, you can skip this step. But remember: building a fence directly into the ground is a great way to keep pests from burrowing through. When you’re ready to start, dig a one-half-foot-deep and 2-foot-wide trench all along the border.

8. Line the Tops and Bottoms of Your Posts with Rails

When your trench is good to go, measure the distance from one post to the next and use a miter saw to cut one-by-four-foot-wooden planks that will fit between that space. 

Place a rail into the trench and use a drill and 2-inch exterior screws to attach it to the posts. Repeat until the bottom is completely covered. Then, follow the same process, working up and taking extra care to ensure everything is perfectly straight. 

9. Attach Fencing

Using chicken wire or a fencing roll makes this step easy. Measure out exactly how much you’ll need to cover any empty space between the posts and the railing. Then, use a brad nailer and 2-inch brad nails or a staple gun to fix the fencing roll to the wood. Repeat this until the whole fence is reinforced.

10. Build a Gate

Before installing a gate, be sure to leave a three-quarter-inch gap between each post so it has enough room to open and close. Use a miter saw to cut the wood railing to fit within this space, then assemble the pieces into a rectangle using 2.5-inch pocket hole screws. Use a Kreg jig to drill two holes into the top and bottoms of each side piece. Use a brad nailer and 2-inch brad nails or a staple gun to attach chicken wire to the gate. Then, attach hinges and latch to the gate and hang it from the posts. Your new garden fence is now ready to enjoy!

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