Horizontal Wood Fence Building

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Forum topic by jlondon posted 03-14-2011 10:32 PM 48666 views 4 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 2629 days

03-14-2011 10:32 PM

Topic tags/keywords: fence pine

I want to get started on our new fence as soon as the ground dries up around here. I’ve figured everything out except for the post spacing and was wondering if I could get some opinions…

I plan to use 4×4” posts and 5/4” deck boards. While the standard is 8’ spacing between posts, the guy at the lumber yard recommended that I go with 6’ spacing to prevent the boards from warping. My 2 questions are:

1. Will the boards warp regardless of length without a stringer in the middle?

2. If I should use a stringer even with a 6’ span, I might as well go the full 8’ so I can save myself the digging of a couple extra holes. But will 4×4 posts be sufficient to hold the weight of the decking boards? Should I step up to 6×6 posts?

Some specifics:

- The posts will be set in concrete and 4’ 6” deep (4’ frost line here).
- Everything will be pressure treated pine.
- I’m in the city with a relatively small lot. Should I be concerned about wind?
- The boards will be fastened either with stringer or pocket hole (haven’t decided yet)

I’m attaching the model I’m working with for reference. This length of fence will run about 50’. Thanks in advance for any feedback!

11 replies so far

View superstretch's profile


1531 posts in 2687 days

#1 posted 03-14-2011 11:00 PM

Do you have any building codes where you live re: fencing? Also, why horizontal as opposed to vertical? Seems like you’d have less of an issue with warping and could scale back the amount of wood you use..

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

View jlondon's profile


6 posts in 2629 days

#2 posted 03-14-2011 11:20 PM

The building code only talks about height and material. 6’ high between yards and has to be wood or chain link. No mention of post spacing. There’s an approval process for the deck but just a quick permit for the fence.

Going horizontal is mostly for aesthetics. Spending an extra couple hundred dollars on a fence we love compared to one we’re just ok with is worth it to us.

View superstretch's profile


1531 posts in 2687 days

#3 posted 03-15-2011 04:29 AM

Gotcha. Just curious as to why. So I guess sheets of sealed plywood are out of the question then? ^_^

Maybe tacking some 1×2’s vertically on the back side will help with the sagging.. any thinner pieces will have the bigger ones to reinforce them. From what I’ve seen in similar applications, a 4×6 might be the way to go—more room to fasten, but not as much stock sticking out the back.

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2977 days

#4 posted 03-15-2011 04:03 PM

The 4×4 posts should be sufficient for carrying the load. Don’t set your post in concrete they will rot quicker. Set your post with pea gravel instead, this will allow for moisture to drain away from the post. The 5/4 pressure treated deck boards will warp and twist as they dry out with out solid support. My suggestion would be to use Cedar fence boards instead. 1. They are lighter. 2. They will warp and twist very little and last a long time with minimal care.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View jlondon's profile


6 posts in 2629 days

#5 posted 03-15-2011 04:30 PM

Haha, yeah, plywood is on the not acceptable list from the city. Otherwise I’d just have a sheets delivered, bolt them to the existing chain link and call it a day :).

The overall idea was to keep it as clean & modern. I wanted the horizontal slats to span as far as possible without being broken up with other supports. But now after some thought and more research, I think I’ve come up with a solution:

I’ll go 8’ between posts and use a square stringer in the middle of each panel. Since I’ll be attaching the slats to the center of the post, there’s no “ugly” side. And since those stringers down the middle will be flush with the frame & posts, I think it could be considered ornamental and maybe even put it on my neighbor’s side. If not, it’s wouldn’t be terrible on our side. I’m now also leaning toward stringers on the posts to attach the slats instead of pocket hole because it’ll be easier to remove/replace boards if needed.

I’ve read mixed reviews about setting the posts in concrete. I’ve talked to people that have had their fences up for years without problems and then others that had posts rot in a couple years. All of the neighbors I’ve asked have theirs set in concrete but it’s one of those, “just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t mean it’s right” kind of things. The method I was planning is 6” of gravel at the bottom for drainage and 4’ of concrete. Then slope the concrete at the top to promote runoff. I also plan to cover the post in an asphalt sealer or something (can’t remember the product). I’ve read just as many problems with just gravel and the fences skewing.

I’d love to go the cedar route but it’s just not in the budget. The entire back yard has to be tore up and re-graded and that’s eating a huge portion of our budget. We could wait until next year on the fence but it’s pretty high on our priority list for both security and to keep the dogs in our yard.

Thanks for the replies!

View drewnahant's profile


222 posts in 3083 days

#6 posted 03-15-2011 04:42 PM

IMO, concrete is just asking for trouble, especially if you are setting your posts over 4’ deep, where it is really not necessary for strength, and to dig that whole unk of concrete out and replace a post will be a nightmare. the problem with concrete is that water tends to pool, even underground, on the top of it and rot the 4×4 right across where they meet. I like using crushed stone, if you tamp it, and flow a little water through to help it settle, you will never have any strength issue, and it drains well. If you have truely horrible wind, and are concenrend about strength, I have seen one guy do something to get the best of both worlds, make a wooden pyramid with a cutout to fit around the post, this forms the top of your concrete footing into a slope away from the post, then you put about 6” of stone on top to improve drainage. Ive never done it myself, but when I saw it, I was impressed. hope this helps.

View jlondon's profile


6 posts in 2629 days

#7 posted 03-16-2011 06:40 PM

I agree that concrete doesn’t sound like the optimal route. Unless the posts are desert dry, they’re going to contract and leave a gap between the wood and concrete allowing water in. Using gravel at the bottom may help drain but it still sounds like a bad idea. Tamped gravel will allow more drainage and it’s cheaper. And if there’s ever a problem with stability, I can always dig out some of the gravel and pour some concrete. The permit office too said that as long as it’s the recommended 30” deep, there’s no problem using gravel.

I have about 14 metal (chain link) posts to pull up before I get started. Fortunately, they’re only 3’ deep but I’m sure once I’m done, I’ll never want to do it again. Digging up 4’ blocks of concrete in 15 years isn’t something I want in the back of my mind.

Now that I likely have the posts ironed out, I’m still going back & forth between what panel boards to use. I’m going between the mentioned 5/4” x 6” deck boards and plain PT 1×6”. Here’s my pro/con list:

Pro: Thicker & less likely to warp (I think)
Con: Heavy. Rounded edges.

Pro: 1/2” thinner & lighter. No rounded edges.
Con: Warping?

The reason I would rather not have the rounded edges is because I’ll be ripping some of the boards in half to create a sort of alternating pattern. While I could just butt the two flat sides together, I’d rather everything square. And my local lumber yard unfortunately doesn’t carry 5/4 PT pine boards with square edges.

Red: Posts
Blue: 2×4
Green: 5/4” or 1”
White: Stringers

It’s kind of hard to see in the diagram but the span between the posts is 86 1/2” and then 42 1/2” spans between the 2×4” middle. Panel boards will be 5 1/2” for the tall ones and 2 1/4” for the short with a 1/8” gap between. Anyone know if I could get away with using the 1×6” boards? Or am I just asking for warping?

View FenceWorkshop's profile


267 posts in 3118 days

#8 posted 01-16-2012 08:25 PM

Here are two horizontal board fences I built. There are multiple pictures but one was built from ironwood and one from cedar. Both of these lumbers hold their dimensions well.

-- Brent -

View dbellefleur's profile


2 posts in 755 days

#9 posted 04-26-2016 11:22 AM

Jlondon, how did your fence turnout??? I’m planning to build a fence like this for my neighbour and I in a month or so. I have similar plans but wasn’t planning on putting the 2×4 vertically in the middle.

View rwe2156's profile


2920 posts in 1475 days

#10 posted 04-26-2016 11:51 AM

1. Will the boards warp regardless of length without a stringer in the middle?

2. If I should use a stringer even with a 6 span, I might as well go the full 8 so I can save myself the digging of a couple extra holes. But will 4×4 posts be sufficient to hold the weight of the decking boards? Should I step up to 6×6 posts?

I’ve built my share of fence, so take this FWIW.

4×4 posts are adequate. I think 8’ is too far apart. I would put them no further than 6’ apart and definitely a stringer in between. The 2×4’ top and bottom will offer no support against sagging.

I’m not that familiar with frost lines, but concrete is not necessary for every post in this application. Gravel or simply repacking the dirt and tamping tightly will work, too. However, I would definitely use concrete for corner posts and posts on either side of a gate. I’ve put a lot of wood posts in concrete shrinking is not a concern.

Wood movement is going to be significant when the sun does its work. I STRONGLY recommend NOT using pocket screws. The best way to attach to avoid splitting is countersink and 2 1/2” screws. When installing fresh wood do not leave a gap the boards will shrink considerably.

The 2×4’s top and bottom will accumulate water best to angle faces similar to a handrail.

Every fence looks nice when its new, but 5 years down the road you will know a lot more ;-)

Hope this helps it will be a nice fence.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View dbellefleur's profile


2 posts in 755 days

#11 posted 04-26-2016 12:08 PM

Thanks for the advice RWE2156. I’ll definitely go with 4×4 6’ apart. As for the stringer in the middle, jlondon showed a picture above in green, red and blue with a 2×4 attached to two stringers. Is this overkill with boards 6’ in length. Would you just recommend a stringer on both side of the fence. I was going to space my boards 1/8” apart with something like paint stir sticks but I’ll take your advice and not leave a gap.

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