Cedar fence design advice

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Forum topic by GregD posted 01-13-2012 06:49 PM 9004 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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788 posts in 3160 days

01-13-2012 06:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cedar question fence

I have resisted for 20 years, but now I need to fence in my back yard. Homeowner association rules pretty much dictate that , for my situation, I need a 6’ (nominal) cedar fence.

Fence height:: I can go with 6’ pickets. I can also run a 6” rot board at the bottom and put 6’ pickets above that for a total height of 6’ 6”. However, it will meet up with my neighbor’s fence which is 7’ 4”, so it might be as tall as that.

The critical section of fence is 69’ along a sidewalk. I’ve got a corner lot and this sidewalk is the edge of my back yard. I do hate edging, so I was thinking of installing the fence so that the a rot board butted up to the side of the sidewalk. That would put dirt up against the bottom inch or two of the rot board. Any problems with that?

Rot board: Good idea? I suppose that should be installed so that it can be replaced easily. I’m pretty sure that can be pressure treated pine. Would you suggest a 1×6 or a 2×6? I’m thinking 2×6 with the bottom of the pickets resting (nail’s width gap) on the top edge.

Rails: I”m thinking 3 2×4 rails. Is it best to have the wide side vertical or horizontal? For attaching the rails to the posts do butt-joints last? I suppose I would use 3” deck screws. If the wide side of the rail is vertical I could cut dados to trap the ends of the rails, but if I do that would 1-1/2” deep dados weaken the post significantly, especially at the bottom rail?

Setting the posts: The standard seems to be to set 8’ posts into a 2’ deep hole with cement. An alternative are metal post anchors. Does anyone have experience with these – installation and performance?

Thanks for your help.

-- Greg D.

4 replies so far

View Manitario's profile


2630 posts in 2907 days

#1 posted 01-13-2012 07:07 PM

I don’t have any experience with a rot board, so I’ll not comment on that; but I’d keep the rest simple; two rails rather than 3 and I’d just use metal brackets to attach them to the posts, which will be plenty strong, resist the urge to dado! Posts in 2 ft holes with cement will work well, or 3 ft with packed gravel. I’ve never used the metal post anchors, I think that I’d be sceptical of their durability.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View FenceWorkshop's profile


267 posts in 3148 days

#2 posted 01-16-2012 08:14 PM


I hope this is helpful, but here are all my wood privacy fences. You can click on each style and then see all the upgrades on the fence. For rot boards or bottom fascia boards as I call them, we typically will use 1×4 pt pine. For esthetics, we typically do not use metal posts on wood fences. By the time you add up the hardware required, it will have just been better to buy an 8’ 4×4 pt pine post. It’s important to keep in mind, there is a lot of different designs you can do using the same 4×4’s, 2×4’s, 1×4’s and dogeared pickets. I hope the site and the way I have laid out all of the fence style features is helpful in choosing a style. Good luck and have fun!

-- Brent -

View LesB's profile


1748 posts in 3467 days

#3 posted 01-16-2012 10:54 PM

I’m not a fence builder but I have put up a few fences.
I like the idea of the metal anchors but I would put them in concrete. The reason the metal will keep the wood out of the soil and pretty much prevent the wood rotting off as it does with dirt or cement alone.
You could even use a couple of pieces of angle iron (galvanized) or aluminum set in concrete at opposite corners of the post. Then bolt or screw the posts to them. Make sure the wood does not contact the concrete or it will still wick up moisture and rot…...a piece of asphalt roofing between the wood and concrete will work. One time I had a bunch of 1 1/2” pipes that I cut into 3 1/2 foot lengths. I cemented them in and bolted the posts to them. That was almost 30 years ago and the fence is still standing.
If the fence boards you get are wet be sure to let them dry before using because they will shrink and leave gaps if you don’t. Here on the West Coast cedar and redwood are cut at the mill and shipped directly to the lumber supply stores wet.
he boards

-- Les B, Oregon

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3160 days

#4 posted 01-16-2012 10:57 PM

Thanks Rob – You have me leaning toward the metal brackets (rail hangers) but I might stick with 3 rails. The finished height will be 7 ft, and the purpose of the fence is to confine big dogs.

Thanks also, Brent. You have a lot of great fence designs. Unfortunately, my home owner’s association wants everything bland and boring, so what I am going for is something like your Baxter design because that is all they will approve. I’m probably going to go with rail hangers which will add about $0.75/ft because I’m thinking they would allow me to remove the panels from the post. I probably won’t ever do that, but I might get the urge when there is a hurricane headed my way. Lots of fences get replaced after a hurricane…

It turns out the fence height will be 7 ft. The least expensive way to do that given my HOA constraints is to use a 2×12 rot board below 6 ft pickets. This will be 3/4” shy of 7 ft, but I think that will be close enough. Otherwise I’d have to cut down 8 ft pickets and the 6 ft pickets are relatively cheap because they are so commonly used around here. Again, the purpose is to confine big dogs and such a hefty rot board will give me a lot of strength where the dogs are likely to dig at the fence. And this would let me build up the mulch more if I put in a planting bed along the outside of the fence.

With a 7 ft finished height, how deep should I put the 4×4 posts? I expect to be using 10 ft posts and can bury them as deep as 3 ft for only the cost of additional cement. If I did that I certainly wouldn’t like to have to pull them out when the post rots.

Les B – I was giving up on the metal post anchor, but your idea of cementing in a metal support to keep the wood posts off the ground sounds appealing. I’ll have to think on that. 30 years from now I won’t much care about the fence, but before then I might.

-- Greg D.

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