How To Timber - Picket Fence

  1. Prepare your site (see SITE PREP guide).
  2. If it's possible erect a string line to mark the final height of the fence and the position of the face side of the fence, If this is not possible, move on to the next step, then complete this step using the posts erected in step 3 before moving onto step 4.
  3. Dig your first and last hole and erect the posts.
  4. Layout the arris rails on the ground (1 per gap) from the first post (Overlap the first rail with the first post), butt the rails up against each other, the location of each post is where the rails butt up against each other.
  5. Dig a hole for each post.
  6. Erect the next post and attach a rail to the front face of the posts. The gaps between the rails will depend on your fence height.
    The top rail will run around 7.5cm (3") below the top of the fence.
    A middle rail won't be necessary on shorter fences and so probably won't be required, but should be located half way between the top and bottom rails.
    The bottom rail will run around 7.5cm (3") up from the ground.
  7. Repeat the above step along the whole fence line.
  8. Nail a pailing to each end of the fence line ensuring that they are both the same height above the top arris rail as each other.
  9. Stretch a new string line between the pailings as a guide for all subsequent painlings.
  10. Nail the next pailing to the arris rail leaving a gap between it and the first pailing (the thin edge of a spirit level usually makes a good sized gap). Repeat this process leaving a gap between each pailing until you have around 10 left to attach, now equally adjsut the gaps between the pailings to fit the space left you may need to add or remove a pailing to ensure the gap is as close to the others as possible, you shouldn't be able to see the difference in gap sizes.


If you want your pailings to fit the gap exactly, work out the width of the pailing + the gap required multiply this by the number of pailings you expect to use per gap and add one more gap, cut the arris rail to this length and set the post to match.

Alternatively if your fence length cannot be adjusted, multiply the number of pailings you plan to use by their thickness. Deduct this figure from the total fence length and divide this new figure by the number of pailings (minus 1) that you intend to use. This final figure is the gap you should allow between each pailing.

If you are erecting a fence over the line of an old fence, you may want to stagger the post positions to avoid any old concrete remaining in the ground, you may need an additional post to achieve this.

Fence posts should be 1/3rd under ground and 2/3rds above ground, however it is generally acceptable to use 2.4m (8') posts for a 1.8m (6') fence

As pailing fences tend to be short and they have less stress applied to them from wind due to the gaps between the pailings 7.5cm (3")posts are generally adequate.

Remember the post is being held in place by the ground, not the post mix, In problem soils you need to go deeper not wider to make the post firmer.

Most of the rot of a post occurs at its base where it meets the soil and is continually being made wet / dry. This is the layer in which micro organisms are most abundant and speed up the rotting process, to reduce this add post fixing material all the way to just above ground level and slope it away from the post. Unfortunately this is not a very aesthetically appealing finish, so it is common to pour the mix to approx 1cm below ground then cover with a thin layer of soil, grass should be able to grow (providing you have kept your base narrow) while the water holding capacity of the soil is reduced to a minimum and so reducing the rotting process.



  • Spades - A narrow long handled digging spade and long handled post hole clearing spade are a good combination, the clearing spade has two handles which work to open and close two scopes (similar to giant salad tongs) once the soil has been loosened with the digging spade you can lift it out with the clearing spade. You can hire a petrol post hole borer to make light work of the job, however unless you have an easy sandy soil avoid low powered one man borers
  • Spirit level
  • Drill / Screw driver
  • Hammer
  • String lines



  • Screws
  • Nails
  • Arris rails
  • Pailings
  • Posts
  • Post fix material - Specialist pre mixed post fix materials are available, these products set in around 10 minutes and avoid the need to prop up posts while drying providing great time & stress savings.