Without a doubt, wooden picket or palisade fencing is one of the most popular ways to fence your garden with its practical blend of natural aesthetic and simple rustic appeal. It’s also easy to paint or stain to any preference. We’ve assembled all you need to know about palisade fencing, here, in our easy to follow guide.
Timber palisade fencing is also known as picket fencing and is often used as an attractive, functional feature for adding boundaries to domestic gardens or childrens’ play areas, where practicality needs to be balanced with kerb appeal. Palisade fencing is also really versatile as it is available in a wide range of heights and shapes. Basically, it consists of equally spaced wooden stirps or ‘palisades’ attached vertically to horizontal wooden rails that in turn are supported on sturdily fixed wooden posts.
The tops of each palisade come in a variety of designs such as mitre, pointed or rounded and in terms of construction you can either purchase the individual pickets or palisades themselves and combine with struts and posts yourself or, alternatively, you can purchase ready made panels of picket fencing that simply need to be attached to supporting posts positioned at either end of each panel. There are even palisade fencing kits available for DIY’ers.
Check with a good fencing supplier exactly what distances you will need to allow for between the posts with the particular palisades, posts and fittings you plan on using.
The Advantages of Picket fencing
In addition to being aesthetically pleasing and natural looking, a picket fence is one of the sturdiest fences you can build. Unlike solid panel fencing, it is much more resistant to wind, because the gaps in between allow wind to pass through it, making it almost impossible for heavy storms to damage it. If you are building a new fence or replacing one which has been storm damaged, you should consider building an upright palisade.
It is a good style of fencing for demarcation, without being obtrusive in design, and spacing of the palisades allows air and light to pass through, unlike some of the alternative fence options.
Building a picket fence using posts and individual pickets
Using a string line as a guide, dig the fence post holes at the required distance – one that will give you some tolerance when you go to set in the posts. Make sure the depth of the holes you dig for the posts is consistent and allows for a reasonable length of post to be set into the ground to secure the post effectively. For example, for a 2.4m fence post, you would need around 60cm of the post into the ground. Don’t worry if you’re not too exact, as you will be cutting the tops of the fence posts when you finish the fence to create a uniform effect. Dig your holes wide enough so that each post will sit in it with space all around for the post mix. If the ground you are digging is very soft, you should at least try to dig down to solid ground and, if this makes the hole too deep, you can fill it up to the required height with post mix.
Setting the posts
Start with the posts at each end of the run of fencing. Ideally use ready mixed post mix as this is more convenient. Add a little of the post mix to the bottom of the hole before you place your post in it. Set each post into the ground, making sure the post is oriented to the fence line. You are going to need to ensure each post is level on both planes – on the front face of the post and on the side face.
Keep on checking the level of the posts while you get a helper to add the post mix to the hole. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully with regards to adding water to the mix. Finally, firmly tamp down the mix and re-level the posts.
Once you have your two end posts level and set, carefully tie your string line between them about halfway up the posts. Make sure your line is nice and taut since you will use it to keep the rest of your posts running in a straight line.
Set in the rest of your posts, and when you have finished, go back over each post and check the levels again before the leaving the post mix for one to two days (according to the instructions) to fully harden.
Adding horizontal rails
You might typically install two rails (one top and one bottom) to support the vertical wooden pickets and you will simply nail them onto the fence posts with even spaces between them. Start at the bottom and nail the first rail onto the posts at around 20 cm from the foot of where you want your fence to be. If you are working on level ground, you can use your level to level the rails but, if you are going to follow a slope with your fence, you should run your rails to match.
Put the top rail around 20cm from the top of your fence and continue in this way until you have railed up the full fence.
Nailing the vertical palisades
Start by nailing one picket on at each end of the fence. It is essential that you make sure your first palisade is plumb so that the fence will look nice and straight. Always use a level for this. The palisades should be double nailed at each rail. When you have done this, run a string line across the top of each strap and pull it taut as this string line will now help keep guide you.
Choose the size of gap you want between each palisade and find or create a spacer to match this. A typical small gap would be around 22mm. Using the string line as your guide, simply nail up all the palisades.
When you have finished you will most likely notice that not all the posts are level at the top so simply and neatly saw off the top of the posts using a slightly sloping cut so that any rain water will run off the top of the post, or add a ready-made post ‘topper’.
If you intend to stain your fence, you should do so as soon as possible while the wood is still clean and fresh.