Natural Wood Privacy Fence Worksheet
Know Your Costs
Once you know your costs then you will be negotiating with suppliers from a position of strength. The basic components of every fence are the same: posts, rails, pickets and gates. Print out the FREE DOWNLOAD WORKSHEET and follow along with this tutorial to fill in your sheet.
Total footage divided by 8 will give you the total number of posts needed in an ideal world with full sections of 8′ lengths. Or, you can break down each leg of the fence and divide in multiples of 8, including one extra post to start with, but I always divided by 7 to get a better number of posts. Unless your fence line has short choppy sections use this method. If you do have short choppy sections you will need to break down each line for materials separately.
Using an average fence length of 300’ divide by 7 = 42.85 rounded to 43 posts. Add one to start with makes 44 posts. Then add 2 posts for each gate, 2 gates = 4 posts for a total of 48 posts. Then I always add about 4 more for good measure. Total posts is 52. Now scroll down to the example worksheet at the bottom of the page and see where I added 52 to the post quantity or click here to jump to the sample worksheet.
Figure to get about 2 posts per 80 lb bag of concrete, or 26 bags of concrete. Note that we are not rounding up because we are working off of the posts which we have already rounded up. See where I added 26 to the concrete quantity sample worksheet.
INSTALLATION TIP: Dig your post holes tighter vs real wide. The reason… the earth holds the concrete, the concrete holds the post, the post holds the rails, the rails hold the pickets. So with undisturbed earth a tighter hole is better and will use less concrete. For gates, hinge side posts, use a double post (2 posts bolted together) and a full 80 lbs or more concrete.
Backing Rails Costs
Multiply the number of posts by 3 for the backing rails (2”x4”x8’). In this case 52 x 3 = 156 backing rails, see sample worksheet.
If 2″ x 4″ x 8′ come in bundles of 132 (12 x 11) then you need 1 bundle and 24 more. Remember pack out may change with different vendors. This should give you plenty to work with with some extra to cull out and return when you finish your fence.
Each backing rail will need 4 fasteners 3-1/2” (attach each side to post with 2 fasteners per post). Galvanized Ring shank nails are good, but the newer outside use T-25 head screws are best. If you use these screws they go in quickly with cordless impact drill. You will need 156 x 4 = 624 fasteners. Divide this amount by the strip nail count or box screws count for total package of fasteners.
Picket boards need to be measured as they will be different widths.
The difference of 1/2″ over 600 boards is 25 FEET!
We used a full heavy 6” dog eared picket when I was fencing, but the box stores sell a thinner 5-1/2” wide picket. Thickness and width will vary since lumber is a natural product and will expand and contract with moisture.
The MINIMUM THICKNESS for your pickets is 1/2″ nominal thickness. That is the ACTUAL THICKNESS. A 5/8″ board is better, 3/4″ is a little overkill for residential use. I have seen fence contractors cutting corners using 3/8″ thick pickets that look like wafers and just will not hold up to the elements.
To calculate the correct nail length add the picket thickness and the backing rail thickness and then subtract 1/4″.
2″ x 4″ thickness is 1-1/2″
picket thickness 5/8″
nail length formula: 1.5″ + .625″ = 2.125 or 2-1/8″
2.125 – .25 = 1.875 or 1-7/8″
The correct nail length is 1-7/8″ leaving 1/4″ clearance
It will be imperative that the nails do not penetrate the other side of the backing rail. I have seen this when builders use nails to long and it leaves a razor sharp point that will rip a dog’s skin wide open (they do love to run the fence line). The simple fix for that is to rip boards and nail over top of the protruding sharp points.
Total footage times 12 inches divided by picket width equals total pickets needed. Then round up by adding 25 to 35 more pickets. Since you will buy these in large amounts you will have some lesser quality or damaged pickets. You can cull thru the boards and take back the worst ones. Even better, if you can buy markdown boards use those in the back and sides of the fencing.
see sample worksheet
Treated lumber went thru a chemical changeover in about 2004, and the newer chemical reacts harshly to the traditional old galvanized nails. Be sure to buy nails SPECIFICALLY MADE FOR TREATED LUMBER.
If you plan to use western red cedar for your pickets of choice use stainless steel nails (about 3 times the cost) to prevent crying (rusty drip lines). The cedar contains tanin (a natural chemical that aggressively reacts to normal fence nails), so a stainless steel nail is your best choice. Worst case scenario, use them close to the house where you will see the fence.
The 1”x6”x6’ dog ear picket board will need 2 fasteners at each backing rail (top, middle, bottom) or 6 fasteners.
690 pickets x 6 = 4140 fasteners
Assuming you buy coils of nails to use in nail gun and the coils have 300 fasteners you will need:
4140 / 300 = 13.8 or rounded up 14 coils of fasteners
Now that you have your main material list let’s address the gates. We have a separate gates article discussing how to build gates correctly, locations, sizes and double gates versus large bolted access panels. In our example below we use a standard set up of a pedestrian walk gate (smaller gate, easier access), a landscape gate (oversize 5′ wide) and an access panel (in case you need vehicle in back yard at a later date).
For gate hardware we figure the materials needed per leaf. So a single gate is one leaf whereas a drive thru gate is a 2 leaf. Posts need 3 hinges on a privacy fence to secure the gate to the hinge post (double the hinge side post for extra rigidity). Hinges come in packs of 2, so for 2 walk gates you need 6 hinges or 3 packs. See our article How the Pros Build Privacy Gates and You Can Too!
Gates need the primary latch that will be used for entry and exit of the gate. We use the heavy deluxe barrel latch which is simple and easy to install AND easy to adjust in the future.
Now the hinge side of the gate is pinned down top, middle and bottom with 8″ heavy black ornamental hinges. Since there is no way for the gate to warp on that side it will try to twist and warp on the latch side. So set the deluxe barrel latch about 4-1/2′ off the ground (primary latch) and set a secondary bottom latch (slide bolt) about 8″ off the ground. This serves several purposes. When latched the gate can only be opened from the inside (added security), pets (dogs) will not be able to push the gate at the bottom to get out. During extreme temperature changes the lower latch will control and minimize gate warping.
gate hinges 3 per leaf
gate barrel latch 1 per leaf
gate slide bolt latch 1 per leaf
Access Panel Costs
Access panels are removable sections (10′ wide) of fencing to allow large vehicles access on an infrequent basis. It is best to plan for future access when building and the only added materials are:
8 bolts (4 each side of posts attaching upright 2″ x 4″ x 8′)
2 each: 2″ x 4″ x 8′ for the uprights
3 each: 2″ x 4″ x 10′ (backing rails)
Total Fence Costs
Total up all these categories, posts, rails, pickets, gates to come up with your total cost of materials (use retail store costs for comparison). Using the privacy fence worksheet, fill in the quantities and SKU numbers for your materials quote. The SKU will make it easier for them to locate the specific materials to get you an accurate material quote. By giving them specific material quantities they know you understand the process and may give you an excellent job bid.
The knowledge of your actual costs for your backyard privacy wood fencing puts you in a position of power and authority when negotiating project costs with your 3 potential vendors. Realize that they have to make a profit to stay in business but they also have wiggle room to get you better pricing, especially when competing for your order.
Good luck on your backyard fence project and let me know in the comments if this helped you. You may even have some better ideas that we can include on an updated post.