After a late afternoon shower, every blade of grass in your backyard glistens and the garden shrubs have never looked more refreshed.
But as you look around, your smile turns into a frown as your eyes meet the rickety, old wooden fence.
If you can even still call it a fence.
There are wide gaps between the loose boards and parts of the fence could topple over with a strong wind…or a determined stray cat.
This is one of those projects that we were not planning on this year…again. Seems to be a trend around here! But our backyard fence had seen better days. It was breaking/cracking everywhere you looked and the paint was peeling badly.
We knew it was time to rebuild the fence. Here is what our fence looked like:
Does anyone else have this problem?
We tossed around the idea of filling in the gaps on our side of the fence rather than paint everything. But we were still worried about the old boards cracking over time and the actual structure of the fence; it was a little wobbly.
In the end, we decided to replace ALL the boards and re-secure the structure of the fence through a process called ‘rebracing’. Have a look at our new fence:
What do you think? We love the updated look; it brings a whole new feeling to the backyard. It finally feels like home.
But this adventure took a lot of time – many months from start to finish. The biggest reason it took so long was the spring rain. It’s hard to work on a fence in a downpour!
But I wanted to share the process we used to redo our wooden fence. This is only PART 1 of this tutorial. I will also share tutorials on the gate and pergola in another post.
To start, here is a list of the supplies and tools we used.
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Rebuild a Fence
(supplies are for part 1 & 2 of this rebuild)
- cedar pickets (we used about #320)
- 2″x4″ cedar boards
- 3.5″ deck screws (we purchased 2 of these big boxes)
- 2″ deck screws (we purchased 3 of these big boxes)
- scrap 1/4″ board
- miter saw
- circular saw
- pencil or pen
- safety glasses
- face mask (for dust)
- ear protection
You can print the material list and instructions below.
SIDE NOTE: Maybe you have a local lumber store that has different sizes of cedar planks. We found this out towards the end of our project when we needed some 10 ft boards.
Let’s explain the structure of our fence (most fences have the same structure). The beginning of every fence has a post (about 4″x4″ in size) and it can be attached to a building or secured in the ground. The posts are normally about 8 ft apart but our fence posts are 10 ft apart (probably a good reason for the sagging).
The fence also has horizontal rails (about 2″x4″ in size). Normally, between each post, there is a top and bottom rail to secure the pickets. Sometimes, there is a third rail right in the middle of the two other rails. Our fence only had a top and bottom rail so initially, we kept the same structure (we ended up adding the third rail but we will talk about that later).
We had to do our fence in sections because our neighbors have dogs. To start, we removed all the old wood pickets from both sides of the fence sections. We had to take down both sides because our old wood rails were sagging and needed to be re-braced to make them level again.
TIP: Whenever you are attaching a screw, pre-drill a hole first with a bit that is just smaller than your screw (we used 1/8″). This will help to prevent the boards from splitting. So, whenever I say attach a screw, always pre-drill the board first.
After removing all the pickets, we could now re-brace the two rails.
Our rails were being held up or braced by some 2×4 pieces about 5″ long. But most of these were breaking and needed to be replaced or the rail needed to be re-screwed into place.
To do this, we removed the old braces and rail. Then, we attached a new 2×4 piece to the posts in the same place, using two or three 3.5″ deck screws.
After replacing the braces, we reattached the rails, again using two 3.5″ deck screws. We did this for both rails.
SIDE NOTE: Some of our posts needed bracing because they were splitting. To do this, we placed a 2″x4″ board (the same size as the post) on both sides of the post; then, attached the 2×4 board (the same size as the post) on both sides of the post and attached the 2×4 board to the post using 3.5″ deck screws.
After bracing the sides of the rails, we now needed to brace the middle. This is to stop them from bowing because we have a 10-foot span between the posts (there is a picture below to show what I am talking about).
To do this, we found the middle of the rail (between the two posts). We needed to brace the bottom and top rail, so below the middle of the bottom rail, we placed a 2×4 board. We first placed an old brick because we did not want to dig to place the 2×4 board.
Then, we took our level and placed it onto the bottom rail. One of us would move the rail until the board was level, while the other person measured the distance from the brick to the bottom of the bottom rail. This is the size of 2×4 we needed to brace the bottom rail. (You can see this step in the photo above)
We then set the 2×4 board into place, checking to make sure it was still level, adjusting if needed. Once it was level, we secured the 2×4 to the bottom rail, drilling through the rail to the 2×4 and attaching with two 3.5″ screws.
After bracing the bottom, we moved to the top rail. Again, we placed the level onto the rail, one of us moving the rail until it was level, while the other measured the distance from the bottom of the top rail to the bottom rail. This is the size of 2×4 we needed to brace the top rail.
We then cut a 2×4 to that measurement and set it into place (making sure it was centered above the bottom rails brace). We checked the top rail again to make sure it was still level, if not, we adjusted the 2×4 as needed.
We also made sure it was level vertically.
Once it was level, we secured the board to the top rail the same way as we did the bottom. But then, to attach it to the bottom rail, we drilled a hole at an angle from the brace to the bottom rail and used 3.5″ screws to attach them together (we did one on each side of the brace).
Another thing we did was put new 2×4’s on top of all the old top rails. We did this because the old top rails were painted and weathered/worn.
Some of the old top rails were so bad that we did not reuse them; we just replaced them with new 2×4’s.
And that is how we re-braced all the rails on our fence.
In PART 2, we explain how to add the wood pickets and we are sharing something we added afterwards (the middle rail) to help the pickets.