American Four Square, DIY

DIY Custom Fence

When we purchased our American Foursquare there were a million things to get done. High on that list was to install our very own fence. After all, who wants to walk dogs three times a day when you own a yard?

We already had an idea of what we wanted: privacy in the back, a nice picket along the front, and two gates (one on either side of the house).  We also knew that we didn’t have enough money for the super expensive look that we wanted.


We started out by drawing a quick sketch of the back yard (on a piece of cardboard while eating dinner.) The drawing outlined the areas we wanted a stockade vs a picket. We then measured to help determine how many sections of fence we needed as virtually all fences come in 8′ lengths.

Whenever we start any project we always take a look at what we would buy if we had an unlimited budget. In this case we went to visit a couple of high-end fence companies that were in our neighborhood. We then took photos and made mental notes about design and construction. The goal is to translate what we observed into something we could do ourselves (and afford.)

Preparing the Yard

The yard is not huge, but it was neglected. We removed old wire and orange mesh fencing, yard waste, and trash. There were also a few fence posts from an old fence that needed removing.

Stephen digging up an old wire fence.

We found that the most basic Home Depot stockade was our best option.
1. Untreated Pine Stockade: $30/section (pressure treated is $45/section and cedar is $60/section)
2. Pressure treated picket:  $27/section (picket does not come in untreated pine)
3. Pressure treated 8′ 4×4’s: $10/piece
4. Mounting brackets (Simpson Strong-Tie) and exterior wood screws (Grip-Rite Polymer coated) for assembly… Polymer coated screws are a dream.
5. Bag of concrete for each post (this is very controversial as it causes the post to rot) because we didn’t want them to move.
6. Rail Caps: pressure treated 8′ 2×4’s
7. Post caps: plain and lighted

Total cost: somewhere between $1300-1500.

Oh… we don’t own a truck so made some good use out of a U-Haul.



Stockade Modification and Install

This is where things get fun. The gothic features of the fence were a clear sign that we bought the cheap stuff. We took a circular saw and took them right off (both the stockade and the picket). It was surprisingly easy and the cut offs made great firewood.

Removal of the gothic feature using a circular saw.

We then got to work and installed a few of the sections along the back of the yard from right to left. As we moved left the yard sloped down. Instead of wracking the sections to be diagonal or letting the gap become larger we simply staggered the sections in an uniformed way.

To attach a fence section to the posts we used 90 degree Simpson Strong-Ties at each junction. This is a total of 6 brackets per fence section. We used 4″ Grip Rite Polymer coated screws to attach to the post and 1 1/2″ screws to attach to the fence section. We figured if we needed to remove or replace a section later this would make it super easy.

Panel 1 and 2. So proud.
Start of Day 2. You can see the staggering of the panels as the ground sloped left.

We then continued along the left side of the yard. I was tasked on creating the last piece of stockade that would taper from full hight to that of the picket fence. I found my finish height and marked it on the correct side of the stockade. We took a 2×4 and cut it to fit diagonally between the upper and lower horizontal boards.  We attached it with a couple of screws.

I flipped the stockade over so that I was looking at the finished side. Snapped a blue chalk line to indicate where my nails would go (and for a straight line) and began to secure each picket.



Stephen (who is much better with every type of saw) made the final cut!


End of Day 2 and we finished all of the stockade sections. We were delirious, starving, and could barely talk after like 15 hours of working on a fence.

Day 3: Woke up and ran to the window to make sure the fence didn’t fall down during the night.
Picket Fence Modification and Install

We followed a pretty similar process with the picket fence.

One challenge is that the picket fence crossed a driveway that we didn’t really want to dig up. Instead we cut a post to the correct height and decided to let it just sit there. Then we crossed our fingers. We also created our own gate using a section of picket fencing and a gate kit (latches and diagonal wire to prevent sagging.)

Tip: Use wood for diagonal supports. Even the wire sagged slightly over the next couple of months and needed to be fixed.

Stephen showing off his new gate.
Rail Topper and Post Caps

The final modification was the addition of pressure treated 2×4’s as a rail topper. It’s great that they are 8′ and fit the sections perfectly. We then used the same coated screws from the top to secure them. Lastly, I covered the screw heads with wood glue to prevent water damage.

Post caps with the light feature are pretty cool. We first bough black plastic but then we felt that they were too tall and looked cheap. For a few dollars more we replaced them with lower profile copper. The stockade portion were capped with black plastic tops that were dirt cheap on amazon.

The rail topper with black plastic lights (later replaced with copper).
Side yard gate with rail topper and black plastic post caps.
Added the topper for the diagonal portion of the fence.
Stain, Stain, Stain

We were well aware that untreated pine has a short shelf life. The best thing we could do was stain it to protect from the sun. We purchased a 5 gallon bucket of transparent stain tinted cedar. We allowed the fence to dry for few weeks (new fencing is still wet and will not absorb the stain well). We stained the entire fence in the spring, again in the fall, and a third time the following spring.

The left panel has been stained using cedar transparent stain.
The completed back.

The next summer we had a family cookout and the fence still looked awesome.


Project Recap: Cost: ~$1300, Time: 4 very long days

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