A Modern, Uniform Good Neighbor Fence (tutorial)

It was finally time to build new good neighbor fences. And oh boy was it hard to find a design that was truly uniform on both sides! With the rains and storms with heavy winds this year, our old fence finally fell over--literally--in a single 50ft section. We replaced both the side and the back fence, each about 50ft long (Northern California suburbia lot sizes).

falling down fence falling down fence

We put a bit of time into design of the fence, knowing we'd build a bomb-proof fence to last 30+ years. We also wanted a truly equal good-neighbor fence, since deep down, we love the grumpy old man next door!
diy, uniform good neighbor fence diy, uniform good neighbor fence

Requirements

  1. Cost effective since we were splitting with neighbors (it came out to $1600 for ~100ft for parts only)
  2. Metal fence posts
  3. No gaps through the wood after it shrinks (at neighbor's request)
  4. Bottom raised off the ground by a couple inches
  5. "Pretty" on both sides
  6. Uniform design through the length

As compared to our final design above, the typical "good neighbor" fences violated at least one of the requirements above.

example fence Above: Probably the most common good neighbor fences alternate the side that has the horizontal 2x4's (violates #6). The other variation of this one is to put the horizontal 2x4's all on one neighbor side and the "clean" side toward the other neighbor (violates #5).

example fence Above: The other common design alternates the vertical planks to give a look like woven baskets (violates #3).

You can buy pre-made redwood or cedar fence panels at Home Depot, the ones with the lattice on top, but they'd also violate #3, and since our property's slightly sloped, you'd have to mount them staggered instead of having a continuous, gradually sloped top line.

Materials

For a single length (typically 8ft):

  • [2x] Postmaster fence posts
  • [2xlength] 2x4's (top and bottom; you can get pressure-treated for the bottom)
  • [4xlength] 1x6 fencing boards (top and bottom, on both sides)
  • [(length in inches / 6.5")] 1x8 fencing boards
  • screws, drills, chop saw, etc.

The star of the show was the Postmaster metal fence posts. No more awkward round fence posts that have brackets to mount to the wood! The Postmasters let you mount your fence up flush against the post and look great on both sides.
Postmaster fence posts for good neighbor fence tutorial guide

Design

This is what we're building:
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

There's a 2x4 on the top and bottom onto which everything's mounted. The 1x6's are mounted on either side like a container, holding in the 1x8's, which are positioned at an angle and overlapping each other (to avoid violating #3). The width of the 2x4's is just enough to allow this diagonal overlapping while keeping the 1x6's flush to the 2x4. The vertical 1x8 boards show 6.5", in other words, roughly a 1.5" overlap (though since they vary in width a bit, measure the 6.5").

Process

Prep

Crucial timing with a free dump weekend at the city dump:
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

Loading up, ~500 boards, at ~10lb each:
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

Brave soul to drive the trailer:
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

Between loading the trailer with the old fence, dumping it at the dump, loading the carts with wood at Home Depot, loading those into the trailer, and unloading the trailer back at the house, we lifted a lot. Assuming 3,000lb a load, it was about 15,000lb moved in a weekend between 4 people. Squats, squats, squats!

Sinking New Fence Posts

To make a straight line, tie string around the end posts, assuming they're already placed--or place those first. Measure off the length of each section, which is typically 8ft, and mark those, as you can see below with bows knotted on the string:
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

Next, drill holes minimum 18" deep, up to 24". We were lucky enough to borrow an auger.
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

Mix concrete per directions, place fence post in hole, pour concrete around it, and use a level to make sure it's vertical. Let sit for a day.

Construct the Framework

First mount the 2x4's to the Postmaster. Choose any of the many holes! Don't worry about getting a perfectly straight line yet, since it'll be covered by the 1x6's in the next step.
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

The 1x6's will be used as facing plates on the top and bottom, on both sides. The 1x6's usually come in redwood or cedar with dog ears on one side. Chop saw the ears off.
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

Next, mount the 1x6's to the 2x4's. We did multiple lengths at once so we could make sure they gently sloped. Screw in place.
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

Oppsite side view of the above picture:
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

Mount the Vertical Boards

You're going to mount the 1x8's between the 2x4's, so that they're resting on top of the bottom 2x4. Mount the first straight, then begin angling the boards. We made a guide from an old piece of plywood that was 6.5" wide so we could quickly get the boards straight and uniform. The overlap was roughly 1.5".
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

This is what it looks like after you've got a few mounted. Screw each board in closer to the side that's touching the 1x6 on the back. 1 5/8" screws were just right to catch the 1x6 without poking through.
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

Since the height of the fence varied a couple inches throughout the length, we had to measure every few feet and cut boards to length. We had one person cutting and one person screwing in the boards.
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

Note that when you get close to the end of a section at the next fence post, you're not going to have a perfect board width. But, if you've made 8ft sections, it's close enough to a multiple of 6.5" that you can jigger with the last few boards to even it out and no one will know.

Put Finishing Pieces On

At the end of a section, mount 1x6's on the other side.
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide

Finish

You can keep the metal bare or cover it with a thin board!
diy, uniform good neighbor fence tutorial guide