How to Cut Down (Shorten) a Fence Panel?

If you’re building a fence in your yard with prefab wood fence panels, one of the most common issues you’re likely to run into is one or more panels that are too long. Standard wood fence panels typically come in 8-foot lengths, so if your desired fence length is 70 feet long, you’ll need to cut down a fence panel section to 3.33 feet long to complete the fence.

Luckily, cutting one of the fence panels down to your desired size is a fairly straightforward task. You’ll need a few basic tools and a little know-how, but you should be able to adjust the panel to your desired length in just a few minutes.

Let’s take a look at the process of shortening a fence panel in detail – so you’ll be able to complete your fence in no time.

Tools & Materials

  • Circular saw
  • Reciprocating saw or hand saw
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil or marker
  • Hammer
  • 2 ½” galvanized nails
  • Prybar
  • Needlenose pliers

How to Cut Down a Fence Panel – Guide

The exact procedure for how to cut down your fence panel will depend somewhat on the type of fencing your dealing with. In my case, I needed to cut a section of solid 8-foot vertical panel cedar fencing down to size. If you’re dealing with horizontal boards or picket fencing, then the process will be slightly different, but this should give you the basic idea.

Step 1: Calculate or Measure the Fence Panel Length

The first step is to measure or calculate the required fence panel length. If your fenceposts are already set in concrete, then simply measure the distance between the two posts to determine the length of fencing you need.

Measure the distance from both the top and bottom of the fence post to make sure the distances are the same. This will also ensure the posts are level and plumb.

If the two fence posts aren’t yet secured in concrete, then set them up in the desired location, use some scrap wood to secure them temporarily, and measure the distance with your tape measure.

Step 2: Mark Cutting Location on Frame

Once you have your total fence panel measurement, you’ll want to transfer the length to your existing fence panel. Use a tape measure and mark the upper and lower parts of the frame with the total length minus the width of the end section of the frame. In my case the frame is made out of 2 x 4’s so I subtracted 2 inches from the initial measurement before making the mark.

Step 3: Pry Frame Apart

Next, use a prybar to pry the end section of your fence panel from the upper and lower parts of the frame.

prying frame apart with prybar
A small prybar is the perfect tool for disassembling the fence panel.

This may require a little elbow grease as prefab fence panels can be pretty sturdy. You may find a few taps from the hammer are necessary to separate the two sections.

Step 4: Remove Excess Boards

Next, you’ll need to remove any excess boards from the fence panel to get it down to the right size. The boards may be attached to the frame with small nails or staples, which can be removed with a pair of needle-nose pliers or the claws of a hammer.

excess wood boards from fence
Excess wood boards from the fence panel.

If you’re lucky, the length of your fence will correspond to a whole number of boards/slats. If not, you may need to cut one of the boards vertically to get it to fit your desired fence length. In this case, set one board aside for cutting later on.

Step 4: Cut the Frame

Now it’s time to cut the upper and lower parts of the frame to the markings you made in step 1. I used a reciprocating saw for this, but you could also use a hand saw if you don’t have one.

cutting fence panel to size

Go slow and steady when cutting, as making precise cuts with a reciprocating saw can sometimes be tricky.

Step 5: Cut Custom Board (If Necessary)

If you need to cut down one of the boards to fit your custom length panel, then this step is for you. Measure and mark the cutting location with a marker and a scrap piece of wood.

Cutting the board can be done with a table saw, a hand saw, or a circular saw. In my case, I ripped it with a circular saw freehand, and was careful to follow the line when making the cut.

Step 6: Reassemble Fence Panel

Now it’s time to put the whole thing back together again.

First, slide any boards you removed earlier back in place. If you cut a custom board, place it at the end.

Next, reattach the end piece of the frame to the top and bottom of the fence frame. You can reuse the nails that you pried loose earlier to fasten the two sections. If any of the nails are bent or warped, replace them with a new nail or screw.


Now all that’s left to do is attach your custom fence panel to the posts. Also, don’t throw out any boards or sections of frame you removed earlier! You can use these to create another custom section or to repair damaged sections of the fence in years to come.

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