How to Install a Fence Panel?

Installing a prefab panel fence is one of the best options when it comes to DIY fencing. Instead of putting together the entire thing on your own, you’ll be able to choose from several different styles of premade fence panels. These panels come in different heights, woods types, and lattice designs – so you shouldn’t have any problem finding one that meets your privacy and design needs.

Once you’ve picked your fence panel design out, putting it all together is as simple as planning your fence, digging postholes and anchoring your fence posts, and fastening your fence panels to your posts. This will require a bit of elbow grease and know-how, but it’s not out of reach for the average DIYer.

Let’s take a look at how to install a fence panel in detail – so you can start hanging your fence in no time!

Tools & Materials Needed

Tools

Materials

How to Install a Fence Panel – Guide

Step 1: Planning and Preparation

Just as with any major project, proper planning and preparation are the keys to success. You don’t want to start digging postholes and find out that they’re in the wrong location later on.

Before you install a fence panel, it’s a smart idea to consult your local building department’s codes and regulations. In some municipalities, fences are restricted to a certain height or materials, and you may also need a permit in certain locations.

You’ll also want to be aware of any underground utility lines before digging postholes. If you’re not sure, you can contact your local municipality, and they’ll be able to mark them for you.  Next, up you’ll want to sketch out a plan for the fence’s location, posthole placements, and calculate the number of fence panels you’ll need.

To calculate materials needed:
Prefab fence panels are often sold in 8-foot lengths, so to calculate the number of panels and posts needed simply divide the desired fence length by 100” (96” fence panel length + 4” post length). Then add two additional posts for the first and last posts. You’ll probably be left with one section of fence that’s smaller than 8-foot, which you’ll need to cut down to size to complete the fence.

Step 2: Run a String Line and Mark Posthole Locations

Next up, you’ll want to run a string line between the two endpoints of your fence and mark the locations of your postholes.

string line
A string line will give you a precise location for your post holes.

Place a couple of small stakes at each end a tie a taut string line between them. Then make the center location of your post holes with some spray paint or by placing additional stakes.

Step 3: Dig Post Holes

There a number of different ways you can dig postholes.

Keep in mind, the more post holes you need to dig, the more effort is required, so if you’ve got a half dozen or more, renting a powered auger makes sense. These digging machines are capable of digging dozens of post holes in minutes, so they’ll cut down on the effort required significantly.

If you’ve only got a few holes to dig, digging them manually with a post-hole digger is the way to go. This will require a bit of effort but is certainly doable.

The rule of thumb for post hole width is 3 times the width of the post and at least 1/3 the overall depth of the post. So, if your using 9-foot 4 x 4 posts, you’ll want the hole to be 12” wide and 3 feet deep.

Step 4: Set the Posts

Next up, you’ll need to set the posts in the ground. This is typically done using concrete to anchor the posts in place, although there are also methods of installing the posts without concrete.

pouring concrete for posts
Pouring fast setting concrete to secure the posts.

Either way, you’ll want to ensure your posts are properly aligned and level as you secure them. A post level will help with this. You can also use your string lines from earlier to make sure the post is aligned correctly.

If you’re using fast-setting concrete like quikrete, the footings should cure sufficiently within several hours, and you’ll be able to continue with fence construction the same day. If you’re using regular concrete, you’ll need to wait overnight for the footing to cure enough to begin hanging the fence panels.

Step 5: Install the Fence Panels

This can be a little different depending on the design of your fence panels. Some prefab fencing is designed to use with steel fence hangers, and others can be nailed or screwed directly into the fence posts.

Either way, you’ll want to measure and mark the locations where the upper and lower sections of bracing will connect to the posts. You’ll want this to be even across the entire fence, in order to create a clean-looking fence line.

attaching fence panel to post

Generally, you’ll want to hang the fence panels about 4” above the ground. This will allow enough room for water drainage and to avoid moisture from absorbing into the fence. It will also ensure you have enough space to do yard maintenance along the base of the fence.

If you’re not using fence hangers, then fastening the panels to the posts at the right height can be a little tricky. Use some scrap wood under the fence as a shim to keep it at the right height while fastening.

If you need to trim or shorten any of the fence panels, check out my post on how to cut down a fence panel.

Secure the fence panels to the posts with at least three nails or screws per brace. You can use a few more if the fencing is on the heavy side.

Step 4: Trim the Fence Posts

Next, you’ll want to trim the fence posts down to your desired height. You can choose any height you like, but 4 to 6 inches above the fence generally looks good.

Mark the cutting height on all four sides of the post, as you’ll need to cut from multiple sides in order to get through the 4 x 4. A standard 7 ¼ inch circular saw has a max cutting depth of 2 ½ inches, so you’ll need to run the saw from both sides to cut clean through.

Step 5: Attach the Post Caps

The last step is attaching the post caps to the tops of the fence posts. Post caps direct rain and moisture away from the post, and create a nice professional look to the fence.

post caps

A couple of 2 ½ inch galvanized nails or construction screws will secure the caps.


Hopefully, you’ve now got a good idea of how to install a fence panel. While it may seem intimidating at first, with a little planning and preparation you’ll be well on your way to installing a fence that’ll last a lifetime.

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