Many You Tube videos exist on how to build a fence, but not any with the following secrets on how to do so economically. The focus of this article is on 6 money saving strategies for the building of a cedar privacy fence.
1. Determine Needs for Privacy
When speaking of a privacy fence, many assume that means the fence needs to be 7′ or 8′ high. However, when comparing the prices of 6′ cedar pickets verses 7′ or 8′, the extra cost for an extra foot or two is significantly more. Given the slope of yours and your neighbors’ yards, you may achieve privacy by going a little shorter. Our yard is fairly level and we don’t have any super tall neighbors, so I found that the fence height could be 6′ 3″ or 6′ 4″ and still provide privacy.
With the height determined, I then built the fence in a way so that the wood pickets would overlap one another and there would be no gaps, so privacy was achieved. The way to achieve the 6′ 3″ or 6′ 4″ height is to buy 6′ x 6″ cedar pickets, then place a 2″ x 4″ top plate at the top and add a piece of treated lumber at the base. I will give more details on the base below.
2. Instead of concrete footing, install treated lumber at the base.
I’ve seen many privacy fences that have a concrete footing, then a 1/2″ or 1″ gap before the picket begins. It is advantageous to prevent the pickets from coming in contact with the soil as this helps to prevent rot. However, if you hire the concrete work done that can be very expensive. If you do the concrete work yourself it is still costly and a lot of work. But if the picket is raised above the ground, then without the footing an animal could dig under.
The Wiser Dollar compromise for me was to install treated lumber at the base. I used 2″ x 4″‘s and 2″ x 6″‘s depending on the slope of the ground. This way the only lumber in contact with the ground was treated and the treated wood would prevent an animal from digging under as the wood went down into the ground a couple of inches. And this protects the cedar pickets from coming in contact with the soil.
3. Don’t skimp on the quality of poles.
I had to swallow hard on this, but I think it important to buy quality poles, regardless of expense, especially given our wind conditions in Texas. The poles at Lowe’s and Home Depot may be sufficient in some locations, but we need something stronger in an area where we have had wind gusts up to 70 m.p.h. I purchased the poles at a local fencing company. I figure that a more expensive pole would actually save money in the long run, if it prevents the wind snapping the poles off and blowing the fence down.
4. Buy stainless steel screws for the pickets, online.
If you use decking screws, the drill bit can still tear into the slotted head area and rust develop. As I compared various screws, it seemed that all screws could eventually lead to a streaking of the wood as the weather affected the screw. All screws, that is, except stainless steel. The limited number of finish screws you might use at the top can be purchased at Lowe’s. The bolts used to connect the brackets to the 2″ x 4″ rails can be galvanized.
But the stainless steel screws needed to install the cedar planks are not available at big box stores. I would suggest purchasing them online; the stainless steel screws are available here at a discounted price. This link is for the 2″ screws which is needed if you overlap 1/2″ thick pickets. If you are just screwing through one 1/2″ picket, then opt for the 1 1/2″ screws instead (which are an option through the link as well). This is a good deal and about half the price of what it would have cost me to purchase through a local screw and bolt specialty shop. While the stainless steel screws may cost a bit more than regular deck screws, in the long run they will help preserve the quality of the fence.
5. Buy pickets, 2″ x 4″ rails, treated wood, brackets and stainless steel finish screws using a Wiser Dollar strategy.
We’ve discussed a cost saving strategy for Lowe’s, where you can stack discounts by purchasing sale priced items along with using a 20% off coupon, purchased from Ebay and also receive a percentage back on a credit card. I applied this strategy on the fencing materials. You can get additional details about this step at a previously published Wiser Dollar article: How to Save Money at Lowe’s Home Improvement.
6. Finally, build the privacy fence yourself.
I realize that some may be physically unable to do this. My more recent shoulder pain reminds me that I would not tackle this project right now. And, for many, limitations on time would prevent the undertaking of such a project. But if able, building a privacy fence yourself offers many benefits, such as needed exercise without having to have a gym membership, the development of a skill, an excuse for buying a few tools and the satisfaction of doing work for which you will daily see the results. Also, if you build the fence yourself, this would probably be the greatest cost saving strategy for the project.
For the installation of all the pickets, I used a Dewalt 20 volt cordless drill-driver (with a charger and 2 lithium ion batteries). It is currently on sale for $99.00 here. I recommend the drill and the price.