Building your own wood fence: Tips and calculators for estimating materials needed

If you're choosing between building your fence yourself, or hiring a professional, one of the things you'll need to check is how much the materials cost. Here's a guide to estimating how much materials you'll need for your fence and some tips if you do build it yourself.

  • Step 1: Draw a picture of a 'typical section' of your planned fence. A fence is usually made up of 'bays' or sections of fence that are independently structural. Count the pieces of wood needed, including the posts and cross bars.
  • Step 2: Measure the length of the fence needed.
  • Step 3: Divide the length of a typical section into the length of fence needed.
  • Step 4: Multiply the numbers you got in Step 1 with the number from Step 3 to get the individual amounts of posts.
  • Step 5: Add 10% to everything to allow for errors and the 'fudge factor'.
  • Step 6: Calculate how many post holes you have and add the amount of concrete you'll need to fill them.

Other calculators online

There are many calculators online for all types of home renovation projects. Here are a few examples that could help:

This calculator works out how much materials you will need and then relies on you to go an gather prices. It is in feet and inches which can be confusing (and there's no conversion) but it's really useful as it explains each step of the calculation, including the terminology!

This isn't a calculator but does give you a detailed and slightly different way to calculate the wood needed for a fence than the guide above.

Tips for building your own fence

  • If you choose to build your own fence, the part that takes the longest and is the hardest is clearing the site and digging the post holes. You can use an excavation company for this which won't cost as much as a qualified fencer but still cuts down on a lot of the hard work related to building your own fence.
  • Building a fence is not a one person job. Get help from a friend or family member - even if they're just there to hold pieces of wood in place.
  • Check with your state or local office for any regulations around building fences. Some regulations may include restrictions on the maximum height, maximum width between slats, etc.
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