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How to Build a Board on a Board Fence

Robin Stephenson

Fences come in many styles and sizes, and each have their own particular use. When the main objective is privacy, a board-on-board fence is usually the safest bet.

Not to be confused with shadowbox-style fences that allow visibility through spaces between staggered pickets, board-on-board fences feature overlapping pickets that allow no visibility, and so offer complete privacy. Building such a fence is a little labor-intensive, but not too complicated. Here are a few steps to building your own board-on-board fence:

  1. Stake out the line of your fence from one intended corner post position to the other. When your stakes are in the ground, tie a piece of string or twine between them. You'll be using this to ensure that your posts are aligned when they go in the ground, ensuring a nice, straight fence, so make sure that the string remains taut.

  2. Measure 8 feet from the first stake and then insert another one, making sure that it rests against the string you just tied between the posts. Repeat this procedure until you reach the other corner post, making sure that all stakes are aligned with the guide string. These stakes mark the position of the rest of your fence posts.

  3. Dig your first fence post hole with a post hole digger, making sure that the hole is deep enough for about 1/3 of the length of the post to be underground. Add about 6 to 8 inches of gravel to the hole to help with drainage.

  4. Mix the concrete, making sure that you follow all mixing instructions on the bag, and pour into the post hole. Place your first post in the hole and tap it down until it reaches the layer of gravel. Using your level, make sure that your post is plumb, checking it again before the concrete fully sets, so that any minor adjustments can still be made. Repeat this step for the other corner post and then all posts in between, making sure that they are all aligned with the guide string.

  5. When your posts are all set, you can add your rails. Using your galvanized nails, attach the upper rail about 12 inches from the top of the posts; the lower one the same distance from the bottom of the posts, and the third one in the middle of the two.

  6. When your rails are attached securely, you can begin to add your pickets. Start by attaching a picket to each corner post, and then run another line from the top of one picket to the other. This will help you line up the remaining pickets at the same height and get a nice even-looking fence.

  7. Using a 4-inch block as a spacer, nail the next picket onto the rails and continue the pattern until you get to the other corner post. Then, go back and nail pickets to cover the 4-inch spaces. This will give you a beautiful board-on-board privacy fence that you can either paint or stain for a nice finished look.


Make sure you check with your neighbors and consult your property's blueprints to make sure that your fence plans are in keeping with your property lines. When nailing in your rails and pickets, try hammering in the nails at different angles. If all the nails are inserted at the same angle, there's a greater chance that they may all come out together at the same angle. If they're angled differently, they'll be far more secure.


Before digging any post holes, call your utility companies to determine the location of any underground cables or pipes. Failure to do so could cause serious damage and may even be dangerous.