How to Build a Shadow Box Privacy Fence

How to Build a Shadow Box Privacy Fence. Fences come in many different styles, but the best looking fence is the shadow box privacy fence. They provide adequate privacy from your neighbors while looking professional and attractive.

You can buy sections of fence to install, but building one yourself is actually pretty easy.

  1. Use a survey of your home to determine the dimensions of your yard. You'll need approximately 24 of the 1-by-6 pickets per 8-foot section, plus three of the 2-by-4s to use as stringers. You'll install a 4-by-4 post every 8 feet, so calculate your needs. Make sure to buy pressure treated wood; pine is popular.

  2. Dig your post holes. You can use a hand-held post hole digger if you don't have too many holes to dig; renting an auger is more efficient if your yard is large. You need to dig the holes every 8 feet and at least 18 inches deep.

  3. Mix up a quick-setting concrete. Follow the directions on the bag. Place a 4-by-4 post into one of the holes, tamp it down and pour some concrete into the hole. Use a level to make sure your post is plumb and hold it in place for about a minute. Move to the next hole and repeat. When you're done, cut the posts to a height of 5 feet 10 inches above the ground. Fill the holes with dirt after the concrete sets.

  4. Nail up your stringers. Use the 10d nails and your nail gun to attach them to the outside edges of the posts, checking to make sure they're level. Nail the lower stringer at a height of one foot from ground level; the top stringer goes 1 foot below the top of the posts. Split the difference and nail up your third stringer in the middle. They should overlap the 4-by-4 posts by 2 inches on each end.

  5. Attach your guide pickets. Starting on the inside of the fence, butt your first picket up against the 4-by-4 post (it'll stick up above the post about 2 inches); check to see that it's plumb and nail it in using the 6d nails. Skip a post and nail another picket at the same height against the next 4-by-4 (the next post should be 16 feet away). Run a taught string between the posts to make sure the pickets are installed at the same height all the way across.

  6. Cut a spacer out of scrap wood; cut it 4 inches wide. Use this to know where to hang your next picket. Put the spacer up against the first picket you hung and then butt your next picket up against the spacer. Check to make sure the picket is plumb and nail it to the stringers. Proceed in this fashion along the inside of the fence.

  7. Move to the outside of the fence and repeat Step 5 and Step 6. Stain or paint your fence if you'd like.


Always call either the local utility companies or a company specializing in finding underground wires or cables before starting any digging. These companies come out and clearly mark where you shouldn't dig. Determine where your property lines are before you get started. If you accidentally build your fence on the neighbor's property, you may have to move it, and that's hard work. Talk to your local permit office to find out how close your fence can be to the road. There are laws about this for safety reasons. While you're there, see if you need a permit to build the fence, although it's unlikely.


Don't put the pickets against the ground. You need to allow a couple of inches for water drainage.