How to Install Prefabricated Fence Panels

For anyone who has never put up a fence before, installing prefabricated fence panels is a much simpler home-building project than building a fence from scratch.
The biggest part of the job is digging fence post holes and cementing them in so that the posts are plumb. With proper planning, the installation can be done in a simple, systematic way.

Step 1

Pound in the first stake to mark the beginning point of the fence. Measure off 8 feet and drive in the next stake. Repeat this procedure, staking out all the fence posts you need for the installation.

Step 2

Dig the post holes either with a hand-held post hole digger or a rented automated auger. Dig each hole 18 inches deep and 12 inches in diameter.

Step 3

Mix quick-set concrete according to the manufacturer's instructions in a rubber tub. Use a garden hoe to mix. Shovel 4 inches of gravel into the bottom of each hole for added drainage. Set the fence post in the hole and shovel concrete around the post.

Step 4

Make sure the fence post is plumb -- straight up and down -- by laying the 4-foot carpenter's level against one face of the post and adjusting it until it is plumb. Use the level to check an adjoining face on the same post to make sure it's plumb. The concrete should start setting up after a few minutes.

Step 5

Repeat Steps 3 and 4. Make sure each subsequent fence post is cemented in 8 feet on center. To do this, start your tape measure at the center of the first fence post. Pull out the tape measure 8 feet along the fence line to the next post hole. Set that post in the hole so that the 8-foot measurement on the tape measure lands in the center of the second post. Shovel in mixed concrete. Repeat for the rest of the posts.

Step 6

Wait for the cement to cure a minimum of four hours.

Step 7

Measure the height of the fence panel starting at ground level and mark that height with a pencil on the first fence post. Hammer in a nail where you marked it and tie a string around it. Walk the full distance of the fence line. At the last post, hang a line level -- a small plastic level -- on the string and move the string up and down until the line is perfectly level. Make a mark on the face of the fence post. Hammer in a nail and tie the string so that it is taut.

Step 8

Lay a metal carpenter's square across the face of every fence post where the string is touching and draw a line. Cut off each post at the pencil line with a circular saw.

Step 9

Lay a couple of scraps of 2-by-4 on the ground between the first and second fence posts. Set the first panel on them. The bottom of the fence panels must be at least 2 inches off the ground. The top of the fence panel should be 2 inches higher than the top of the fence posts. Lay the 4-foot carpenter's level on the top horizontal rail of the fence panel. Check to make sure it's level before nailing each end of the fence panel to its respective fence post.

Step 10

Nail a 6-inch stake to the outside face of each end post. Tie one end of a string to a stake at the height of the fence panel that you just nailed in place. Unfurl the string the entire length of the fence line. At the opposite stake, hang the line level on the string. Pull the string taut, making sure it's running along the top edge of the installed fence panel. Move the string up and down until it is level. Tie the string to the stake.

Step 11

Repeat Step 9 for each consecutive fence panel, making sure that each additional panel is installed at the height of the leveled string.

Things You Will Need

  • Hammer
  • Stakes
  • Tape measure
  • Hand-held post hole digger or automated auger
  • Quick-set concrete
  • Rubber tub
  • Garden hoe
  • Shovel
  • Gravel
  • 4-inch-by-4-inch-by 8-feet fence posts
  • Prefabricated fence panels
  • 4-foot carpenter's level
  • String
  • Line level
  • 6d galvanized nails
  • Metal carpenter's square
  • Circular saw
  • 2-by-4 scraps
  • 2 6-inch stakes


  • Talk to your neighbors before installing a fence so they understand why you are doing it.


  • Call the utility company and have them check for underground lines before digging post holes.

About the Author

B. Ellen von Oostenburg became a full-time writer a decade ago. She has written features for local and state newspapers, as well as magazines, including Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Trails and German Magazine. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Madison, von Oostenburg holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in fine art.