How to Estimate Material for a Wood Privacy Fence

Wood Privacy Fence Material Estimation

Cost is one of the major considerations in the installation of a privacy fence, but it seems like there is no set price for a wood fence. This is because of the variety of factors that make each fencing project unique: area of the country, size of the fence, materials used, etc. This is why it’s important to estimate your fencing material needs as accurately as possible, so you can budget accordingly. This guide will help.

Determining the number of fence posts

The number of wood fence posts depends on the measurements of each fence line, the type of fence you’re building, and the kind of wood you’re using.

Wood fence posts should be lined up 6 to 8 feet apart depending on the type of your fence. For privacy fences where the pickets are placed next to each other, 6-foot spacing is more appropriate in order to have enough post strength to carry the weight of your pickets.

The type of wood you use also plays a big part in the proper spacing of your fence. The heavier the wood, the smaller the distance between your wood posts should be.

When you have decided on the proper spacing between your fence posts, you may then compute for the number of fence posts. The first you should determine is the number of your line posts, using the following formula:

No. of line posts per fence line = (Length of fence line / Spacing between posts) – 1

Do this for each fence line and add to get the total number of fence posts needed.  For the side where the gate is situated, you will have two lines.  Measure each line from the gate post to the corner.

Corner posts should be buried deeper into the ground (at least 2/3 of the entire length of the post) compared to your line posts (at least 2 feet). Considering this, your fence posts should be longer and if possible larger than your line posts. The following formula will help you compute the number of fence posts you need.

No. of corner posts = Total number of corners + 2

The total number of corners pertains to the number of corners in you fence perimeter. If your perimeter is square or rectangular, your fence will have 4 corners. Add 2 and you will have 6 corner posts. The 2 additions will be used as gate posts.

Determining the number of wood railings

It is advisable to have three parallel railings (one each at the bottom, middle, and top of the fence) in order to properly support the weight of the pickets. The computation of the number of wood railings on your fence will basically depend on the number of posts computed as follows:

No. of wood railings = (No. of line post + No. of corner posts – 1) x 3


Determining the number of pickets

For privacy fences pickets need to be placed next to each other so as not to have gaps.  The combined width of your pickets should be equal to the total perimeter of the fence less the gate length.  Use the following formula in computing the total pickets needed:

No. of pickets = (Total fence perimeter – Gate length) / Width of each picket

These are the main materials that are needed in your fence.  In computing for the total cost, don’t forget to add 2 or 3 items per category as buffer for waste materials. If your supplier computes prices using board feet, you can compute it as follows:

Total board feet** = (length * width * thickness) / 144

**All units should be in inches.

After getting the cost for the main materials, add 40% of the amount for labor cost, and 20% for other materials such as nails, cement, etc. You should also make a separate estimate for staining or painting, and consider cost of permits and cost of renting tools needed if applicable.

With a little bit of careful planning at the beginning, you can be sure to come on budget when you build your new wood fence!

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