DIY Fence Ideas

By J. Almus Russell
March 11, 2016
Fence It In!

Thinking about DIY fencing? Here are traditional fence types made of natural materials. Whether you’re fencing yourself in, or fencing something out, these fences just might give you closure.

The wide world is
all about you:
You can fence yourselves in,
but you can not forever
fence it out.

J. R. R. Tolkien, English writer (1892–1973)

Do-it-Yourself Fence Types

Brush Fence

The first American fences of record were built of brush. A thicket of small to medium-size trees was required. These were felled and then stacked. As the trees overlapped one another, an impenetrable mass was formed, several feet wide and many feet tall. Today’s commercial brush fences are somewhat more decorative and may have tree branches in vertical or horizontal positions.

See an example below.


Stump Fence

Stump fences are often found near a woodlot because they are constructed from one. Once built, they are horse high, bull-strong, and pig-tight—as difficult to get through as living hedges. These fences are made from tree stumps: Roots are cut off the sides of each stump and saved for possible use. Then stumps are laid flat, or trunk cut side down, with roots in the air. They are placed close together, along the fence line. Any gap between the stumps is chinked with the remaining (cutoff) roots.

If the lumber can be spared, stump fences can be made of logs cut from tree trunks to the same length and set upright on the fence line.

Stump Fence. Image credit: Sappasit Shutterstock

Snake Fence

A snake fence is also known as a zigzag, worm, grasshopper, lazy man’s, or Virginia fence.

Rails, split medium-size logs, or saplings are placed one on top of each other at an angle, intersecting at each end. A pair of long stakes driven into the ground at the end of each intersection holds the fences upright.

Snake Fence. Photo credit: Warren Price Photography Shutterstock

Basket-Weave Fence

This style of fence is highly decorative. Measurements are especially important in erecting this fence. For DIYers, proper materials would include 4-inch-square hardwood posts; smaller support posts half the diameter and of the same length; plus 10-foot-long, 6-inch-wide, ½-inch-thick boards of matching length (these are woven between the uprights). The posts—especially the ends of them—should be treated to prevent rot after being set in the ground. Boards should be woven as close as possible for protection and privacy.

Image: Basket-Weave Fence

Picket Fence

Wooden picket fences are often of elaborate workmanship. They add atmosphere to a property and protect it. Pieces are usually made to order from raw stock and prepped for paint—but not painted—before assembly. Because of the detail and time involved in creating them and the ensuing costs, original wood picket fences are seldom erected today.

Picket Fence. Photo credit: Maria Dryfhout Shutterstock

Tenter Fence

More drying rack than true barrier or enclosure, this form gave rise to the expression “to be on tenterhooks,” meaning to be anxious. It is constructed with 8-foot posts stuck 2 feet deep into the ground about 4 feet apart. Smoothed rails are nailed into the posts horizontally at the top, the middle, and a foot or two above the ground. At regular intervals, tenterhooks are screwed into the top and bottom railings. Predressed woolen cloth is hooked to the upper railing, then stretched down and hung on the lower hooks. There it would dry into preshrunken goods. The procedure keeps the cloth from overshrinking. For a longer-term, decorative alternative, attach grommets to a piece of canvas (or similar suitable fabric) and hang it on the hooks.

Now see our Best Days timetable for the best days to set fence posts!


Adapted from an article in The 1973 Old Farmer’s Almanac

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