Picket fence for a dog kennel. Easy Dog Kennel:

Building A Fence From
Pre-Made Sections

In This Article:

Fence posts are placed in holes and 8' sections of fence are attached with metal brackets.

Related Articles:
Skill Level: 2 (Basic) Time Taken: 20 Hours

By , Editor


At our project house in Grand Rapids, Michigan we needed a place for dogs to run around unsupervised and do their business. Simply tying the dogs to a chain has never been an option because with multiple dogs the chains would get hopelessly tangled. Besides, we've always been opposed to tying dogs to a lead and leaving them. So we built a simple 4 foot tall fenced enclosure. We ended up building about 70 feet of picket fence at a cost of about $300 in materials and about 25 hours of labor.

These two photos show the area to be fenced in for a dog kennel.

Don't laugh too hard at this junky little house... it's in a great neighborhood and the price was right. And the 1/3 acre lot has about 40 mature oak trees. Eventually a proper home will replace this chunk of dozer-bait.

Setting a fence post in a hole in the ground. Prior to this, I assembled 7 sections of 8-foot picket fence (view that article).

I started the fence a few inches from the corner of the house. Note the stack of pre-made fence sections nearby.


The first section of fence was only 4 feet long. I set the fence next to the post to determine where to lop off the 4x4.


Pair of levels used to align fence post plumb. I strapped two torpedo levels onto the post.


This neat blue rubber strap has holes so you can set it at different lengths. These cost a dollar each at Big Lots.

Years ago I bought a plastic level just for making posts plumb. It strapped onto the post and had two built-in vials. But it was terribly inaccurate, so I returned it to the store. Maybe someday I'll try another similar product, but for now I'll stick to strapping my accurate levels to the post.

Hint: If you place the levels like this, they won't work right at all.

After I installed the 4 foot fence section, I installed a garden gate which I had built the previous summer. Since I'm not going to be doing any gardening this summer I decided to yank out my old gate and donate it to this project.


The General Procedure Of Installing Fence Sections:

The first step in the routine was to lay out the position of the next post hole. I did this by using an 8-foot 2x4 as a yardstick, and simply measuring out 8 feet away from the previous post.

Using a pick-axe to break up frozen soil. I marked the approximate hole location with blocks of wood. Since the ground was still frozen I had to use a pick-ax to break up the dirt. It took upwards of 30 minutes to reach unfrozen soil. This was hard work. Waiting for spring is much easier!


Once through the frost, digging was much easier. I used a pair of post-hole diggers to excavate a hole to about 3 feet deep. 

A hint: Using a permanent marker, I made some lines on the handles of the post-hole diggers to indicate depths of 3 feet and 4 feet.

Once the desired depth was reached (I made most of the holes about 3 feet deep) I used a 4x4 post to tamp down the disturbed soil. Tamping is necessary or else the soil will be compacted later and the post will settle. (See the notes at the end of this article.)

I placed a post in the newly-dug hole.


Then I set a section of fence in place and held it with a pair of blue rubber bungee cords.


I sighted down the fence rail to make sure the sections were aligned properly.


I set a 4x4 treated post in place and checked to see if everything would line up.

Since this post is not at a corner, I made the rails stop at the middle of the post. This way, the next section can also be attached to the post.


At some point in the installation process the fence section must be checked for levelness. I usually had to add some scraps of wood to shim up one end (red arrow). Most of the time I leveled the fence before I completely back-filled the post hole, although this photo shows the hole already filled in.


Positioning The Post:

I set the post in the hole and clamped it to the fence. Then I used a 2-foot level to check if it was possible to plumb the post in the current hole.

It's necessary to check plumb in two directions.

If the hole location was carefully laid out then I could proceed to the next step: filling in the hole. But sometimes the post would hit the side of the hole, and the fence could not be aligned and made plumb because the hole was not dug in the right location. In these cases I had to pull out the post and expand the hole. And the dirt on the bottom of the hole must be tamped after any soil disturbance, or else the post will settle.


With the fence sections still aligned, I dumped about 4 inches of soil back in the hole.


I used a 2x4 to tamp down the soil. This will hold the bottom of the post from moving.


I found that I could push the fence posts into a plumb position, but they would not stay there by themselves. Since I did not have a helper most of the time, I simply let the posts lean as I back-filled the holes. I would add 4 to 6 inches of dirt and then tamp the soil while simultaneously checking for plumb. I used the blue bungee cords to strap the 2-foot level to the post. And I only had to check for plumb in one direction, because the Quick-Grip clamps held the post plumb in the other direction (i.e. they kept the post from moving towards or away from the previously installed post).

It also helped to tamp the soil extra-hard on the side that the post naturally leaned towards. Theoretically, you can plumb any post or stake by just hammering the soil to make the object lean the other way.

Attaching section of fence to post with metal bracket. Once the post hole was filled and tamped, I installed these Simpson Strong-Tie steel brackets to connect the fence to the post. I used Simpson's Strong-Drive screws to attach the brackets.

While Simpson also makes galvanized nails for their Strong-Tie line of products, I never use hand-driven nails on fences, because the hammering just loosens up the posts. Besides, this fence will be removed later when the major remodeling takes place.

At the other end of the section, I also installed the metal brackets, on the top and bottom rails.

Other Methods Of Attaching Fence Sections:

In the past I have used 3 inch deck screws or long lag screws to attach fence sections to posts, by driving the fasteners through the rails (before installing the pickets) or through the pickets and the rails together. Lag screws hold well but are extremely time consuming to install, as a pilot hole, a clearance hole, and sometimes a counterbore must be drilled.

This is the first time I have used these angle brackets to install fencing. I have used them for deck framing, but I'm not 100% certain they will hold up here. They do allow some flexing. If I notice any problems I will certainly update this article.


Special Situations:


We made some 45 degree corners in the dog kennel. At all corners I made the fence section reach all the way to the edge of the post (instead of only reaching halfway across the face).

I also installed these 45 degree corner blocks, so the fence rails would have a flat pad to seat against, and to provide a right angle for the metal brackets.


As with other sections, the fence at the corner was held in place with a rubber strap.

The Gate:

Where the fence section met the garden gate, I made the section flush with the gate's post. Otherwise the gate would not open fully. 

I used smaller metal brackets here, and positioned them differently.

This attachment method is what I had in mind when I started planning this fence, but I later changed my mind.

This photo shows how the gate (foreground) is flush with the fence (newer wood in background).

The post looks crappy because it was salvaged from a fence that was torn out, so it's probably 20 years old. But it didn't go in the landfill.


I installed the gate latch hardware.


Amputating The Fence Posts:

Since I used 8-foot posts and the holes were 3 feet deep, I had to cut the top off of each post.


Cutting off top of fence post. I made a mark a few inches above the top rail and cut with a circular saw. But the saw cannot cut all the way through.

So I finished the cut with a reciprocating saw.

Flat-top fence posts will not last as long as posts with an angled top, which sheds water more quickly. Later I might cap the posts with a small pyramid-shaped block of wood. 

Tree Roots:

When digging holes near the trees I often encountered large roots. Sometimes I was able to cut out the smaller (under 1 inch) roots with the post-hole diggers. But larger roots require more power. We bought this pruning blade for a reciprocating saw, and it worked great for cutting roots. Dirt is the "kiss of death" for saw blades (especially chain saws), and this blade did get a little dull. But at $4, we could afford to discard it later.

The other options for removing roots are:

  • An axe. This does not work in deeper holes.
  • A chain saw. Fast, but rapid dulling of the saw chain makes it potentially expensive.
  • A hand saw. Cheap, slow, and hard work.


The Final Product:

It's not going to win any design contests, but the fence serves its function.


The dogs seem to like it.


This little critter can't even begin to squeeze between the fence boards.


We ended up with a larger-than-intended kennel area behind the garage. But from my experience with dog kennels, this will give the critters more places they can dedicate as "drop zones", if you get my drift.


I had to cut off about a foot from the last section, so I left the ends of the rails exposed to maintain the proper gap between sections.


This is the design mistake I made. Where the sections join together in a straight run, the pickets are side-by-side. I should have made the sections like the photo above, or made them with half a space at each end. (See Assembling Fence Sections for more discussion of this design problem.)


The corners look okay, though, because they ended up with a small gap.


Technical Notes:

Soil Compaction Is Necessary!

Failure to compact the soil is a often-ignored task with do-it-yourselfers, and even with contractors. I have seen numerous building problems caused by soil that was not compacted. Too many people think they can just shovel dirt in a hole and then build on it. If you read up on foundation problems, you'd see how much importance is given to carefully compacting soil, even when just backfilling beside a structure.

The proper procedure for back-filling is to add 4-6 inches of soil and compact it. For large projects  a vibratory compactor can be rented. But for small areas, like post holes, I simply use a piece of wood. Sometimes I tamp the soil with my foot first, and then pound it with the end of a 2x4. The soil must be moist, but not soaking wet. If I can't make a ball from a handful of dirt, then it is too dry, and I sprinkle some water on the area. Around here this is only a problem during prolonged summer dry spells.


Recommended Reading:

The Backyard Builder - Projects For Outdoor Living, 1990, Rodale Press.




Tools Used:

  • Cordless Drill/Driver
  • Circular Saw
  • Reciprocating Saw with Pruning Blade
  • Shovel, Pick-Ax
  • Post-Hole Digger
  • 2-Foot Level
  • Quick-Grip Clamps
  • Rubber Bungee Cords

Materials Used:

  • Treated Lumber:
  • 2x4x8' Rails
  • 1x6x12' Pickets
  • Posts, 4x4x8'
  • Deck Screws
  • Metal Angle Brackets
  • Pan Head Screws


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Copyright © 2001, 2005  HammerZone.com

Written March 23, 2001 
Revised January 12, 2005