The six foot, three rail fence is a beautiful, yet sturdy fence that is designed to last for fifteen to twenty years. Details Landscape Art is a Sonoma County design-build contractor, offering all types of landscape installation services including fencing.
We have served the North Bay since 1991, and we have seen all kinds of fences in various stages of disrepair, some due to old age and natural wood deterioration, but mostly poorly built newer fences. We see boards that are bowed, posts leaning or falling down, and fence boards coming loose. We have developed a strong six foot, three rail fence that supports the boards in the center (rather than only top and bottom). A 2×6 cap adds beauty and protects the exposed ends of the fence boards.
Construction of the six foot, three rail fence begins with laying out a taut string line along the ground. We will assume for this discussion that the ground is level along the length of the fence, and we will be using rough redwood for the fencing. The fence posts must be no further apart than eight feet, and we divide the length of the fence by eight to determine the post locations. If not divisible by eight we adjust and create relatively equal sections between posts, and mark the post-hole locations with spray paint along the string line. An eight or nine-inch diameter hole should be dug about 24” deep using a post-hole digger.
A second taut string line is then run directly above the first line exactly six feet one inch above grade (the inch is to ensure that no part of the fence is touching the ground). Each post is then placed against the lower string line, leveled using a double level, and just touching the upper string line. When the post is aligned with the two string lines and level and plumb, concrete is mixed with water in a wheelbarrow and poured into the post-hole. We never pour dry concrete into the hole and then pour water on top of the dry concrete! That is a sure recipe for poorly mixed concrete and water seeping into the hole over the years and rotting the post!
After the post-hole concrete has been allowed to dry for 24 hours, we now start measuring and cutting the 2×4 rails to length to fit in between the posts. The top rail is attached between two posts using 3-inch galvanized screws ‘toenailed’ into the post. The rails are attached vertically and flush to the front of the post. The bottom rail is attached similarly so that the bottom edge of the rail is six feet from the top of the posts. Then the center rail is attached two feet from the top of the post (this can be two and ½ feet if preferred). All the rails between all the posts are then attached in the same manner.
The 1×6 (or 1×8) flat top fence boards are now nailed to the back side of each rail using galvanized 6p nails. The last fence board may need to be ripped to fit the remaining space. All the fence boards are attached in each section.
Now we cut 1×4 rail boards and attach to the backside of the fence boards in between the posts, carefully aligned with the 2×4 rails in front. The fence boards are now ‘sandwiched’ between the 2×4 rails in front and the 1×4 rails in back.
The fence is then capped with a sixteen-foot long 2×6 redwood board on top, spanning two fence sections. The 2×6 begins flush with the first post (a small one-inch overhang is a nice touch), and then the other end is screwed so that the end of the board splits the post in the middle. This allows for the next 2×6 to be screwed to that same post.
The resulting six foot, three rail fence may be stained for long lasting beauty.