Horizontal rail fences come in a variety of styles, but all of them are relatively simple to build. Cut post tops to points or bevels to add style. Close rail spacing increases privacy and alternate rail widths add interest. Capped post-and-rail fences, an outgrowth of earlier styles, go well in contemporary settings and the cap rail strengthens the structure. Notched post-and-rail fences bring a classic ranch look that feels at home in many landscape styles. Rustic mortised fences, usually with only two or three rails, are also adaptable to almost any landscape theme.

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Material costs for a capped post-and-rail fence will run on the high side because of the large quantity of lumber required. Notched and mortised fences are less expensive but require more assembly time.

Always offset the rail joints on alternate courses. Pre finish the fence parts before assembling to make sure all surfaces are protected.

Lay out your fence line and set posts for 4- to 6-foot bays. Cut the posts level with each other. Using a combination square, mark the center of the posts. You can mark only the locations where the rails will fall or scribe the line down the length of the post. The line will ensure that you have joined rails centered.

Starting at the top, fasten the first rail flush with the top of the posts. Then alternate 1 x6 and 1 x3, spacing them with a 2x spacer. Note that butted rails alternate with through rails every other board. Staggering the joints in this fashion increases the strength of the fence.


Defining spaces: excellent; they make attractive boundary markers Security: poor; low fences are easy to climb over Privacy: none; open rails permit open views Creating comfort zones: minimal; low height does not block wind; closely spaced rails can block drifting snow mitered corners, then fasten the rail to the posts. Pull the mitered edges together with angled screws. Wipe off any excess caulk with a damp rag.

Horizontal rail fence

Notched post-and-rail fences take a little more time to install than other fences. In part this is because of the time it takes to cut the notches but also because you must level and set each bay individually. That way you are assured that the notches will be level with each other. The proportions of the fence will differ with its size and bay width. For a 3- or 4-foot fence, fasten 1×4 rails to 4×4 posts, 6 to 8 feet apart. For a taller fence, use 6×6 posts with 2x6s for rails. Buy 16-foot rails so you can span two 8-foot sections but be sure to offset the joints on alternate courses. Surface-mounted rails go up faster but are structurally weaker and less attractive even with staggered joints.

Basket-weave fence

Basket-weave fencing gives you an opportunity to create style with little effort. It creates interesting shadow lines, admits breezes, and maintains privacy but is not an inexpensive fence (especially with special-ordered infill). Choose the infill width carefully. Over a long fence line, wide infill boards (1×8) can look overwhelming. Narrower boards (down to 1×4) will add interest to the fence and make it seem less imposing. Because weave itself adds strength to the frame, you may not need a kick board for rail support, but you can add one for appearance.

A 1×3 (or 1×2) spacer creates a center point around which the infill is woven. Bender board, usually available in l/2-inchx4 or 2-inchx6, often is used in basket-weave designs, but 3/2-inch-thick redwood is better. It stands up to the elements, imparts a warm feeling to the design, and is much easier to install than thicker stock. You’ll spend more time building a basket-weave fence than a fence with surface-mounted infill but less time than on louvered or other fences with inset infill.

Lay out the fence line and set posts for 6- to 8-foot (maximum) bays. Build a flat-rail frame, measure the space between the top and bottom rail, and fasten the 1 x3 center board in each bay.

Position the board edgewise or flat, depending on how much separation you want between the woven fence boards.

At each post measure the space between the top and bottom rails (they might be slightly different in each bay) and cut 1 x2 or 1 x3 nailers to fit. Mark the center of all the posts and fasten the nailer to the posts with finishing nails.

With a helper holding one end of an infill slat snugly against the nailer on one post, wind the other end behind the nailer on the opposite post and mark its length. Cut all the infill slats for the bay to this length. Fasten the slat to the nailers at each end with 2-inch coated #8 screws or 6 or 8d box nails (angle them into the post faces). Then fasten the slat to the center board. Weave and fasten the next slat from the opposite side and continue hanging the infill until you fill the frame. Then finish the ends of the slats with 1×1 stops. Repeat the process for the remaining bays.

Louvered fence

A louvered fence imparts textural interest to any landscape. It can increase privacy without restricting summer breezes, filter the sunlight onto a garden bed planted in its shadow, and add security to a pool or patio. Louvers splash light and shadow across the surface beyond the fence line. They produce partial privacy by limiting the outside view to only a portion of the yard at a time. But depending on the louver angle, the fence can become transparent to anyone moving at the right rate of speed past the fence (passengers in cars, for example, can often see through a louvered fence).

Louvers should be built with kiln-dried lumber to minimize warping. Add a kick board so the weight of the louvers won’t sag the flat rails. You can place 1×6 louvers on a 2×4 frame, or rip louvers to fit. You can also use 1x4s on a 2×4 frame or 1x6s on a 2×6 frame, centering the louvers on the faces of the rails. The l15/6-inch spacer fits three lx louvers into every foot of bay length. You can fill any gaps at the ends with thin stock. Draw your pattern on Vi-inch graph paper before you buy materials.


Lay out your fence line with 6- to 8-foot bays, dig the holes, and set the posts. Build a flat-rail frame and cut the louvers to fit between the rails. If you’re using 1 x6 louvers, set them at 45 degrees with a combination square, centering it on the rail. If you’re using 1×6 louvers, position the first louver with one corner against the post and the opposite lined up with the edge of the rail. Toenail the louver to the bottom rail, plumb it, and attach it with screws driven through the top rail.

Cut and install spacers, fastening them to the top and bottom rail. As an alternative, you can tack a spacer to the rails, install the louver, and remove and reuse the spacer.

Continue installing alternate louvers and spacers until you fill the bay. Top off the fence with a 2×6 or 2×8 cap rail.

A feather board fence is a closed louvered fence. The closed surface gives you maximum privacy with attractive shadows where the boards overlap. Build a flat-rail frame and fasten a set of 1×1 stops to the rails. Toenail the infill (1×4 or 1×6) to the rails, and when the infill is mounted, fasten 1×1 stops on the other side.

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