Horizontal Board on Board Fence | Pickets and Trim

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In this second Fence video, I’m going to be showing how to set the top cap, the picketing, the trim and the ground work.

If you missed the first video, you can see that here: https://youtu.be/I4GQCsSL9tU

First, lets attach the top cap. This is the board that stretches horizontally from the top of one post to another and is really straight forward to attach.

You can basically throw the board up on top of the post then drive a few screws into the top rail to hold it in place. One thing to pay attention to is to not pull or push the posts out of straight. Again, here is where a string line can be useful.

We once again set it from the very end of the fence to the start but this time, up top. Then we referenced off the string line by 1” to set all the caps in the same line. This top cap will not only help stablize the top of the fence posts by tying them all together, but also looks nice. It has an overhang on the front in order to give the final fence some depth and texture when complete. The amount of overhang can be customized of course, depending on what you think looks nice. 

Now on to the major step of adding pickets.

With a board on board, the goal is to have 100 coverage and no visibility through the panel. The order of operations is I first laid down the back layer of pickets, these are attached directly to the posts.

Then I came back and attached the top layer. These are nailed into the bottom layer of pickets that they overlay on the left, right, and also the center support. Each picket getting two nails per position, per picket.

I went ahead and did up the first bay of the fence completely to make sure my spacing and technique was going to work out. It looked great, in my opinion, so I carried on.

To make things more efficient though, I did the pickets in stages. Meaning I went down the entire length of the fence and first only focus on attaching the back layer of pickets first.

A few things to keep in mind if you’re going to replicate this project: I used a level when placing the top most picket then also would check about every 4th or 5th as I moved down a panel, just to make sure I wasn’t getting off. If you find you are, just cheat it back into level on that picket if its just a small amount, or over the next few pickets if it’s a large amount.  

I made a spacer to the needed gap height and this takes out almost all the thinking on this step. It’s key that the spacer is made from something straight, so I grabbed some plywood and ripped it to the needed height at the tablesaw, then attached a handle.

The gap you go with will be determined on how wide your pickets are, but you want to aim for 3/4” overlap on each side of the picket. This will ensure that as the pickets shrink, no gaps will appear in the fence line. 

As I said before, the pickets are attached with two nails at the three different locations. One thing to note here is to buy stainless steel ring shank nails. The stainless steal will prevent your fence from developing those discolored water marks and the ring shank will prevent them from backing out over time as the wood moves. For attaching them, I think investing in a nailer is 100% worth it. I purchased this one three years ago when I tackled my last fence and it’s more than paid for itself. I can hold down the trigger and just bump the head into the picket for it to shoot a nail. I actually ended up timing myself and it was taking me roughly 4 mins per panel with my process. 

When buying pickets…I went with Western Red Cedar for this entire build. If you’re interested in finding a dealer near you, you can find one HERE!

Not only is the material beautiful and has naturally rot resistant qualities, but these pickets are 3/4” which are considerably thicker than standard. Normally when buying a large bundle of material, there are several pieces that have to be weeded out and discarded but I didn’t have a single board that was unusable in this project, which was a first for me. 

One thing that sped that up though was Jake and Justin (who is my videographer) would stage the needed number of pickets at the different bays. This not only saved me time but also my energy. Even though this is a simple step, it’s the middle of summer and is very draining on the body. But after making it down to the end, it was back to the beginning to start phase two of picketing. 

Now this stage was actually the quickest of the entire project because Jake came up with a very clever jig to speed it up drastically. He grabbed a 2×4 and made some steps, or some shelves I guess, at the needed distance of the pickets.

This jig could be clamped into position on the left of each bay where the small shelf was resting on the center of the bottom layer picket so that the top layer picket could simply be set on top, manually positioned left or right, then nailed down. Jake could feed in the pickets while I attached my side of things, then before moving the jig, Jake could go through and quickly secure his side. Then the jig could be unclamped then moved down to the next seam and repeated. This took took the time down from 4 mins per bay to under 1 min, so it’s certainly worth the time to make it. 

Something I chose to do along the very bottom of the fence is to make the very last picket a treated board instead of cedar. So when placing the top layer of pickets, you can only work down so far or you’ll cover up where the treated board needs to be placed. So after getting all the top layer pickets attached, we next went back to the bottom of each bay and first added on the treated board, then attached what will be the very last top layer picket.

Oh, and just a note here…we used a 12’ treated board here which spans two bays instead of a single. Only reason for this is because 6 foot treated boards don’t exist and an 8’ board would create a bunch of waste. The boards that will be the most susceptible to rot are the ones in either direct contact to the ground or closest contact. So by using a treated board at the very bottom, I’m hoping that will extend it’s lifespan. 

Man, that was a ton of work. We are getting close to finishing up so hang tight.

Next up is trim, which this style has very little of. It’s really just these seams where the pickets butt up to one another. A vertical 1x board is attached to each one which not only covers up the but joint but also the dog ear of each picket. It’s a simple but drastic change.

The bottom can be lined up with the post, which you can see I do by peaking at the bottom of the fence. After shooting in one nail, Jake plumbed it up at the top then it could be attached all the way up before moving the whole operation over to the next seam and repeating. 

Now on my last fence I actually purchased pre stained pickets and I liked this because the entire board was coated and it also saved time when installing. However, I wasn’t able to find prestained pickets this go around so instead I got out the airless sprayer and applied three coats of an oil based Simi translucent cedar colored stain to each side of the fence.

I do recommend coating both sides of the fence if possible. Even though Western Red Cedar is naturally rot resistant, all these additional things….like adding a stain or keeping it from contacting the ground, is only going to add more time to it.

Don’t get me wrong, a fence is a big project because of it’s scale, but if you break it down into steps, everything is actually quite easy. I would recommend not doing it in the middle of summer to make it even easier. However, whenever you do it, if a fence is on your to do list then there is a lot of money to be saved by tackling it yourself. Plus, it’s a wonderful feeling after it’s completely to have people ask “who built your fence?” And you get to answer “I did”.

Again, in case you missed part 1 of this build, you can find that here: https://youtu.be/I4GQCsSL9tU

I’ve also built a vertical board on board fence that I’ve also built here: https://youtu.be/v3BIyCFtYPM

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