After living in this house for just over 3 years, we came to the conclusion that we would like some private outdoor space to call our own. We live on a corner and up to this point our small backyard has been exposed to the street and our neighbors casual glances. Not that our neighbors are nosy or anything, but sometimes you want to just want chill outside with the BBQ and a couple beers and feel like you’re in your own little world. I mean, that’s one of the perks of home ownership, right?

Well, our backyard has been a work in progress for about 2 years. But this Summer was time to get serious and make some real progress. After having power brought out to the garage by an electrician to set the stage for lighting etc., we decided to build a fence to enclose the backyard. We knew the fence would be an imposing design element and we felt building it first would give us a better sense of the space we have to work within, rather than trying to imagine a 6 foot tall fence when designing the garden and patio.

Let’s get into it

First, I roughed out the fence with string to try out placement and measure dimensions to calculate materials costs.

We knew we wanted to match the design of the fence we had built a couple years ago, so it was a matter of how to interpret that design to support greater privacy with the least amount of bench saw cuts. I used OmniGraffle to layout the fence to scale, which really helps with getting a good idea how much wood to buy.

Then we put up the posts and the horizontal pieces. This allows us to make final measurements for trimming the vertical slats. I can design these things to scale in the computer to 1/32 fidelity all day long, but I’m finding once I start anything I have to just keep measuring and go with the flow and revise as I go. Otherwise, you’ll go insane. Trust me on this one.

After measuring the distance between the posts and the heights of each span, It was time to cut the vertical slats.

We decided to space each slat 1/4″ apart which would make it very difficult to stain between the slats once they’re up. So, we stained the edges first.

Once dry, we stacked them up next to their respective span.

I built a spacer out of 1/4″ thick molding. A spacer is a must-have in situations like this. I made a “T” at the top so it sits on the top of the horizontal rail and butts up against the vertical I previously installed. Pre-drill the holes, twist the screws into the pre-drilled holes by hand so they’re ready to drive in with the drill and check level as you go. That’s pretty much the easiest part of this whole thing.

After all the vertical slats were up, we applied a coat of stain. Next, it was time for the double gate. Each gate door is a 2″x4″ bevel cut box frame. I found these great 90 degree angle braces at Harbor Freight Tools, which really helped when screwing together the bevels.

Rather than use a crossbar to support the weight of the frame, we used a turn buckle-based wire support. The hardware was silver so we spray painted it to match our black gate hinges.

We re-enforced the frame with “L” brackets and installed the wire support system and they’re ready to hang. My friend Kevin came by to help out.

It took 5 weekends, but now we’re at a place where we can envision all the possibilities of our backyard.

Now, it’s a blank canvas.

And it looks great from the street, too.

The plan is to stair-step the height down and continue the fence along the street side of the house. Before starting this fence project I can remember saying, “Oh, it’s not going to be that tall. We don’t want it to feel like a fortress.” Yeah, right. We want a fortress.