Fence Premade Panels vs Individual Pickets

Old 03-24-17, 05:01 AM
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Fence Premade Panels vs Individual Pickets

I currently have an old 6 foot privacy fence around my backyard. Allot of these storms keep knocking down my fence and busting the old rotted posts off. So soon I am install a new wooden 6' fence. I'm going to do the typical 8' on center for the 4x4 posts and then I'm trying to decide between premade panels and building the fence myself. I plan on doing pressure treated pine dog ear pickets or panels from Home Depot. I need to do around roughly 200 feet. I have tools myself and I don't really mind doing the manually labor of putting up each picket myself.

My current setup uses panels and my yard does not have a steep slope, so that isn't an issue with using panels. I do have 2 kids who kick balls around and such, along with 2 dogs and a doggie door.

I've heard pickets may be sturdier, but I wasn't quite sure why. When I go to Home Depot it looks like the individual pickets I can buy are the same pickets that are on the panels they have there (maybe my eyes deceive me).

Costs in either case isn't an issue for me (both are in acceptable ranges).
Time isn't an issue.

1) Is there an advantage to one method or the other?
2) If I do individual, is using three 2x4s running between each post ok? And then each picket would have 3 screws going into those 2x4s?

Old 03-24-17, 08:39 AM
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If you have the ability and tools to go either way then I would just price out the difference and let that be the deciding factor but I'll bet the panels are more.

Doing yourself you can probably get some better materials for the same price.

3 cross bars should be sufficient.
Old 03-24-17, 10:58 AM
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In general I find that most pre-made panels are more lightly constructed than a stick built fence. Consequently pre-made panels tend to be less expensive especially when you consider the labor required to build up a fence manually.

For example most pre-made fence panels sold at big box home centers have two horizontal members made of wood less than an inch thick. Then the vertical pieces are stapled on with only one or two staples at the top and bottom. If you built the fence up with lumber you'd likely have three horizontal members made with 2x4s. Then when attaching the verticals you'll probably have two or three fasteners (preferably screws) at each place they attach. So, your site built panel will have thicker wood and more fasteners holding it all together. Better panel but a lot more labor and probably more expensive for the lumber.
Old 03-24-17, 11:54 AM
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Building on site will give you the ability to fit each picket to the contour of the ground. This would be important if you are confining pets inside the fence.
Old 03-26-17, 07:32 AM
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Thanks for the replies everyone.

Yesterday I went to Home Depot and looked at the pre made panels a bit more. I did notice that the 3 horizontal members are definitely smaller than 2x4s. I also noted that the pickets are held on with cheap nails. I actually used my fist and put about a medium force bump on a picket to see how they would hold to the horizontal member....very poor as the picket actually started to separate with just that action. With my kids kicking soccer balls around and such, these pickets will definitely come off easily.

I've decided to just go with the manual build. I'm thinking 3 horizontal 2x4s attached to the posts with 3 1/2" deck screws.

Couple more questions.
1) Any advantage to using 16' 2x4s spanning 3 posts (alternate joints on different posts)? Or should I stick with 8' spanning 2 posts?
2) I can place the pickets right up next to and touching each other right?
3) What should I use to hold the pickets to the horizontal members (screws vs nails and suggest length)?
Old 03-26-17, 04:53 PM
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I've installed two fences in my lifetime and had one installed professionally. If on relatively flat and even surface a premade unit is easier (it does take two people to line it up). The professional installed unit was built on site picket by picket. Can't say one is any better than the other. The on-site built one will allow you to custom fit the last panel in a perfect fit. But you may need to do that no matter what type you choose.

One suggestion, use the vertical height of a 2 x 4 as a guide from ground surface (the 4" height). I have found that that height is near perfect to allow edging without hitting the fence, will allow ground heaving because of frost without lifting fence and will allow small animals such as rabbits to escape the dogs.

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