cedar picket fenceFew things attract the envy of your neighbors more than a classic picket fence. It’s an American icon. It’s also a highly versatile cedar fence style, with plenty of room for customization.

If you’re thinking about building a picket fence, following are some important guidelines and decisions to keep in mind.

Before You Build

Picket fences are most commonly seen in front yards. They not only add value and curb appeal, but they’re low enough to show off the front of your home. When planning to build a front yard fence, make sure you avoid these common pitfalls:

  • Public right-of-way. Assuming your property line extends all the way to the sidewalk or curb can be a costly mistake. Double check your property line to make sure you don’t accidentally build your fence on a public right-of-way.
  • Heights and sight distances. Front yard fences can potentially block line of sight for nearby traffic, which means most city building codes have different height and placement restrictions for front yard fences than for backyard fences. This is most often an issue for homeowners with a corner lot. Check the city’s building code as well as your neighborhood regulations before you build.
  • Backyard access. If your picket fence will restrict access to your backyard, you may be required to build a gate.

Designing Your Picket Fence

Picket fences can be customized to match the style of your home and make your yard stand out from the pack. Options include:

  • Height. Picket fences are typically shorter than other fences, standing three or four feet tall.
  • Fence style. Pickets can come in different shapes, from the standard pointed pickets to a dog-eared style. They can also vary in height, creating a concave, scalloped or ornamental look.
  • Picket widths. Picket widths are typically three to four inches wide, but they can range anywhere from two inches to more than five inches. Thinner pickets make your fence appear more intricate, while wider pickets provide a more simple look.
  • Picket spacing. Many picket fences are self-spaced, meaning the distance between pickets equals the width of the pickets. You can decrease the spacing to enclose small pets or increase it for an open, airy feel that works well for garden fences.
  • Embellishments. Picket fences can also include ornamental embellishments, such as decorative post caps. These provide the finishing touches to turn your simple fence into a work of art.

Picket fences come with so many options, it’s no wonder this style remains an American favorite. Designing and customizing your picket fence will result in a cedar fence that’s not only unique to your home but will never go out of style.


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