The construction of the Picket Fence is very similar to a Paling fence or any other kind of Wooden Fence, in that the posts are set in the same fashion, joints for the rails can be the same and the procedure for the job layout is the same. I won’t go and repeat all this information again you can read it in the timber fencing section but I will outline the differences and the things you have to keep an eye on when building your picket fence.

Generally the picket fence will not be as high as the paling fences so the posts don’t have to be as long, but it is still a good idea to have them fully set in concrete and your holes a minimum of  500 mm (1’ 8”) deep. So if your picket fence is 1200 mm (4’) high  then your post need only be 1.8 long (6’) giving you the in ground depth.

There’s not usually a high demand for privacy in the front garden, that’s why the picket fence is often used. The spacing between pickets will vary from 25 mm (1″) up to 75 mm (3″) depending on your budget and the look you are aiming to achieve.


Picket fence with feature posts.

Picket fences also make a feature out of the posts that are supporting them, often have what is called capitols fixed on the top of the post and are shaped to suite the style of the pickets. The distance between the posts should always be in proportion to the height of the pickets as this will look the best. So the shorter the pickets the closer together you want the posts and these will spread further apart as the height increases.

For example if the pickets are about 3′ (900mm) then I would set the posts at approx. 6′ (1.8m) apart and if the pickets are 5′ (1.5m) high then the posts would be closer to 8′ (2.4m) apart, with variations in between. This isn’t a set rule but it will make your fence look better, the only critical thing to remember is not to have your posts further apart than 8′ (2.4m).

Picket fence with shaped tops

For a long time now picket fences have been chosen to fence of the front garden for the simple reason as they look nice, not really known for their privacy but their charm. The tops of the pickets can come in all sorts of shapes and styles, giving character to the garden with it’s country look of elegance.

If you choose to fix the rails (and there are usually two rails) to the post using the housing joints (See diagram) then these joints will be at the back of the post, not like the Paling fence where the joints are at the front. This is because the pickets are spaced and fit in between the posts whereas with the paling fence the palings completely cover the front.

Now, to work out your measurements, use this as a guide…

If your pickets are 75 mm (3”) wide and I would normally allow a 25 mm (1”) gap this makes it easy to calculate your post spacing. It must be multiples of 100 mm (4”)’s Plus the last space of 25 mm (1”). Don’t forget this one or it will cause problems with your picket spacing. These pickets are fixed to the rails with two fixings per picket per rail, remember to use galvanised fixing, especially if you are using treated timber.

Aluminium Pickets

These are aluminium pickets that are powder coated to the colour the client chose, the beauty about these is the no need for future maintenance with painting or timber replacement.

Although more costly initially, many people find it still worthwhile. The spacing between pickets is still an average 25 mm (1″) and there are usually two width sizes for the pickets.

Painting the Picket Fence can be a bit of an ordeal. some people don’t mind it all painted the same colour but others try to go for more of theme look, painting the pickets a different but blending colour to the posts and rails, and of course if you have capitols on the posts, then these are the same colour as the pickets.
It’s a good idea to paint during the assembly of the fence. So when the posts and rails are complete then paint them before fixing on the pickets as well as the pickets before fixing them onto the rails, you can always touch up the front of the pickets where the fixings are with paint, after they are on.
That way not only is it easier to paint but you have paint in between the pickets and rails, protecting that area from any moisture getting in. I’ve even had a request to screw on the pickets so they can be removed for this purpose for maintenance later on. In this case the pickets are categorised and numbered so they are placed back in the same position.

curved picket fence

Sometimes you will see picket fences that will have the pickets curved forming an under arch or an over arch or just rising up to the posts at each end. This is just a simple matter of purchasing longer pickets and cutting them to suite the shape or rise that you are wanting to achieve, keeping in mind that the posts will also have to be kept longer.