How to Build an Overlap Wood Privacy Fence

If your neighbors constantly watch everything you do, and their children and dogs are in your yard more often than their own, you may want to install a fence to protect both your property and privacy. An overlapping wood privacy fence, commonly called the "shadowbox" style, is a good-neighbor fence that looks identical from both sides. It provides privacy without eliminating your view and enables the free flow of air through the fence. The shadowbox format uses vertical pickets attached on either side of horizontal backer rails. The degree of overlap determines the amount of privacy the fence provides.

Wooden fence with lawn
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An overlapping shadowbox wood fence provides privacy depending on the degree of overlap.

Step 1

Measure the length of your proposed fence and calculate the number of posts, backer rails and pickets you will need. Plan to place the main fence posts at equal intervals of not more than 6 feet, which will determine the number you need based on the overall length of the fence. You need two backer rails for fences of 6 feet or taller.

Step 2

Dig holes for the posts, which should be 10 to 12 inches wide with a depth of 1/3 of the length of the post, plus an additional 6 inches for the corner and end posts. For a 6-foot tall fence, the interim posts should be 9 feet long and the corner and end posts 9 feet 6 inches. Run a string from corner to corner to ensure that your interim posts remain in a straight line.

Step 3

Place 6 inches of gravel in the base of the corner and end post holes, then position the posts in the holes. Pour premixed concrete into the hole around each post, filling the holes to the height of 2 inches above the ground level. Shape the excess concrete into a mound to enable water to run off instead of collecting around the base of the post; allow the concrete to cure and harden for 48 hours.

Step 4

Attach the backer rails to the top and bottom of the posts, using 4-inch nails. Position the backer rails edge to edge, so that they meet at the point where they attach to the posts. This will give an even finish to the fence.

Step 5

Fasten the first picket to the backer rails, using two 3-inch nails inserted through the picket into both the top and bottom backer rails. Attach the second picket on the opposite side of the backer rail, overlapping the first picket by the distance you choose. Position the rest of the pickets on alternate sides, measuring the distance of the overlap each time to ensure an even fence.

Step 6

Install your selected gate in the space provided. Treat the wood with a mildewcide, a UV stabilizer or water sealer. Paint, stain or varnish the fence according to your choice of color.