Dog-ear fences are a form of picket fence. When butted together, the pickets of a dog-ear fence provide privacy while adding curb appeal, at least to the outside world. The pickets end in a rounded top, like a beagle's ear. They are hung on two horizontal rails that run between each fence post. Because of this, the fence may not appear as attractive on the inside as it is on the outside. For most people, it does not make sense to make individual pickets when ready-made fence sections are available.
Get a professional survey done to determine the boundaries of your property. Have survey stakes driven and string run from stake to stake to make the sight lines you will need when installing your posts. Obtain all the necessary permits and variances from your local planning board.
Ask what setbacks you are required to make when building your fence, if any. Some jurisdictions require a 12- to 24-inch setback from the property line so that the fence can be maintained after it is built without trespassing on a neighbor's property. Install a second set of survey stakes and lines inside the property survey lines, at the required setback distance.
Measure the perimeter of your yard, minus any required setback. Divide that number by eight to figure out the minimum number of posts you will need, because fence sections are usually 8 feet long. Use ready-made fence sections or make your own. Directions for making your own fence sections are in Section 2 of this article.
Dig post holes 2 feet deep and at least 18 inches in diameter, using a post-hole-digging machine. Set your first post in a corner hole and backfill the hole with gravel. Make sure two faces of the post are even with the strings going from survey stake to survey stake. Hang a plumb bob from a spirit level set on top of the post to check that the post is straight and level. Brace the post with two or more lengths of 2-inch-by-4-inch lumber.
Decide how many gates you want. Most yards need at least one gate, but larger yards may need two or more. If you intend to fence in your parking area, you will need a gate that is two car widths plus 4 feet wide. Set your gate posts next, as they will be either 4 feet apart for a standard gate, 8 feet apart for a one-armed swing gate or 16 to 20 feet apart for a double-armed swing gate.
Continue to set fence posts, checking them for plumb and level, and making sure they have one face touching and parallel to the fence survey line you created inside the property survey line. Adjust and brace posts as needed to correct any variances from true, plumb and square. True is straight, as seen along a given sight line. Plumb is straight up and down. Square means something is at right angles to something else.
Mix quick-drying concrete in a wheelbarrow according to package directions. Fill the remainder of the hole with quick-drying concrete mix. Allow concrete to dry for 3 to 5 days before hanging your fence sections.
Center each fence section on two posts. Have two helpers hold the fence section in place. Place a spirit level on the top rail. Adjust the position of the fence section until it is level. Beginning 1 inch down and 1 inch in from the corner, drill 1/8-inch pilot holes every 6 inches along the vertical edge of the fence section. Countersink all holes. Drive 1/4-inch diameter, 3-inch long screws into the top and bottom holes at each end of the fence section so that your helpers can let it go. Drive all remaining screws into that section. Repeat this step as many times as needed to hang all remaining fence sections.
Hang all your gates according to the manufacturer's directions, using the hardware that came with them.
For each fence section, you will need two 4-inch-by-1/2-inch-by-8-foot-long rails, 24 dog-ear pickets, two 6-inch-by-1-inch-by-8-foot inside frame rails, and two side frame rails. The length of the side frame rails will depend on your chosen fence height. For 4-foot-high fences, your side rails will need to be 3 feet long. For a 6-foot-high fence, you will need 5-foot-long side rails.
Cut your dog-ear pickets from 4-inch-by-1/2-inch stock lumber, using a table saw with a miter fence. Set your miter fence to cut 90-degree angles. Clamp 5 pickets together on their narrow side, making sure the ends of each picket are flush with each other at both ends of the bundle. Run bundles through your table saw until you cut enough flat pickets to go all the way around the perimeter of your fence.
Dog-ear each picket bundle next. Reset your miter fence to make 45-degree angle cuts. Lay each picket bundle on its four-inch side and cut off the top left corner of each bundle, then repeat for the top right corner. Sand the cut areas on each picket using coarse, medium, fine and extra-fine sandpaper.
Leave your miter fence set for 45-degree cuts. Clamp the 6-inch-by-1-inch top and bottom back frame boards in bundles of five, set on their 1-inch edges. Miter the bottom left corner of each bundle, then the bottom right corner, as shown in the diagram that accompanies this step. Repeat for the 6-inch-by-1-inch back frame side rail bundles.
Lay a 4-foot-by-8-foot sheet of plywood across two sawhorses. Use a carpenter's try square to check that all four corners make 90-degree angles. Snap a chalk line along the 8-foot side of the plywood sheet, 2 inches from the bottom. Snap a second chalk line 4 inches above the first one. Snap a third chalk line 2 inches from the top, and a 4th chalk line 4 inches below that. This makes your picket layout guide. This will help you keep your picket bottoms lined up straight and level.
Lay your one top rail and one bottom rail between the 4-inch-wide chalk lines on the layout guide. Clamp the rails in place at each end so that they do not move while you are laying out your pickets. Lay your pickets across the rails. If you have chosen a 4-foot-high fence, your pickets will lay flush with the plywood at both the top and bottom. If you have chosen a 6-foot-high fence, your pickets will overlap the plywood at the top.
Nail pickets to the top and bottom rails. If you want to save time and effort at this point, use a nail gun. Otherwise, use 1-inch long finishing tacks and a tack hammer. Using larger hammers or nails may split your pickets.
Assemble the back frame as shown in the diagram that accompanies this step. Use a top and bottom back frame piece, and two back frame side rails. Place metal L-shaped corner brackets on each corner. Drill 1/8-inch diameter pilot holes. Countersink all holes and screw the brackets into place using 1/2-inch long, 1/4-inch diameter wood screws.
Place the finished back frame on top of the rail side of the picket section you made in Step 7. The top and bottom edges of the back frame should line up approximately flush with the top and bottom rails of the picket section. Drill 1 1/4-inch deep, 1/8-inch diameter pilot holes every 6 inches through the back frame and into the rails, stopping before you drill into the pickets. Countersink all holes. Secure the back frame to the picket section using 1 1/4-inch long, 1/4-inch diameter wood screws. Make as many picket fence sections as you need to go around the perimeter of your fence, minus the width of all the gates you will have.