Tag Archives: fence

A Tongue-and-Groove Infill Fence

tongue and groove fence

Tongue-and-groove boards on the infill and 6 x 6 posts distinguish this fence.

The dog and I often pass this fence on our morning walks. The height and use of 6 x 6 posts make it a bit imposing, and the use of tongue-and-groove boards create a solid privacy border. The slat spacing on the lattice renders it relatively impermeable as well, an effect (if deliberate) that might have been better accomplished with a solid board or two.

The gate features an attractive reverse arch at the top trimmed with a thin strip to prevent water absorption through the board ends, an instance of form complementing function. The gate way, though, leaves something to be desired in the execution of the stacking of elements. Better (though more effort) to half-lap at least one of those layers

An arbor-topped fence

arbor-topped fence

Detail from an arbor-topped fence.

My morning walk with the dog sometimes takes me through alleys in the neighborhood. These are, understandably, often utilitarian spaces–waste and recycling containers feature prominently–but a surprising number of people take care with the backs of their homes even though the won’t be seen by many. There’s a one-block stretch of well-paved alley where every garage s neatly maintained in styles to complement the houses, complete with Craftsman-appropriate lighting and numbering. On another, an espaliered tree is carefully trained to outline an unassuming side window.  Continue reading


One of the side sections. Deciding how and where to adjust the fence to meet the slope of the yard required quite a bit of head scratching.

One of the side sections. Deciding how and where to adjust the fence to meet the slope of the yard required quite a bit of head scratching.

To keep fence construction manageable we tackled the three sections (two sides and back) one at a time. Construction began with a materials list–gravel, concrete, pressure treated posts, cedar, and stainless steel screws–and a trip to Mill Outlet Lumber. Then it was time for demolition. Taking a chain link fence down is relatively easy, but posts set in concrete are another matter. If the posts weren’t located where new posts would go in, I cut the posts off with a reciprocating saw where they met concrete. Digging out the posts that had to go was less pleasant.

The fence in potentia

The fence in potentia.

There’s a surprising amount of debate online about whether posts should be set in concrete or alternating levels of dirt and gravel. I opted for a base of about 6 inches of gravel in a thirty inch posthole, then concrete. To avoid showing the perforated faces of the pressure treated posts, they were wrapped in cedar once the concrete had set. To avoid visible fasteners, I screwed the fence rails to the posts using pocket holes drilled with a Kreg jig. With the rails in place, the infill went in fairly quickly.

In another departure from the source design, only a few sections were topped with the gable roof. To produce the gable, two boards were butted together at a 90 degree angle and screwed together. Other posts were capped with a simple 7″ x 7″ beveled cap. I ripped a 2″ x 8″ to width, then cut it into squares. The bevel was cut on the table saw with the blade set to about 7 degrees. After sanding, the caps were fastened to the posts using silicon caulk.

The back section of fence.

The back section of fence.




Shadow Box Fence

Here’s an interesting variation on the the shadow box fence (where the infill boards are placed on alternate sides of the rails) taken in Kamakura outside Tokyo. Using 5 rails here instead of the more typical two or three imparts the impression of a basket weave. Metal flashing protects the top from water although the wood has been left to weather naturally.

A shoadow box fence in Kamakura

A shadow box fence in Kamakura

Short Bamboo Fence

A bamboo fence guards the edge of a stairway on the grounds of Naritasan Shinshoji Temple in Narita. Exposed like this, the bamboo will deteriorate and need to be replaced. You can buy artificial bamboo to replicate the look without the maintenance.

Short bamboo fence. Narita.

Short bamboo fence. Narita.


Detail of fence.


Functional but ugly.

Functional but ugly.

I thought about fences for what seemed like years, looked all over for inspiration, contemplated material lists in Manila, shot promising examples in Japan. We were replacing a 40 inch cyclone fence and wanted something more appealing than the typical lattice over board infill designs popular in the area (imagine pressure treated 4×4 posts, pressure treated 2×4 rails, 1×6 cedar infill to 5 feet and a foot of 2 inch lattice above), although anything would have been an improvement over the chain link.


  • Suitable for the house
  • Wood
  • Scaled for a small yard
  • 6 feet high with a ~5 foot privacy panel and ~1 foot lattice top
This design featured in a California Redwood Association brochure provided the starting point for our design. Source.

This design featured in a California Redwood Association brochure provided the starting point for our design. Source.

It was surprisingly difficult to find something we liked (see here and here for useful resources). In the end, we modified a design featured in a California Redwood Association brochure. The six-foot high fence consists of alternating panels of of four- and eight-foot length supported by four-by-four posts. Alternating wide and narrow boards (wide-narrow-narrow-wide) compose the privacy section of each panel, but the tops of the short and long panels differ. The short panels feature a simple vertical and a gable tops the long panels. We liked the alternating gable tops and the use of wide and narrow boards but used panels of the same length, spacing posts 6 feet on center to suit the size of the yard.

Concept drawing for the fence.

Concept drawing for the fence.