Another DIY Modern Fence Project

DIY Modern Fence

Since the day we purchased our home, the two fences that divided our driveway and rear alley from the backyard drove me nuts. They were both the type of pre-built, cheap fence panels you can purchase at a big-box store (nothing wrong with that) and ours were poorly installed and never painted/protected. The end result were fences that were rotten, warped, and hanging off the hinges.

old fence

The old fence that divided the driveway from our backyard.

In typical obsessive, control-issue fashion, I wanted to design and build them myself, and I’ve always LOVED the modern horizontal designs. Finally, I wanted them to complement the pool security fence, so off to the internet I went in search for inspiration. Once we found similar designs that we liked, I went to work measuring and working it up in Adobe Illustrator, right down to the pica.

Driveway Fence

First was removing the old fence, which was incredibly easy considering how rotten everything was. And I immediately ran into an issue.

chipping away at concrete

With the old fence gone, I had to remove a bunch of old concrete.

Under a thin layer of topsoil, I found what used to be the old concrete border that divided the backyard from the driveway. The previous owner chipped away a chunk of it and cemented their fence post, which had left a nice 4” square hole right where I wanted to put MY fence post. So instead of getting right to digging a post-hole and setting a new post, I spent three hours with my hammer drill trying to break through two different layers of concrete.

setting post

Post set and waiting for the concrete to dry.

Eventually, my effort and the power-tool won and I managed to chip away a large enough portion of old concrete to set my new post. I also set the two side pieces by bolting them to the brick walls on either side.

I then went to work on mounting the horizontal pieces. As I did with the pool fence, I actually water-sealed before I mounted each piece so I was sure all edges and ends were sealed. I wanted a ½” space between each board, which was easily handled by using a piece of the aluminum tubing from the pool fence project. I ensured the bottom board was perfectly level, and then used the tubing to keep the spacing perfect while I added each additional board. I wanted both sides (backyard and driveway) to look the same, so in order to ensure privacy, I offset one side by 3”. This still gives the fence a lighter feeling but keeps the backyard private.

horizontal slats - modern fence

Mounting the horizontal slats on the outside half.

As with the pool fence, building the gate without a perfectly level surface was a challenge, but it came out perfectly. I used a gate anti-sag kit that is hidden inside the fence in case I need to use it. The turnbuckle is fairly easy to access through the slats if the gate starts to sag.

modern fence gate

Building and hanging the gate, complete with anti-sag kit.

I then added a flat piece along the top of the fence to finish it off, and added an 8” brushed metal cabinet handle on either side. A typical gate latch keeps it closed, with a hole drilled through the fence (finished with a short length of the same aluminum tubing) for a simple cable-pull.

Hinges for both fences are heavy duty brushed metal interior door hinges. I just trimmed the wood slats slightly and inset the hinges so the gates would sit flush. Because of the amount of wood, these gates ARE fairly heavy and I didn’t want the hinges stripping out, so I actually drilled all the way through the posts and the gate and used long bolts and large washers to ensure they’ll be nice and stable for years to come.

Typical gate latch with cable pull through the fence. Backyard view (l) and exterior view (r).

Typical gate latch with cable pull through the fence. Backyard view (l) and exterior view (r).

We’re happy with the final result!

before-and-after-modern-fence

Nice improvement! Before (l) and after (r).

Alley Fence

The alleyway fence was much the same. We call it an alley but it’s really just a 10′ easement for the neighborhood power lines. It’s filled with grass and is never used. Despite that, we did want to put in a wide gate in case we ever needed it.

alley fence

Original alleyway fence which is really just two badly sagging gates.

The only challenge here was that I had to add a row of bricks to bring the brick patio up to the same level. The old owner just gave up after putting in three bricks, leaving an uneven area. Thankfully, we have a pile of original bricks that were never used for the patio that I could pull from. They’re the exact same size and have the same aging as the patio bricks.

masonry

Before (l) and after (r) after some amateur brick/masonry work using original bricks.

The alleyway fence is single-sided (kinda). I didn’t want to waste wood making this fence double-sided as it’s rarely used and only our backyard neighbors see it (and they’re never outside, anyway). But, I didn’t want our neighbors to be able to see through the ½” spaces so instead of using full-width pieces, I use 3” strips that JUST covered up the spaces on our side. A beautiful unintended consequence of this is the morning sun shines through and makes the fence “glow” quite nicely.

Fini!

glowing fence

The morning sun shining through the fence.

Next up (someday!) … putting in a matching fence around our loud, eye-sore pool pump system.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions!

18 comments

  • This gate looks great. I want to build one myself.

    Can you tell me what type of slats you used?

    • Hi Daniel… thanks for the comment! The slats are simple 1″x6″ that are kiln-dried. I believe they come in 8′ lengths. I didn’t get the best grade lumber so they’ve got some knots, etc. but they’re holding up well. Hope this helps!

  • Thanks for posting this! I really like how you’ve built your new fence. Installing the wood panels horizontally rather than vertically looks very nice. The metal handle is also a very nice touch to give this fence more of a modern looking gate latch.

  • Hi, so glad I found your post, I’m looking to do something like this, but normally the idealist, and the hubs or dad are the muscle… can you tell me what type or size wood you used for the gate itself & stain? Love the color. Great work!!!

    • Hi Priscilla… thanks for the comment! We used fairly common lumber from the local Home Depot. The slats are 1×6, the posts are 4×4 and the gate frame is made of 2x4s. It’s not the highest quality wood so we’re seeing a tiny bit of warping but so far, nothing bad.The stain we used is Thompson’s Water Seal – Semi-Transparent in “Cedar” color.

      Hope this helps!

  • Hi, My next-door neighbor and I share a fence that runs along my driveway and the side of her house that has not windows. It’s falling down–literally–and while she doesn’t have the money to put up a fence except the stuff from Home Depot I would like something more like what you did. Is this a job for someone who knows more than a little about fence-building? I believe she wants her son-in-law to put up the fence but I don’t know his skill level. Any suggestions? Is this something I could propose and also help with. I’m handy with tools and if given the right instructions I’ll give anything a try once! The other option is to not replace the fence. As I mentioned above the fence isn’t really hiding any windows in either of our houses. Thank you so much.

    • Hello, Mollie… thanks for commenting!

      I think that this project is completely “doable” within the range of someone with decent tool skills and the willingness to make it happen. It’s really no more difficult that putting up those pre-built Home Depot fence sections.

      If the old fence is falling over, most likely the old fence posts are rotten so they’ll need to be torn out. New posts should be put in about 6′ apart, but with a fence like this I’d recommend 4′ since the horizontal slats will want to warp/bow if you have lots of distance between posts.

      I think the most important part is to make sure your posts are buried to the correct depth (the general rule is 1/3 of the above ground height should be buried – so if you have a 6′ fence, you need a 8-9′ post with 2-3′ underground.) Make sure your posts are perfectly vertical and in-line with each other along the fence line. Also make sure they’re spaced evenly 4-6′ apart. If your posts are not aligned and spaced perfectly, then trying to get the horizontal slats will be difficult.

      The quality of wood you get is important. The higher-quality and harder the wood is, the less you’re going to see warpage. But ALL wood warps to some degree.

      Gates are probably the most complex and difficult to do… to ensure they’re square, etc. But you may not have any need for gates in your fence.

      I’m happy to answer other questions… contact me through our contact form and we can start an email chain.

  • L. Alfonso DuLuc

    Hi, Could you post a photograph showing the inside part of the fence with the 3″ strips so one may see the effect? The outside looks wonderful. We just did that part and are very pleased with it. Now we need to do the inside for privacy.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Alphonso… thanks for commenting! I’ll try to get a photo for you, but I should be clear that the side with the 3″ strips is actually the side we DON’T see. It is the side that faces our alleyway. If you want both sides for privacy, I suggest you use the same width board as the first side and just offset them slightly.

  • Beautiful fence!! What did you use to attach your frame to the brick pillars?

    • Hi Shari… thanks so much and sorry for the late reply. We used a simple 2×4 and anchored it into the bricks using a masonry/brick sleeve anchor. Hope this helps!

  • I love your fence. Any idea how I can do this with neighbors on each side of me? My right neighbor has a white vinyl fence and my left neighbor has a chain link fence. Would I install the 1×6 boards on the inside, facing the house?

    • Hi Ivy… thanks for commenting! I’m glad you like the fence! Yes, I would install the 1×6 so that YOU see them. Because your neighbors have their own fences, there is no need to create your fence double-sided.

  • Hi!
    I built a fence in the same style last fall and now it’s time to get to work on the gate. Any advice you could pass along? Specifics on hinges you used? Does it swing in or out? Anywhere I can find step by step instructions?
    Thanks!

    • Wow, am I late on THIS reply… my apologies, Melissa. I’m afraid I don’t have step-by-step instructions as I just kinda “winged it.” For the hinges, I just used heavy-duty stainless steel door hinges from the local hardware store (I bought mine at Home Depot).

      If you really wanted the gate to sit flush next to the hinged post, you’ll have to inset the hinges a bit, like any interior door on your house.

      Because the gate was quite heavy, I drilled all the way through the hinged post and put bolts through on each hinge and gate. Hope that makes sense.

      Hope this is some help more than a year later!

  • Any chance you recall what stain you used?

    Thanks

    • Hi Jayson… sorry for the late reply! We used Thompson’s WaterSeal Semi-Transparent in the “Natural Cedar” color.

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