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How to Build a Shadowbox Wood Fence

How to Build an Alternate Board Fence

Shadowbox fences feature boards alternating on both sides of the rails. They are an attractive option that give you more privacy in your backyard or other outdoor space. This type of wood fence provides a variety of other benefits including keeping children and pets contained, keeping unwanted animals from getting onto your property, and looking great from both sides of the fence – since both of them will have the same effect.

Follow the steps below and learn how to build a shadowbox style wood fence.

Skill Level: Intermediate
  1. Step 1 Build the Fence Posts

    Building Wood Fence Posts

    Space the posts to match the width of the fence boards. Space the posts so that you can attach the fence boards without having to cut them to width. If necessary you can make small adjustments as you install the boards so that they'll fit on a standard 6- or 8-foot rail.

  2. Step 2 Measure and Level Rails

    Measure height for fence rails
    Use mason's line and level to mark rail height in fence posts

    Lay out rails on the posts. Start at an end post and measure up from the ground to draw layout lines marking the location of each rail. Then transfer the layout lines to the other posts using a line level and mason’s line.

  3. Step 3 Hang Rails

    Hang fence rails

    Attach rails to the posts. Rail hangers are easy to use — just place them on the line and nail them to the posts. Then slide the rails in and nail the side flanges into the rail.

  4. Step 4 Make a Spacer

    Make spacer to hang fence boards

    You’ll need a spacer that is as wide as the space between your boards. Screw a 2x2 block to the top of the spacer so that when you hang it from the rail, the top of the spacer is level with the top of the boards. Screw a small torpedo level to the spacer so that you can tell if the boards are plumb.

  5. Step 5 Lay Out the Bottom of the Fence Boards

    Use mason's line to mark fence boards height

    Run a mason’s line between posts and level it at the desired height above the ground. The location of the line will affect the length of the vertical boards. Measure up from the mason’s line to the top of the post to determine the proper length of the fence boards.

  6. Step 6 Cut the Boards to Length

    Cut fence boards to length

    Clamp two or three boards together and cut them at the same time to speed up the job.

  7. Step 7 Install and Level the First Board

    Install and Level First Fence Board

    Put in the first board. Align a fence board with the mason’s line and butt it against the first post. Check that it is plumb and screw it to the rail with #8 2-inch deck screws.

  8. Step 8 Install Boards on One Side of the Fence

    Install boards on one side of the fence, for shadowbox fence

    Install boards on one side of the fence. Hang the spacer on the top rail and butt it against the first fence board. Butt a fence board against the spacer, check to make sure it’s plumb and screw the board to the rails. Work your way along the fence, positioning the spacer and screwing the boards in place.

  9. Step 9 Install Boards on the Other Side of the Fence

    Install boards on the other side of the fence, for shadowbox fence

    Install boards on the other side. Go to the other side of the fence. Put the spacer against the first post and install a board against the spacer. Install boards along the entire side until complete.

What You Need for This Project

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