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Cheapskate Picket Fence

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I needed to make a fence for my new dog. Lady has the dangerous habit of roaming about the busy county road that we live on. I love my dog, but I'm also cheap. I thought I could get by with spending a few hundred bucks on an electronic fence, but then I figured it wasn't in the budget, so I was forced to build one myself. I decided a picket fence was the way to go.


Cheapskate picket fence
I saved tons of money building this fence by using salvaged lumber and cutting 6-ft. pickets in half.

I don't consider myself a packrat, but I hate to throw away stuff that is still useful. I have the good fortune to own a little land and couple of outbuildings, which allows me to squirrel away surplus materials. I was a general contractor for many years and have gathered quite a collection. A few years ago, I salvaged a bunch of the cedar boards from a deck we demolished. The eight 4x4 cedar posts and more than 20 cedar 2x4s were almost enough for the entire structural portion of my new fence.   


The boards needed a little cleaning up before they could be used. After checking every board for nails and screws using my metal detector, I ran them all through my surface planer. One side of every board was painted. I planed that side last, thinking the paint would gum up my planer knives, and I was right. I ended up with almost $300 of lumber that only cost me a few hours of work, plus a $50 set of knives—not bad.


I couldn't find pickets smaller than 6 ft. to buy, but I didn't need or want a fence that high anyway. After I gave it some thought, my cheapskate gene kicked in, and I decided to buy 6-ft. gothic pickets for $1.50 each and cut them in two. I bought 120 pickets and cut them so that I ended up with 32-in. square-end pickets and 40-in. gothic-top pickets, 120 of each type.


I staggered the pickets every other one and held the fence a few inches off the ground to make grass trimming easier, so the fence is effectively more than 43 in. tall. Lady is a small golden retriever. I'm pretty sure she's capable of jumping 43 in. high, but I also know she's not that ambitious. 


The whole fence ended up costing me $40 for four extra posts, $180 for 120 pickets, $60 for hardware and $40 for child labor. That's a grand total of $440, a fraction of what the fence companies wanted to charge and only $100 more than an invisible fence would have cost me. Now I just have to find some cheap paint.


— Mark Petersen, Contributing Editor


Check out these stories for more tips on saving money:


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Save Energy by Closing Heat Registers

Build a Privacy Fence






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  • Comments
    • by posted on

      I went with the invisible fence and other than the occasional battery change have zero maintenance and an unobstructed view - to each his own

    • by posted on

      I bought an invisible fence at first but because I live in the country and my yard has no clear boundries, it was a training nightmare. If I lived in town I would have went that route as well.

    • by posted on

      Plus, you will have years of maintenance on a small fence. And the dog may decide to dig under it. I fenced in four acres with invisible fence for $500.

    • by posted on


      posted on

      01-10-2013 7:44 AM

      "I bought an invisible fence at first but because I live in the country and my yard has no clear boundries, it was a training nightmare. If I lived in town I would have went that route as well."

      I live in the country and have trained three dogs to the invisible fence. Well, actually, they pretty much train themselves. They only have to get zapped a couple times to learn the boundary. Of coarse, my dogs are smarter than average, being border collies and a standard poodle.

    • by posted on

      I like your idea and if I didn't have four Newfoundland dogs, I might try it.  :)  I did go "cheap" for my fence.  Reused a bunch of metal stakes driven deep, attached 2x4's to them for uprights using u bolts and then attached recycled wire fencing making a 7 foot fence.  Doggies are contained once again.  I have a lot of rock and ledge underground.  Being able to dig post holes is hit or miss.  And counting on getting an exact measurement between them is next to impossible since sometimes there is just too much solid rock to move.  Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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