The Essential Guide to Planning Your Fence Picket Needs

Installing a new picket fence can transform the look of your property and provide increased privacy. But nothing’s more frustrating than getting halfway through building your fence, only to find you’ve run short on pickets. To avoid this headache, it’s essential to accurately estimate the number of pickets your project requires.

Follow our tips and you’ll be able to plan your materials with confidence, complete your fence on time and on budget.

Calculate the Total Perimeter of Your Fence

The first step is measuring the full length and width of the area you want to fence. Use a measuring tape to find the distances along all sides, then add those numbers together to get your total linear perimeter footage.

Be sure to account for any gates or openings in your fence line. You’ll need to subtract the width of each gate to get an accurate perimeter measurement.

Choose Your Ideal Picket Size and Spacing

Picket fences are available with a range of common picket widths, usually 3″, 4″, 5″ or 6″. Wider pickets span a larger area, requiring fewer pickets overall but providing less privacy.

how many fence pickets do i need

The gap between your pickets, known as picket spacing, also varies based on your privacy needs:

  • Privacy fences: 1/4″ gap between pickets
  • Decorative fences: 2″ – 4″ gap between pickets

A tighter picket spacing creates a more opaque barrier but requires more pickets per foot.

Use Our Picket Estimator Formula

Once you know your fence perimeter and picket specs, simply plug those numbers into our formula to estimate the total pickets required:

Total Pickets = Fence Perimeter / (Picket Width + Picket Spacing)

For example, if you have 100 linear feet of fence perimeter and plan to use 4″ wide pickets with 1/4″ spacing between them, the math would be:

100 ft perimeter / (4″ picket width + 0.25″ spacing) = 2,000 inches / 4.25 inches = 471 Pickets

Factor in Your Fence Height

The height of your fence does not directly impact the number of pickets needed. However, taller fences require posts and framing that can support the additional wind load and forces on the structure.

Common fence heights are 4′, 5′ and 6′. Make sure to choose a height that fits your property layout and desired level of privacy and security.

Account for the Width of Any Gates

Remember to subtract the width of any gates from your total perimeter measurement, as gates will not have pickets across them.

For large gate openings, you may need to purchase pickets separately for the gate construction itself. The pickets can be cut to size to fit the gate frame.

Select Your Picket Material

Wood pickets are a popular traditional choice, with options like cedar, pine, redwood or treated lumber. But today’s fences can also be constructed from materials like:

  • Vinyl
  • Composite
  • Wrought iron/metal
  • PVC

Consider the pros and cons of each in terms of budget, durability and aesthetics for your particular property.

Choose Between Standard or Overlapping Pickets

The standard method is mounting each picket flush in a rail frame. But overlapping pickets can actually use fewer pickets overall in some fence areas.

The overlapping technique involves letting pickets overlap each other, either diagonally or in a shingle pattern. This provides more privacy with fewer individual pickets.

Overlapping adds complexity though, so it may increase material costs and installation time.

Factor in Future Repairs and Maintenance

We recommend ordering 10-15% extra pickets beyond your initial estimate. Having spare pickets on hand lets you easily replace any that become damaged without having to source more materials.

Environmental factors like moisture, sun exposure and pests impact the lifespan of picket fences. Schedule periodic inspection and maintenance to maximize durability.

Review Any Safety Considerations

Proper picket spacing helps avoid potential safety issues like children getting limbs stuck between pickets. Building codes provide standards for safe picket spacing.

Use mounting hardware designed for fencing to ensure your structure remains secure. Visually inspect for damage after major storms.

Beyond the pickets themselves, other costs may include rails, posts, hardware, delivery fees and professional installation (if not doing it yourself). Get quotes from multiple suppliers to find the best value.

Accurately estimating your picket count is a key step in planning any fence project. Follow this guide and you’ll be able to determine your needs with confidence. Happy building!

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