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How to Install a Vinyl Fence

House One editor and DIY expert Jenn Largesse installs a low-maintenance fence around her yard to bring it up to code.

House One editor Jenn Largesse’s backyard renovation project continues to progress. With the new shipping container pool installed, code requires the entire yard to be fenced in. Opting for low maintenance, she decides on a 6-foot vinyl fence product that more than meets code requirements.

How to Install a Vinyl Fence

  1. For yards with pools, select a fence that will meet local code requirements. These fences often need to be 4-feet-tall and will have picket spacing requirements, so be sure to consult the local jurisdiction.
  2. Be sure to call local utility location companies, as well. These services are free and they’ll ensure that you know of any underground utilities like electric, gas, water, or sewer before you dig.
  3. Drive stakes into the ground at the corners of the fence’s proposed location, and run a string line between them. Use a tape measure and landscape paint to mark the location of each of the post holes according to the manufacturer’s recommended spacing.
  4. Use a post hole digger to excavate holes for the posts. The holes need to be deeper than the frost line, so be sure to consult local codes as frost lines can vary by region. Use a tape measure to check the hole’s depth.
  5. After digging each hole, mix concrete mix in a wheelbarrow and fill the hole with the concrete to an approximate depth of two feet. Slide the vinyl fence post into the wet concrete and use a level to ensure it’s plumb from front to back and side to side. Make sure that the mortises are facing each other, not the yard. Before the post sets completely, use the rubber mallet to adjust the height so that the bottom of the mortise in the post is just slightly above the ground. When satisfied, backfill the rest of the hole with the excavated dirt. Let the cement cure for a day or two before moving on to the next step.
  6. Certain vinyl fencing systems utilize metal rails to beef up the bottom rail, and clips to hold the rails in place. If that’s the case, install the rails first and then the clips before sliding the bottom rail assemblies into the mortises in the posts.
  7. Use a screw gun to attach the side strips to each post. Use the mortise in the top of the bottom rail as a starting point, and then use the level to plumb the strip.
  8. Install pickets between the rails. For spaced pickets, be sure to consult local code enforcement as some jurisdictions require specific spacing. Unless the fence is following a very steep grade, don’t worry about cutting the pickets to a specific angle. The mortises in the top and bottom rails will hide the staggered board ends. For steep grades, it might be necessary to cut the top and bottom of the pickets to follow the grade. This doesn’t need to be exact but should be close so the rails can hide the gaps.
  9. Slide the top rail over the pickets and into the mortises in each post. From the inside of the post, drive a screw into the top rail so it’s unable to slide around and come loose. Finally, cap the posts to keep them from collecting rain and pests.

Resources

Jenn and Jon from Southway Fence install a Chesterfield Smooth White Vinyl Fence. The fence is manufactured by Bufftech, a CertainTeed brand. Jenn demonstrates how to dig a post hole with a post hole digger. John sets the vinyl post in quick-set concrete and uses a level and string line to finalize its position.

Jenn and John insert the steel-reinforced bottom rails between the posts, and then tap the vertical panel pieces into the groove with a rubber mallet—making trims to their height and width with a miter saw and table saw as needed—before capping them with the top rail. They use a drill driver to install a set screw and then secure the caps with PVC adhesive. Lastly, they hang the gate hardware and gate using a drill/driver.


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