# How do you know how many pickets you need?

When building a fence, one of the most important considerations is how many pickets you will need. The number of pickets required depends on the length of the fence and the spacing between the pickets. Properly calculating the amount of pickets ensures you purchase the right quantity and avoid wasting materials and money.

In this article, we will discuss the key factors in determining picket quantity for a fence project and provide a simple formula to figure out exactly how many you will need. Read on for a comprehensive guide on calculating your picket needs for a new fence.

## Determining the Length of Your Fence

The first step in finding the number of pickets needed is to accurately measure the length of your fence line. You will need to measure the full perimeter that will be enclosed by the fence. Use a tape measure to get the lengths of each side of the fence area. Measure in feet if using standard picket sizes.

For straight fence sections, simply measure the distance end-to-end. For curved or angled sections, you may need to divide the area into smaller straight segments and measure each one. Add up the measurements for all sides to get the total fence length.

When calculating, make sure to consider gate locations and account for these openings in your overall length measurements. Knowing the precise linear footage of fencing required is crucial for determining material needs.

### Tips for Measuring Fence Length

– Use stakes and string to outline the fence line if needed
– Account for slopes by measuring along the ground rather than horizontally
– Convert measurements to feet for standard picket sizes
– Round up final length to account for extra pickets at ends and gates
– Double check measurements and have someone else verify for accuracy

Accurately measuring your unique fence site is an important first task when planning a new fence with pickets. This will allow you to progress to the next steps of planning out your picket layout.

## Picket Size and Spacing

Now that you have your fence length measured, the next considerations are the size and spacing of the pickets. Standard picket sizes are usually either 4 inches, 5 inches, or 6 inches wide. The spacing between pickets is commonly between 3-4 inches. Wider spacing creates a more open and transparent look, while narrower spacing provides more privacy.

It is important to know the planned picket width and gap spacing in order to calculate the number you will need. Wider pickets and smaller gaps will require more material per linear foot than narrower pickets and bigger gaps. Think about the look you want for the fence and choose appropriate picket sizing.

You may want to mock up a small section with sample pickets at your desired spacing to visualize the final proportions. This can help inform your picket and spacing choices for the full project. Factor the planned size and spacing into your calculations.

### Common Picket Size and Spacing Combinations

– 4 inch pickets with 3 inch gaps
– 5 inch pickets with 3 inch gaps
– 6 inch pickets with 4 inch gaps

Standardizing with common size and spacing combinations will make planning and purchasing simpler.

## Calculating the Number of Pickets

Now we can put together the length of the fence and the picket size and spacing to calculate the estimated number of pickets for the project.

The basic formula is:

(Total fence length in feet) x (Number of pickets per foot) = Total number of pickets

To find out how many pickets per foot, divide 12 inches per foot by the planned spacing + picket width.

For example, for 5 inch pickets with 4 inch spacing:

12 inches divided by (5 inch picket + 4 inch gap) = 12 inches divided by 9 inches = 1.33 pickets per foot

Then multiply the total fence length by the number of pickets per foot:

For example, if the fence is 100 feet long:

(100 feet) x (1.33 pickets per foot) = 133 pickets

So for a 100 foot fence with 5 inch pickets and 4 inch gaps, you would need approximately 133 pickets.

You can modify the formula with your specific measurements:

Total length of fence (feet) x [12 inches divided by (your picket width + spacing)] = Total pickets needed

The final number provides an estimate of the quantity of pickets to purchase and use for your fencing project.

### Picket Quantity Calculation Example

 Total fence length 20 feet Picket width 4 inches Picket spacing 3 inches Picket width + spacing 4 + 3 = 7 inches 12 inches divided by 7 inches 1.71 pickets per foot 20 feet x 1.71 pickets per foot 34.2 pickets (round up to 35 pickets)

## Adjusting for Gates, Overlap, and Waste

When ordering and purchasing pickets, you will want to account for a few additional factors beyond just the basic fence length calculations:

Gates: Add 5-10 extra pickets per gate to use as filler pieces around the opening.

Overlap: If your design requires overlapping pickets, purchase 5-10% more to allow for overlapped areas.

Waste: Have 5-10% additional pickets on hand for mistakes, damages, or lean on slopes.

For example, if your initial picket count was 100, you may want to purchase 110-120 to have extras available. Factor in these extras as you finalize your picket order.

Having a few extra pickets can save you time and money compared to buying more later on. It is better to slightly overestimate than to run short during installation.

## Picking the Right Picket Material

Pickets are available in a variety of materials including wood, PVC, and metal. Common options are:

### Wood

– Cedar – Naturally rot-resistant, aromatic. Requires some ongoing maintenance.
– Pressure treated – Inexpensive, pressure process protects against rot and insects. Has an unnatural green/brown tint initially.
– Redwood – Beautiful color and texture. Decay resistant. More expensive than other woods.

### PVC

– No required maintenance or painting
– Mimics look of real wood grain patterns
– Resists moisture damage and decay
– Can become brittle and fade over time in the sun

### Metal

– Durable, long-lasting, resilient material
– Typically made from galvanized or coated steel
– Requires little maintenance
– Prone to rusting if low quality or unprotected metal

Consider how much maintenance you are willing to do, the look you are going for, and your budget when selecting a picket material. Cedar and redwood provide the most traditional aesthetic if properly finished. PVC is completely maintenance free. Metal lasts forever but can have industrial aesthetic.

Once you know how many pickets you need, you can map out the layout prior to installation. Things to decide when planning the layout:

– Staggered vs. straight line picket ends
– Bordering pickets along edges or post-to-post
– Angled vs. stepped pickets on sloped sections
– Finished side out or both sides finished
– Corner post picket configuration

Marking a section with painters tape, string, or chalk can allow you to visualize the final spacing and arrangement. This is helpful for confirming even spacing and getting the proportions right.

Create a detailed installation plan noting the quantities and dimensions calculated to make constructing the fence smoother. Don’t forget to check local regulations for any applicable fencing codes.

## Installing the New Picket Fence

When the pickets are purchased and layout finalized, you’re ready for installation:

– Mark post hole positions based on layout spacing
– Dig holes to required depth based on fence height
– Set posts in holes and hold plumb until concrete sets
– Allow concrete footings to cure before installing pickets
– Attach bottom fence rail between posts
– Start by snapping center picket line on bottom rail
– Confirm consistent spacing between pickets
– Use clamps, jig, or story stick to align spacing
– Work outwards from centered line towards edges
– Attach next rail(s) working upwards
– Check for level and plumb picket lines each rail
– Touch up paint/stain as needed when complete

Taking the time to properly install the fence with your pre-determined picket count will get your project off on the right foot. Maintaining uniform spacing and alignment as you work creates an eye-catching finished look.

Follow these tips to get the longest life from your new picket fence:

– Inspect regularly for damage, loose pickets, or soil erosion
– Repair as needed to prevent further deterioration
– Apply fresh sealant/stain periodically based on manufacturer
– Watch for fungus or mold growth and troubleshoot drainage if present
– Adjust any pickets that become skewed to maintain straight lines
– Plan for full picket replacement after approximately 10-15 years
– Replace rotten posts or rails as necessary

Proper maintenance will extend the service life and keep your fence looking like new. Catching minor repairs early prevents bigger problems down the road.

## Conclusion

Calculating the exact number of pickets needed for your fence project takes careful planning and measurement. Start by accurately determining the total linear footage you need to enclose. Next, decide on ideal picket size and spacing for the look you want. Use a simple formula to estimate total picket quantity based on the fence length and number of pickets per foot. Finally, add extras for gates, overlap, and waste. Order 5-10% more pickets than your base calculation to have spares on hand. Use your pre-determined picket count to create an optimized layout. Follow the manufacturer’s spacing recommendations during installation for best results. Your new picket fence will provide security, curb appeal, and style for years to come.