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Picture of DIY Fence With Removable Sections
middle-open.jpg

We live on a corner, so half of our yard space is exposed to the public. We also built a bocce court alongside the house. For those reasons, we wanted to build a fence to cover our air conditioning equipment. This is also where we keep our garbage cans and recycling bins.

The challenge was to build something that would still allow for easy servicing of the equipment. Our solution was to build a fence with removable panels.

The project is pretty much the same as building a fixed fence. The secret is to use fence brackets and leave out some of the screws.

Be safe

Any construction project can be dangerous or fatal, so please take appropriate safety precautions and consult a professional when you need help.

Use a respirator when cutting wood, especially if it's pressure-treated. Use hearing protection when using power tools. Always wear safety glasses.

I am not a professional, and I am just sharing my experience for information and entertainment purposes. I cannot be held responsible for any damage or injuries that result from actions you take.

Steps

These are the steps:

  1. Choose materials and determine dimensions
  2. Prepare the posts and set them
  3. Mount brackets and horizontal boards
  4. Attach pickets
  5. Add decorative boards to the top and bottom of each section
  6. Make the gate

Step 1: Materials and Dimensions

Picture of Materials and Dimensions
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Our fence is built from cedar. It's lightweight and great for outdoor projects. While cedar can sometimes be expensive relative to pressure-treated pine, siding and fence boards are often cheaper because they're knotty and only surfaced on one side.

Cedar ages nicely and doesn't require painting or staining.

The fence pickets are knotty green cedar 1x4s that are surfaced on one side and rough on the other. I ran mine through the planer, but it wasn't really necessary.

The horizontal supports and gate frame are made from cedar 2x4s.

The posts are cedar 4x4s, installed with "no mix" post cement.

Everything is attached with 2" or 1-1/4" stainless steel screws. If you use pressure-treated wood instead, choose compatible screws.

The key components are fence brackets that are attached to the post to hold each fence section. They are similar to joist hangers. The 2x4 horizontal boards just rest in the brackets instead of being screwed in like they would be in a standard fence.

You can make the fence any size you need to suit your purpose. Ours has 1 gate and 4 separate sections. The sections are about 44" tall and 50" wide, but the exact dimensions will be determined by where you have to place your fence posts.

Sources

I have included links to some of the materials and tools I used. I highly recommend shopping from local suppliers when you can. With any DIY project, you're likely to make multiple trips to the store, and you're going to want advice from experts.

None of this content is sponsored.

The wood for this project is from Boards and Beams in Fairfield, NJ. The fence brackets and some of the hardware and tools are from American Royal Hardware in Montclair, NJ.

Tools

Depending on the dimensions and how fancy you want to get, this build can be done with a saw and a drill/driver.

However, I used a miter saw to cut the wood and to bevel the post tops, a table saw to rip some of the pickets and bevel the top boards, and a surface planer to smooth the pickets.

To attach the top boards, I used a pocket hole jig. You could also use glue or drive screws from the top, or you can leave out the top boards.

Here are many of the tools I used. Some of my tools are older and these links may be to newer models or similar items.

  • Drill/driver
  • Circular saw or miter saw for cross cuts
  • Table saw for rip cuts
  • Pocket hole jig and screws to attach top boards
  • Speed square, a guide for making circular saw cuts and squaring up joints
  • Clamps to hold pickets in place before they're screwed in
  • Level and post level
  • Tape measure
  • Post hole digger (try to borrow one from a neighbor before you buy one)
  • Bucket for water for post cement
  • Safety
    • Ear protection
    • Safety glasses
    • Respirator with 3M 2097 cartridge

Don't let the lack of a table saw stop you from a project like this. If you plan your post spacing well, you won't need to rip any of the pickets.

JohnM15693 months ago
Great project, BUT there should be a minimum clearance of 2' around heat pump condenser units. You will reduce the effeciency, make the units work harder and reduce their life expectancy.
MarkSindone6 months ago
Does your fencing keep out the wildlife though? I reckon I could use a setup like this for my home in Sydney too, but I think we get quite a lot of critters out in the night so we want to make sure that if we've got rubbish storage cans in the enclosure that the critters would be deterred from sniffing around and getting to them. Looks like it might be worth our while to install a netting over the top eh?
Bungee cords (adjustables, so you can tighten them down!) on the trash bins to keep the lids on should do the job in most cases. Just pop them off when they're brought to the curb for trash day. The enclosure would just keep the bins from being tipped over, and make the outside look nicer.
jasonluther (author)  MarkSindone6 months ago
It does not keep critters out, I'm afraid.
UdyRegan7 months ago
It is really smart to use fences to conceal the eyesore of the compressor units. Previously, we only used partition panels but they wouldn't stand strong winds for too long. Fences are a better idea that would work!
Alcheese7 months ago
This looks great! I may have to build something like this to conceal a propane tank that we have on the side of our house. How long have you had yours up? I'm curious if there's been any wood movement with time that may affect the alignment of the horizontal 2x4's of the fence panel that sit into the brackets.
jasonluther (author)  Alcheese7 months ago
It's been up almost 3 years. The decorative top boards are warping, but I think they're also protecting the top 2x4s pretty well. The 2x4s seem to be in good shape, and I haven't have trouble removing the panels.
That's great. Thanks!
jeanniel17 months ago
I love the modular design, and making it accessible. I'm going to consider something like this as we have a long row of garbage bins alongside the building. Great idea!
MichaelP5857 months ago
It looks great, and I like the idea of using the fence brackets. I think that you put the fence too close to the air conditioner condenser where it can impede air flow. It will make the AC work harder to pull air across the coils. I am thinking of build one of these too, but I think I'll leave at least a foot around the condensor or put more space between the fence slats.
Syncubus7 months ago
I'd be interested to know how having the fence that close to your air-exchanger affects your power bill. Typical guidelines call for two feet of clearance around the unit and five feet above it. Not being able to 'breathe' makes them work harder and can shorten their service life.

Check with your manufacturer for specific recommendations.
https://inspectapedia.com/aircond/HVAC_Clearance_D...
jasonluther (author)  Syncubus7 months ago
Thank you for the comment! I did not consider that. I'll add a note about that to the writeup.

My air handler is in an unconditioned attic, and the house has no insulation, so I will add that to the list of my A/C woes...
gblome1 Syncubus7 months ago
That was my first thought too.
HelenaTroy7 months ago
I can find a real use for this! well, with some slight tweaks. I need a "corral" for my wheelie bins to stop them getting blown about [I live in a wind-tunnel] but I also need access for collection. Never occurred to me to put a gate on it! till now. Thanks so much for posting.
GrueMaster7 months ago
Looks great. I did something similar with my picket fence that surrounds my back yard. One section in the upper yard can be removed so I can back my truck in, one in the lower yard so I can get my riding lawnmower in. They have been extremely handy.

I used mostly prebuilt fence sections from the Home Depot, but a few had to be done from scratch (slope area, gates, etc). I too have a problem with the pockets I used (2x4 joist hangers).