If you have read any of my other DIY Series posts, then you will know that I would rather build than buy.
I have built a table and a section of fence (I still have two more sections of this fence to build).
Some of these projects turn out beautifully and I manage to save some money. Others are just functional, but the money I save makes it all worthwhile.
Compared to my other DIY Series, I have to tell you that building a pallet fence is a much more difficult project. You have to account for the slope of your yard, and use plumb bobs and levels to mark your posts – not to mention a lot of patience!
It is a whole new level of Do It Yourself, but the savings potential is huge…
Savings of $7,000 over 3 years
I completed one section of my pallet fence last summer and am attempting a longer section of about 120 feet this year.
Over the course of three years, I am looking to save more than $7,000 on this build.
Keep in mind that, I'm not very concerned with how my fence looks. I just need it to look better than what I'm replacing.
Even though mine will NOT be the most beautiful creation, it should be said that you can build a pallet fence that looks great but doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, check out these examples:
How much does it cost to build a fence?
Everyone’s situation is different.
For my yard, I'm only looking to replace the fence that was previously here.
What I currently have is a crooked and crumpling picket fence. It was built by the previous owner of the house and is NOT visually appealing.
Even a simple pallet fence, where the pallets are placed side by side, will be an improvement to my yard.
But for the sake of understanding our pricing options, let’s look at the numbers. After all, you may be better off building a picket fence, chain-link or some other styled fence.
No matter what type of fence you build, one major influence to its cost will depend on the size of your fence, as measured by height and linear foot (length).
The average fence is between 4 and 6 feet high, though many people choose a 6-foot fence to create more privacy.
The average pallet is only 4-feet tall, so if you want to build a 6-foot high fence, you’ll need to create a much more intricate fence than I am planning to build, by cutting pallets and stacking them in a pattern.
This is the largest factor when determining the price of your fence.
Sure, you can save a bit by cutting the height from 6 feet to 4 feet, but there is no way around the length of your fence.
To determine how long your fence will be, you can take a quick stroll through your yard. Take a slightly larger-than-normal stride and count the number of steps you take. Multiply that by 3 ‒ and your will have an approximation of the length of your fence.
I took about 90 steps for an estimate of 270 linear feet. The average fence will cost about $34/linear foot installed, which would put our fence at $9,180.
If you choose to hire a professional, this online calculator can help give you an idea of what your fence will cost.
For my particular situation, I got a quote for a 4-foot, semi-private, cedar fence, and the cost was around $12,500 (much higher than the estimate from Canadian Fence).
See below for the the actual estimate:
Costs for building with pallets
The cost of a pallet fence can vary widely, depending on how you source your pallets.
There are many places across Canada where you can buy new or used pallets. Your best bet is to do a quick search of suppliers in your area.
I have included one quote from U-Line, who provides free shipping on any orders over $300.
After that initial cost, the only other materials you will need are:
- 4x4 posts,
- a post hole digger, and
- connecting hardware (screws and bolts).
You will also need something in which to mix the concrete, such as a wheelbarrow, and a saw to cut your posts.
Materials for a pallet fence
I have provided comparison prices where appropriate, so that you may choose whichever option is best for your situation.
Most of the tools you will need are fairly common in many homes:
- Post-hole digger
- Saw (compound mitre saw is best, but hand saw will work)
- Large Clamps - for fastening pallets together
Post Hole Digger
|2-inch Screws||$22.74 per box||$22.74|
|Lag Screws||$0.63 each||90||$56.70|
Let’s average our total price to around $4,500, assuming you can find everything at these prices.
Even if you find yourself closer to the $5,000 to $6,000 range, it’s still worth the build. Keeping in mind the quote of around $12,500, we are saving somewhere in the range of $6,500 to $7,500 ‒ which was enough for me to get out my work gloves and give this a try.
After shopping around, I started looking for free pallets. Local small business owners are sometimes willing to give away pallets that they have no use for, so you could do the same BEFORE buying.
How do you build a pallet fence?
If you need a lot of guidance when building your fence, check out these resources.
List of Canadian pallet suppliers
I will not be providing a complete, step-by-step guide to this build because I was able to take many shortcuts with my pre-existing fence.
Having a structure already in place saved me a great deal of time and money. If you are replacing a fence rather than building one, I recommend examining your current structure for any pieces that might be salvaged.
Otherwise, it's best to consult some DIY references for building a fence.
My DIY shortcuts
Because of the previously existing fence structure, all I had to do was replace any rotten posts by digging new holes, filling them with cement and sticking in new posts.
For this, I used a piece of twine and a plumb bob to help me mark my post holes. I also positioned a level on each side to be sure that my posts were going to be straight once I set them in the concrete.
Pro-Tip: Use garden stakes to plan your fence. Run a piece of twine across the top of the stakes to be sure your fence stays straight. Use this twine and hang a plumb bob from it to mark your post holes to ensure they are going to be in the right position.
Once you have dug the post holes and poured the cement, you need to be sure your posts are level on all sides. Get a long level and check each side carefully, making adjustments and rechecking each side.
In my case, the distance between my posts was determined by the positioning of my pallets and the pre-existing posts.
At times, I had to dig a new post hole to make up for one that had rotted, or was not the right distance to accomodate for the pallets. When I needed to dig a new hole, I strung twine from one post to another and hung a plumb bob to mark the position of the new post.
Steps for building a pallet fence
There are only a few steps to this process:
- Dig post holes approximately 40-80 inches apart. The standard width of a pallet is 40 inches.
- Cut posts to length and mix cement.
- Place posts, pour cement and level the posts.
- Slide pallets over the posts and fasten them with 2-inch screws.
- Fasten the pallets together with the lag screws.
Pro-Tip: Pallets are the perfect size to slip over a 4x4 post. Just lift them up, slide them down and screw into place. If you are starting from scratch, measure your pallets. Post holes will be determined by the width of your pallets.
If you are sliding your pallets over your posts and are using a post for every pallet, the posts should be about 40 inches apart. Or if you plan to use a post for every second pallet, you can place a post every 80 inches.
Steps for fastening the pallets together
- Slide one pallet over your 4x4 post and attach it to the post at your chosen height, using 2-inch screws. Screw the face of the pallet to the post. This is the easiest method of assembly and is pictured below.
- Using a clamp, attach a second pallet to the first, so that they are level and secured. This will allow you to attach the pallets together with the lag screws. Be sure that the pallets are level along the top and try to align the boards of the pallets as best you can. Many pallets are not uniform and that will make this step difficult.
- Pre-drill pilot holes – one at the top and one at the bottom of each pallet – to make it easier to screw in the lag screws.
- Use a hex attachment for your drill to drive the lag screws into place, connecting the pallets.
- Repeat this process, attaching pallets to posts and connecting them with another pallet, using lag screws.
The end result
Frankly, I am not entirely pleased with my results.
Does it look like a fence? Yes.
Does it look like a good fence? Not particularly.
Pro-Tip: If you want to have a more uniform look, disassemble the pallets carefully and remove the backs.
Even with the lack of uniformity, would I do it all over again? Absolutely! I have to.
There are two more sides of my yard that need re-fencing. At this point, I am stuck between a rock and a stack of pallets.
But I'll be making modifications to my design by flipping the pallets around so that the boards face my neighbors...
I'll disassemble the pallets and adjust the boards to be more uniform. I may even build in some planter boxes. (Having some flowers in my fence will make it a little more visually appealing, don’t you think?)
How much did I save?
I actually saved more than I had anticipated.
A friend of mine is in trucking and had some spare pallets, and another acquaintance directed me to a local business where I could get some of my pallets for free. So, the pallets I used didn’t cost a cent.
I only had to buy the posts, cement, screws, lag screws and post hole digger.
After tax, my 60-foot section of fence cost $202.
With the figure of $34/linear foot, the cost to hire someone would have been $2,040. That means I built this fence at 1/10 of the cost.
But to be fair, it only has about half of the visual appeal.
Even so, I'm still ahead of the game.
I'm happy to have that money in my pocket, even if the fence is not as beautiful as a professional would have done.