I’ve been using this DIY fence for a number of years and this year, I wanted to document the individual pieces involved and the assembly steps as I put it up for the 2015 season.
The primary reason for this design was to save storage space! My house doesn’t have a basement or any attic space to speak of so all of my props must be stored in the garage. I’m able to store all the pieces for my 63 feet long cemetery fence in an area that’s only 16” x 35” x 13”.
Even though I have to assemble and disassemble each fence section each year, I didn’t want to hassle with screws, zip ties, or any type of joinery so this design has worked really well because it requires no assembly tools or additional bits to hold it all together. It primarily uses two 1x2 wood strips and ½” PVC where I’ve glued “collars” near the bottom of two PVC pieces to support the bottom wood strip and glued collars near the top of two other PVC pieces to support the top wood strip. The remaining PVC pieces simply slide in the remaining holes of the 1x2 wood strips.
Before we move on to the process/design, here’s a fully assembled fence section.
The two outer PVC pieces have collars to support the bottom wood strip and the two inner PVC pieces have collars near the top to support the top wood strip. The other important thing to note here is that the bottom wood strip has holes drilled completely through at each end so the outer PVC/collar pieces can be inserted. However, the remaining holes in the middle don’t go all the way through the wood – just half way. They support the PVC pieces (without collars) that complete the fence. The top wood strip, of course, has holes drilled all the way through.
Here’s a closer look at the bottom and an outer most PVC piece. (The wood strip lying on the grass is just another bottom wood strip from a different fence section to better show you the construction of the bottom strips.)
To fully assemble the fence sections, I load up my daughter’s red wagon and bring out all the unassembled pieces.
In this next photo, I’ve laid out all the necessary pieces for a single section of the fence. You may notice finials with wood dowels attached. With many fence projects, the finials are attached permanently to the PVC pieces. However, in this design, the top and bottom wood strips must slide over the PVC pieces for assembly and disassembly. I needed a way to finish off the fence with finials that weren’t permanently attached and the wood dowels provided a great way for me to slide the finials on the fence as the last step.
I start by using a bottom wood strip as a template to guide where I place my ground stakes. I do this by placing the bottom strip on the grass, and then drive the stakes through the two outside holes. I then remove the bottom wood strip and use it to begin assembly.
After the stakes are standing, the next step is to place the two PVC pieces with the collars near the bottom over the ground stakes. Then slide the bottom wood strip onto those to PVC pieces until the wood strip rests on the bottom collars. (In the picture above, however, the bottom wood strip has already been slide down onto the two side PVC pieces.)
I then retrieve the PVC pieces with the collars glued closer to the top and place them in the next, inner two bottom holes (the holes that don’t go all the way through), and begin sliding the top wood strip onto those two PVC pieces. This takes a little bit of dexterity with both hands but it actually comes together nicely. That’s the most “difficult” assembly step but once that’s completed; you’ll have a full, free-standing fence structure in place:
At this point, I grab the remaining PVC pieces (none of which have collars attached to them) and simply slide them into place.
Finally, add the finials.
I’ve added additional sections of this fence since I first started building this project and originally had finials for each PVC piece. I haven’t ordered any more of those plastic finials from eBay for the newer fence sections so now instead of every PVC piece getting a finial, every other piece gets one. I kind of like the way that looks and it saves from having to purchase more finials.
Here are a few day time shots of the fence sections fully assembled and installed (later today I’ll add the spider webs, vines, etc. to dress the fence up a bit).
And a night time shot from last year:
I think for those of you with basements or attic space, it’s much more efficient to create permanently assembled fence sections. For the rest of us, we have to be much more creative with our storage options and this fence project really hits the mark on the storage aspect.
The construction phase is rather tedious but, for me, the end result was worth it. I couldn’t find pre-made “collars” for the ½” PVC so I used PVC couplers. I had to take each coupler and (VERY CAREFULLY) saw off the ends which created two collars for each coupler. I used a miter saw for this but these couplers are small pieces so you have to be very careful. I would attach the coupler to the end of a scrap PVC piece which allowed me to keep my fingers away from the blade. (Just make sure the coupler is firmly attached to the scrap PVC or the blade will whack the coupler off and send it flying.)
You could use anything else for the "stops" like a nut and bolt for instance. I chose to use the PVC "collars" because I felt it did a better job of hiding how everything is held together rather than seeing screws or dowels or something else to support the upper and lower 1x2 wood strips.
I actually used a standard drill with a forstner bit, and by hand, drilled each hole or partial hole in the 1x2 wood strips. Those of you with a drill press would make easy work of this step.
The tolerances are a little tight. Clearly the holes in the wood strips have to be large enough to slide over the PVC but not too wide so that the 1x2 properly sits on the collars. That’s easy enough to create with the correct diameter bits but during assembly each year, expansion and contraction of the materials can sometimes make assembly pretty tight and you have to work the wood strips down – not a major problem – you just have to finesse it a bit.
Because the wood strips slide on and off the PVC, the paint on the PVC will get scratched off in places each year. You can see that in the photos. However, this is easily corrected by using a can of spray paint after assembly. I just walk around and quickly spray over any obvious white areas. I often use a rust color or moss green spray paint can for the final touch up which I think looks really nice rather than just hitting it again with black.
Of course the fence PVC pieces can be cut to any size. I chose a mix of tall and shorter heights because (1) I like that look and (2) smaller PVC pieces can save money compared to using all tall pieces.
I hope you can take this design and use it as-is or, better yet, improve upon it for your unique haunt. I’m happy to provide any additional details or further clarify any part of this project.