A Kentucky horse paddock with a black-painted three plank fence in the background.
image by Richard Thomas
Paddock fencing, sometimes called post and plank fencing, is a common sight in the horse farm country of central Kentucky. Although the materials and initial installation are expensive, fences of this type are much more attractive than post and wire fencing, and very easy to maintain after installation.
Measure and mark the fence line, using stakes and a line of string or twine to keep it straight. If the fence is meant to mark a property boundary, be sure of that property line even if it means surveying it. The last thing anyone wants is to pull up a fence and build it all over again.
Dig your post holes, using the mattock, shovel and post hole digger. The holes should all be dug a little wider than the fence post, and must be at least 1 foot deep. Set your post, using the level to keep it vertically straight, and refill the empty space in the hole with dirt. Tamp the dirt using your tamping rod for a firm, solid hold.
Choose to build either a 3- or 4-plank fence. This is how many plank lines will run across the length of the fence. Three planks are cheaper, but four provide better paddock security.
Fasten your planks with a hammer and nails. There will always be some plank with an irregular fit, or the need to cut them for corners, so do this with a saw as needed. Each plank should be nailed at least twice on each end and twice more in the middle. The plank lines should also alternate for added strength and reliability: a single rotten post can't weaken an entire section of fencing this way. For example, in a three-plank fence, if the top and bottom plank lines are on a post where the plank ends meet, the middle plank should be in its center. Use a level to keep the planks in line.
Cut off the tops of the fence for an even appearance. This could be anywhere from a few to several inches above the line of the top plank.
Decide if you are going to paint the fence. The classic colors are white and blank. This can be done either by hand or with a spraying machine, or not at all. Modern weather treatments mean that the fenceposts in particular will last a long time in the elements without paint, and the planks can be replaced as needed.