How To Build Shadow Box Fence (Installation Guide Included)

Shadow Box Fence


Also known as ‘neighbor fences,’ the shadowbox fences come with pickets on both of the wall ends. These pickets fill in the gap and curtail the view. As you walk past the fence, you might see a bit of grass or a part of your neighbor’s house, but a significant view is blocked to ensure privacy. You can use flat-top or dog-eared pickets for the fence. Here in this article, we will help you understand how to build shadow box fences and maintain them.


Table of Contents


Shadowbox Fencing Design and Material Requirements

So, how to build shadow box fences? What are the materials needed? This part will tell you how to build shadow box fences and help you get the right materials when deciding to create one.


See, the first step on how to install a shadow box fence is gathering all the materials. If truth be told, there are a myriad of options that you can pick from for the material and design of the shadow box fence. You can find fence materials ranging from wood, metal to wood-plastic composites and vinyl. You could also opt for employing pre-assembled panels, it will dramatically reduce your time during the building phase.


If the yard is sloped, then to maintain the panel level, you will have to stagger the panel heights where you can tightly fasten them to the posts. If your yard has a significant grade, the staggered panels may create gaps at the fence’s bottom level. In that case, if you have a small pup, he may be able to escape through it. So, it may not be the best solution for you.


In this case, you should instead go with the wood privacy fence from the ground up. It would closely follow the yard’s grade and keep your dog safe from the suburbia perils. You can pick the shadow box design, which alternates the picket’s position from one side of the stringer to the other, something that will add more depth to your design.


For the framing lumber, you should pick up a load of 4-by-4 8-foot posts and 2-by-4 8-foot boards for stringers (also called fence rails). Please ensure that the lumber is pressure-treated for outdoor use and the bars are approved for ground contact.


One may opt for the wood species for the pickets or the fence board, which is usually ignored these days. You can shop for these materials from your local independent lumber supplier. If you want to get to the stage on how to build a horizontal shadow box fence, you should have all the quality materials handy.


Now, you mark off the fence layout with twine and stakes. You can fasten all the connections with hot-dipped galvanized nails along with ringed shanks. It will give it a better grip and holding power.


How To Build A Horizontal Shadow Box Fence: Preparatory Tips

To understand how to build a shadow box privacy fence, you must first prepare to build a fence. Thus, it is the next step and certainly an important one. After this, we will help you with the steps on how to install a shadow box fence.


  1. Check the homeowner’s association guidelines and local codes, which govern the placement, size, and fence style. Regulations may also specify the post hole requirements.
  2. Gauge if the permit is needed.
  3. Know the property lines, and discuss your plans with the neighbors along the proposed fence line.
  4. Understand a layout, which will enable you to use the full pickets at the corners.
  5. Plan your gate locations. Gate pickets should be flush with the inside faces of the posts.
  6. Next, plan out the gate size to employ full pickets.
  7. Now, you can take the help of graph paper and draw your fence plan. You can note the gate and the post locations. Some of the towns may need this plan for an approved building permit.
  8. Next, consider the gate hardware. Every set annexes differently. So, you will have to take that into account for gate post spacing.
  9. Lastly, to get to the real deal on how to build a shadow box fence gate, get yourself a helper. You will need an extra pair of hands to carry on the project.


How To Install A Shadow Box Fence?

Shadowbox fences are stunning and have an incredible curb appeal from the street. They assure excellent privacy right behind the wall. See, for people who want to know how to build shadow box fences, we wish to tell you that you can construct a shadowbox fence from scratch. However, if you are running short of time and unable to understand how to build shadow box fence from scratch, you can find prefab shadowbox fence panels. It needs nothing more than some planning, and you will find the process of installation quite rewarding.


Step 1

The first step on how to build a horizontal shadow box fence involves digging post holes eight feet apart and eighteen inches deep. You can use a hand post hole digger if there are not too many holes to drill. Otherwise, you can also rent an automatic auger from an equipment rental facility.


Step 2

You are moving on to step 2 of how to build a shadow box privacy fence. Now, you have to shovel in approximately eight inches of gravel. Set the post and shovel in a wet ad quick-set concrete mix around the bar. You will then have to affix the carpenter’s level against a face of a four-by-four post to gauge for plumb, and then place the deck next to the adjoining face of the four-by-four post to again check for plumb. The concrete must start setting in a minute or two.


Step 3

Now, let us move on to step 3 of how to build a shadow box fence gate. You currently have to measure up from the top of the set concrete to around 5 feet 10 inches. You can make a mark, and then lay the metal square across one face of the four-by-four and mark a line. Moving forward, take a small nail into the line, and tie a string enveloping it. You can unwind this thread while you walk down the posts line. Next, hook a line level, a small plastic level, which joins onto the string, and move the series up and down until the line level indicates that the column is level. Next, you need to mark a line on the post’s face. Further, tap a tiny nail into the bar and tie the string taut around the nail.


Step 4

You are moving on to step 4 of how to build shadow box fence by yourself. Place the metal square against each post alongside the string and make a line. Now, you can turn on the power saw and cut each post off alongside the line. These posts will now be at the same height.


Step 5

Taking the process forward, you now have to bring over the shadowbox fencing first panel and lean it against the first two posts. The three horizontal rail boards, which the pickets are nailed to, must overlap each post at either end by around two inches. Now, moving ahead with the process, you will have to lay down the six-by-six-inch block of wood with a board set at the right angle for creating a simple fulcrum and lever. Raise one end of the fence panel, so the picket’s top is approximately two inches above the first fence post height. Set a wood block under the panel’s bottom and repeat the same at the other end.


Step 6

Now, in this step, you will have to pound the top rail to the first post’s face. We recommend you to use only a single nail. Now, you will have to lay a carpenter’s level alongside the horizontal top rail. Further, set up the fulcrum and lever at the panel’s opposite end and step on the board’s piece until the fence panel rises to level and nail the rail to the second fence post’s face. Herein, you will have to pound in two nails for every rail post.


Step 7

Now, we are at the last step of how to build shadow box fence step. In this step, you will have to repeat steps 5 and 6. Further, check that every fence panel is leveled and that every subsequent fence panel is at level with the previous one by matching the rails’ end and then setting the level straddling the two rails where they meet.


We hope that with this, you have understood how to build shadow box fence. You also have certain readymade options online but you might not get your customized size. Here, check them out.


Advantages of The Shadow Box

Now that you are aware of how to install a shadow box fence, are there any advantages of doing so? Let us have a look.


  • Showbox construction brings in visual interest.
  • Provide more privacy.
  • Alternating pickets offer more durability.
  • Children and pets can peer through yet be inside safely.
  • Fences are customizable and looks the same on both ends.


Disadvantages of The Shadow Box

Even though you now know to build a shadow box fence and we have given you the shadow box pros, there are still a few downsides of the shadow box you need to know before you begin implementing what you just learned in the ‘how to build shadow box fence’ section.


Some of the shadow box cons include:

  • Life is limited
  • Susceptible to fungus and dry roots
  • Needs regular painting and maintenance
  • On drying the wood cracks, warps, and fades
  • Drying wood sags and deforms
  • Susceptible to termite infection


Building Material Comparative Analysis


Material Pros Cons Cost Durability Style
  • Natural appearance
  • Can be finished with paint and stains
  • Can be used for creating curves
The price of lumber is considerably higher than other materials

May rot & have problems with pests


Between $13-$19 per linear foot Depends on

  • Lumber
  • Post
  • Upkeep
  • Waterproofing
Versatile – many design & style options
  • It is supposed to last for a longer time without any change in appearance or color
  • Easily adaptable to designs
  • The color options are only dark tan, light tan, and white tan.
  • In the broader gated areas, reinforcement is required to curtail sagging.


About 25 USD forever linear foot.

Vinyl installation will be priced equal to the wood fencing, but the maintenance requirement is less.

If the quality of vinyl isn’t good, it may turn bad with direct exposure to sunlight and high temperatures. There is a bunch of variety in style & color in natural stone. It is, however, important to match the stone on existing architecture.
Wrought iron
  • Flexible
  • Affordable
Iron is the most commonly used product because of its durability. But it rusts fast if it is scratched. A residential grade with 6 feet height will cost approximately 22 USD per linear foot.

A residential grade with 3 feet height will cost approximately 14 USD per linear foot.



Care should be taken to avoid deformity. Primarily wrought iron finds use in traditional comes, such as Victorian or colonial homes.
  • Long-lasting & strong
  • Easily available
Strength wise, it lags behind iron Around $24-$32/ linear foot Sometimes fences made from this metal may be more durable than steel. But it lacks in the stiffness
  • Modern architecture
  • Ideal for straight lines


  • Perfect for decorative screens and privacy fencing
  • Easy installation
  • Environmentally friendly
  • May rot
  • Expensive compared to other fencing options
  • Needs occasional maintenance to keep tidy
Between $9-$11/ linear foot If maintained well, they last for years
  • Asian inspired gardens
  • Urban or city rooftop gardens
Chain line
  • Long-lasting & strong
  • A good option for play areas
  • Not very esthetically pleasing
  • Needs mesh or slats for maintaining the privacy
Around $12-$14/linear foot If the galvanization is thick, it implies that the fence is strong, and more corrosion and rust-resistant Ideal for gardens with play areas, dog areas etc.
  • Now available in vinyl, this is a durable option
  • Vinyl implies durability, less maintenance, and very affordable
  • Not very reliable
Around $11-$14 per linear foot
  • The material of wood or vinyl used with it defines that


It gives an ideal look for traditional countryside homes.


How To Maintain A Shadow Box Fence?

Now that you know how to construct a shadow box fence, you should be aware of some maintenance tips that help ensure your built wall lasts for years. Please wait for a few months before painting or staining to ensure that the lumber has dried completely. The pressure treated lumber must be painted or stained every few years. Further, do follow the product manufacturer’s guidelines for preparation and application.


Working with Pressure-Treated Lumber


  • Use hardware and fasteners that are for stainless steel, treated wood, or galvanized screws.
  • Drill the pilot holes at the board’s ends to avoid gaps when you screw or nail them together.
  • If needed for the project, pick wood meant exclusively for the ground contact.



  • Be careful and put on something for eye protection and a dust mask when you cut or handle wood.
  • Wash your hands after you work with treated lumber.
  • Do not burn the pressure-treated lumber.
  • Dispose of the waste and sawdust according to local regulations.
  • Don’t use pressure-treated wood as mulch.
  • Don’t burn pressure-treated wood.


Frequently Asked Questions

Ques 1. How much does it cost to build a shadow box fence?

Ans. A kind of wood enclosure, a shadow box fence is primarily famous for its visual appeal. Treated pine and red cedar are the typical kinds used in creation. Cedar pickets and rails are widely recommended over time wood as they are less likely to bow or warp.


Minimum & Maximum Costs

For a fence that is 140 linear feet and 6 feet tall, the expected cost would be around:

  • Basic materials – $1,155 to $1,260.
  • Medium-quality materials – $1,365 up to $1,533.
  • High-quality shadowbox fencing materials – $1,575 up to $1,799.


Fencing Styles Costs

  • The approximate cost for a four by eight cedar wood lattice traditional panel will be around $18.97 each, or approximately $246 for every hundred feet.
  • The approximate cost of concave fencing panels is $13.25 per foot or around $1,325 per 100 ft.
  • The approximate cost for gothic fencing material is $14.75 per foot or $1,475 per 100 ft.


Ques 2. What is the spacing on a shadow box fence?

Ans. Shadowbox privacy fences are constructed with full 6″ pickets based on 3″ spacing. This creates approximately a 1-1/2″ overlap as the pickets alternate on each side of the 2×4 stringer.


Ques 3. Does a fence increase property value?

Ans. See, the fence is not a small project to take. But it does not directly improve the property value before selling. However, that does not mean it is not worth anything. The fencing would be a plus if it is well maintained and the locality calls for an outdoor structure such as the fence.


Ques 4. Can you see through a shadow box fence?

Ans. There is a board between the pickets on the fence’s outside and the bar’s inside. This causes a shadow effect. Typically, the shadow box fences are around six or eight feet tall, but they are not 100% private. When you look straight at them, you cannot quite see what is on the other side.


Ques 5. How many pickets do I need for a shadow box fence?

Ans. For this, add the picket spacing or the slat to each of their widths and then divide the number into the fence’s total length to find the number of pickets or slats needed. For instance, to build a 200 ft fence, if you are using a 6-inch slat, which happens to be 5 1/2 inches wide while spacing them by 1/2 apart, you will require 400 of them.



Hope now you have enough knowledge on how to install a shadow box fence. Using cedar rails and treated posts when you carry out the shadowbox fence’s installation will give you a contrasting look. The difference in tone and color will be quite noticeable at first. But, over time, the cedar will have a gray tone. And finally, both the posts and rails will look of the same color.


Shadowbox fences do add to the appeal and beauty of the house and accentuate its resale value. Thus, knowing how to install a shadow box fence can be beneficial for you. Their privacy is assured, and they are not restricted from communicating with their neighbors. The wooden fences will cost you less than the chain link, brick material, or PVC fences. However, they will need more maintenance. Taking adequate care will help you preserve the materials to look good for several years to come.


Hopefully, with this article, we have cleared all your doubts about building and maintaining a shadow box fence.