9 Picket Fence Ideas

picket fence

The picket fence is well-known and popular because of its simple aesthetic and identifiable design. They withstand weather and delineate spaces, but they’re not exactly modern. If you’re looking for a change, there’s no shortage of DIY picket fence ideas.

When styling a new fence, the only limitation is your imagination. Not sure where to get started? You’re not alone. In this story, we detail 9 picket fence ideas, so you can choose the fence that matches your aesthetic and personality.

What is a Picket Fence?

Photo Credit: Pxhere

Vertical slats, called pickets, are evenly spaced and attached to horizontal rails connected to posts. They usually have a tapered top that ends at a point. Because the fence panels are spaced apart, a picket fence is not considered a full privacy fence.

Picket fences are usually found in the front yard. Traditionally, they’re painted white and built from wood. However, there are many paint, stain, and design options..

Picket comes from the French word “piquet” which means “pointed stick or board.” The picket design stems from old-world defenders protecting against cavalry. Over time, it developed into a 19th-century cultural symbol of success. Today, the symbolism of the white picket fence is evolving and associated with friendly neighborhoods, beaches, and gardens. 

What does a picket fence mean to you, and how can you make it your own?

9 Picket Fence Ideas

1. Carve Picket Tops

A new picket top can transform your wood fence. From traditional to custom cuts, the ideas for new picket top designs are endless. You can pull off your existing pickets and cut them to the design of your liking, or you can have new pickets installed. Your choice will depend on your budget and the condition of your existing fence. 

Let’s look at some options.

Traditional

  • Colonial Top: One of the most well-known designs, the picket is straight, coming to a rounded point on top to resemble the end of a sword.
  • Pointed Top: Similar to the Colonial, this style has a straight picket with a pointed top. Instead of the inward slope like a sword, this style angles at 45 degrees to resemble the point of a pencil.
  • Flat-top: A flat-top design is exactly like it sounds. The sides are straight, and the top is flat. The corner angles are 90 degrees with no curve.
  • Rounded Top: As the name suggests, these pickets are straight and rounded at the top.
  • Dog-Ear Top: A dog-ear style picket resembles a flat-top picket. The picket is straight across the top with 45-degree cuts at each corner.
  • French Gothic Top: Also known as the fleur-de-lis, this design looks a lot like a spear. Most of the picket is straight, then curves inward to form a half circle, then into the spearhead top.

Non-Traditional

Are you looking for something a little different? Let’s check out some outside-the-box designs.

  • Paddle Top: A paddle top is different but can still blend in. This style has a straight picket, then curves in and out to form a circle. It resembles a table tennis paddle or paddle ball paddle.
  • Shape Top: This style lets your creativity shine. Change a traditional design by adding your own flair, or create any shape you want.
  • Character Top: This style takes the creativity of a shape top even further. Are you a cat person? Create a cat top. Perhaps you love Batman, and would love to see the bat signal when you arrive home. Push your creative limits even further and try alternating character tops. 
  • Cut Out Tops: Have the design of your choice cut out of a traditional style picket. The cut-out creates a silhouette in the negative space for a striking visual.
  • Burnt Top: You can have your picket custom carved or burnt with a soldering iron. It may take an age or a pretty penny, but it’ll be unique. If you choose this route, go with a stained fence instead of a painted one, so the beautiful artwork isn’t covered up.

2. Add Post Caps

fence head
Photo Credit: Phillip Pessar / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Fence post caps can be nearly non-existent or bold. Caps protect posts from weather and rot. Changing them is a quick and easy way to dramatically change the look of your fence. Caulk or screws affix caps to the fence posts, so if you can wield a screwdriver, you can change a cap.

While the possibilities are endless, here are a few ideas.

  • Classic Cap: There is something about keeping it simple. A standard flat square cap looks classic and sleek and comes in many colors and materials.
  • Lighted Cap: Installing LED caps is a beautiful way to make your fence stand out. Choose from hardwired or solar lights. Not only do they look fantastic, but they provide extra light and security to your property.
  • Ball Cap: As the name suggests, a ball post cap has a ball on the top. It’s softer than the Gothic style, but still stands out. They come in several varieties, like oval and carved.
  • Fleur-de-Lis Cap: This design is often seen on metal fences. This interesting spearhead-like design is bold enough to stand out without being ostentatious.
  • Custom: If you want your fence to stand out, consider a custom design. You can custom design any post cap, including hearts, Avengers, or even birdhouses.

3. Play With Height Variations

Did you know your pickets don’t have to be the same height? Changing the line of your fence will change the overall feel. If you have a wood picket fence, you can replace pickets or cut down your existing pickets.

There are four main top line styles.

  • Straight: A straight fence line is flat with all the pickets at the same height. This look is best for simple aesthetics showcasing a custom picket top.
  • Scalloped: A scalloped line is an inverted arch, creating a classic but atypical look. This line pairs well with a traditional picket top, but a scalloped line with a nontraditional top can be equally eye-catching.
  • Arched: An arched line is a reverse scallop. The pickets are cut so the shortest panels are near the posts and arch higher in the middle. The arched line emphasizes a classic look and makes a nontraditional style pop.
  • Alternating: Alternating short and high pickets creates a visually interesting line. This style spruces up traditional pickets and works with nontraditional tops, too.

4. Paint or Stain Your Fence

painting fence
Photo Credit: VSPYCC / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

When it comes to the color of your fence, the world is your oyster. Color is an easy way to change the look of your fence and outdoor space. With so many choices available, choosing the right product and color can feel overwhelming.

There are two major categories – paint and stain.

Stain

Before you whip out the paint, consider stain. Many professionals recommend stain over paint.

  • Stain is cheaper.
  • Stain is lower maintenance. It fades, but paint chips. If you don’t have the time for maintenance, stain may be the way to go.
  • Protection. Stain protects your fence from the elements while still allowing the wood to breathe. Try an oil-based stain for the best results.
Choosing a Stain Color

You’ve decided to go with stain, but how do you choose a shade?

Ask yourself, do you have any other outdoor wooden structures? You’ll want to match or coordinate with your existing landscape. Also, be sure to note that the more opaque a stain is, the more fading shows over time. Otherwise, you have a plethora of choices.

  • Dark Stains: Dark stains make your fence pop, giving your outdoor area rich color and depth. Try mahogany, espresso, or chestnut.
  • Light Stains: Light stains are moderate, allowing other outdoor features to stand out. Try oak, pine, or driftwood.
  • Red Stains: Stains with a red tint give a splash of color while maintaining the stunning wood grain look. Try cedar, cherry, or maple.

Paint

Paint is great for fences for many reasons, including:

  • It lasts a long time. If you maintain your fence, your paint job can last up to 10 years.
  • Sun and rain-resistant. The paint acts as a UV blocker and is water resistant, protecting your fence and giving it a longer lifespan.
  • Color variety. While stain is limited to wood tones, paint is not. Do you want a neon orange fence? There’s paint for that.
Choosing a Paint Color

Choosing a paint color doesn’t have to be difficult. First, your paint should match your house. If you have an HOA, you’ll need to see what colors are allowed. Aside from those limitations, it depends on you and the look you want.

  • White: White is classic and simple and matches any color house. You could also choose an off-white color like cream or ivory for a less drastic finish.
  • Black: Using black as your fence color will make other lawn features, like flowers or lights, stand out. Black is bold but not garish.
  • Gray: Gray is a neutral middle ground that varies widely in shade. A lighter shade is gentle whereas a darker shade is striking.
  • Navy: Like black, navy is a bold color that will spotlight landscaping. Being softer than black, navy looks beautiful when paired with a cool-colored home.
  • Green: A natural green will act as a hedge and blend in with nearby landscaping. It pairs well with neutral and warm-colored homes.

5. Add a Gate

If you have a fence, you likely have a gate or entrance. Changing up the look of your fence gate can add flair or complexity to your home’s exterior.

Here are some design ideas.

  • Switch up the design. Just because you have a picket fence doesn’t mean you have to have a picket gate. A different but complementary designed gate makes both your fence and gate stand out. A board-on-board gate and a picket fence would complement, especially with similar tops.
  • Add embellishments. Add something personal or unique to your gate, like a plaque or carving.
  • Change the color. Choose a complementary color for your gate. This simple switch will make your border exclusive with minimal effort.

6. Add an Arbor

arbor trelis in garden
Photo Credit: Needpix

Arbors are a creative way to add a special something to your home. Arbors are freestanding structures with arched roofs that go over your gate, creating a unique entrance. There are five main styles of arbors, but if none of them strike your fancy, you can have a custom design built. 

  • Gabled: A gabled arbor has a pitched roof design similar to the pointed roof on some houses. These are typically made from wood or metal but also can be made from bricks or blocks.
  • Formal: Formal arbor designs have clean lines, usually with well-manicured plantings nearby. This design is often seen at weddings or formal venues.
  • Arched: An arched arbor is like its name, crafted with an arched roof. 
  • Traditional: Traditional arbors have either an arched or flat roof and built-in trellises. In general, there are little to no embellishments, keeping the design simplistic.
  • Natural: A natural arbor incorporates natural material into its simplistic design. You’ll see materials like rough tree branches and limbs as well as rocks.

7. Accessorize Your Fence

Adding accessories is a great way to personalize your outdoor space. Options range from simple and inexpensive to grandiose and pricey. Let’s look at a few popular accessory choices.

Climbing Plants

Climbing plants are beautiful and relatively easy to maintain. Not sure which climbing plant to choose? Here are a few possibilities.

  • Ivy (English, Boston, or Persian)
  • Carolina Jessamine Vine
  • Climbing Roses
  • Morning Glory
  • Wisteria
  • Honeysuckle

String Lights

String lights, sometimes called fairy lights, are magical, especially at night. The bonus is that they’re affordable and super easy to personalize. Here are some ways to individualize string lights.

  • Colors: Pick a complementary color that pairs with your other outdoor features.
  • Seasons: Choose a light that matches the seasons. Tiny white lights are perfect for winter. Larger multicolored lights match the summertime vibe.
  • Holidays: Celebrate the holiday cheer while personalizing your space. Simply replace your everyday lights with festive ones.

Paint a Mural

Murals are an extraordinary way to make your fence unique. A fantastic art piece on your fence is an eye-catching conversation starter. And if you’re not sure how to get a fence mural, consider these options.

  • Are you or were you artistic? What better way to personalize your home than to let your creative juices flow.
  • If art isn’t exactly your thing but you still like the mural idea, try doing a little research. You can get tons of ideas that you can stencil out with tape.
  • Create memories with your kids or grandkids. Try yearly handprints or stenciling memorable characters for them to paint. 
  • Give a favorite local artist your business. Commissioned paintings will give you exactly what you want while supporting your community.

8. Add Flower and Storage Boxes

flower box on fence
Photo Credit: Acabashi / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Beautify and organize your outdoor space with flower and storage boxes. Besides flowers, what exactly would you put in these boxes? Try these.

  • Herbs and spices
  • Vegetables like potatoes, radishes, peppers, or tomatoes
  • Garden tools
  • Outside or sandbox toys
  • Rock collection

Boxes are great and can be accessorized with paintings and carvings. Or you can try using other containers too. Check out these ideas.

  • Watering Cans
  • Rain Boots
  • Hanging Plants
  • Repurposed kitchen items like pots, teapots, mugs, or water bottles.

9. Add Landscaping

Larger outdoor DIY projects complement your fence and enhance your garden oasis. While some ideas are pricier than others, they all have a wow factor.

Landscapes

Landscaping is a lovely and natural way to complement your fence. Trees, shrubs, and flowers can work together to create a harmonious look. Or choose contrasting plants to make them all emerge as stars.

Hardscapes

Hardscapes can work in tandem with your fence to make your outdoor haven all it can be. Try a fire pit, patio, or rock wall.

Walkways

You can choose many materials to build a walkway. They’re also a fantastic way to complement your fence. You can choose to match colors like a cedar fence with a brick walkway. Or you can choose to contrast colors like a navy fence with a cobblestone walkway.

FAQ About Picket Fences

What is the Best Height for a Picket Fence?

The best height for a picket fence is between 3 to 4 feet. The picket style is not for privacy but for delineation, so a towering construction may look out of place. However, if you’re raising your picket fence for a pool perimeter, the minimum height is 4 feet. A garden fence should be at least 3 feet to keep out critters.

It’s your fence and your rules, so build as short or as tall as you want within reason. Double-check local ordinances or HOA rules before picking up a hammer.

What is the Standard Size for a Picket?

The standard size for a picket fence is 3 to 4 feet tall with a picket width of about 3.5 to 5.5 inches. Standard spacing between pickets is 1.5 to 2.5 inches. 

Pickets can be built as wide as 1 foot and spaced further or closer together. The final design is up to you and your builder.

Are Picket Fences Strong?

The short answer is yes. Picket fences are strong. The picket design holds up to harsh conditions and strong winds. The traditional spacing creates low wind resistance, so precipitation and air can pass between the gaps easily.

Several factors influence the strength of your picket fence. 

Posts: Post-construction affects your fence’s durability. Having concrete anchors at a depth of at least 1 foot will make your fence sturdier.
Materials: Your fence material makes a difference. A wrought-iron fence can withstand hurricane-force winds, while a wooden fence will fall down.
Climate: The climate in your area affects your fence. Areas of high heat and sun exposure can warp a vinyl picket fence. Regions with high winds may erode a wrought iron’s protective coating, creating a rusty fence.

“Pick”et a Professional

Congratulations! You’re sprucing up your fence or creating a whole new design to make your fence an extension of you. Unfortunately, like most home improvement projects, you may run into a few snags. You may notice damage or decide that replacing slats is outside your skill set, or perhaps you just need some fencing advice.Thankfully, highly-rated fencing professionals in your area are ready to lend a hand and a hammer. Fast, free, and easy information is just a click or call away.

Main Image Credit: Pxhere

Nicki DeStasi

Nicki DeStasi

Nicki DeStasi is a writer, author, and teacher who grew up in western Massachusetts and currently resides in the Austin area. She enjoys flower and vegetable gardening, reading, cooking, listening to true-crime podcasts, and spending time with her husband, two children, dog, and cat.