How to build a horizonal ipe fence

I know I sound like a broken record, but work on wrapping the carport in ipe continues. It’s a tedious project, but each row makes a visual impact. In case you’re interested in (or crazy enough to think about) building a horizontal ipe fence, here’s a guide.


Obviously you need to order some wood. Here are some other products you’ll need:

The folks at Advantage Lumber helped us estimate the quantities. Once we’re done, we’ll let you know if they were on target.


Let’s talk for second about ipe clips. Each box includes:

  • 175 ipe clips
  • 190 screws
  • A star drill tip
  • A drill bit
  • 12 ipe plugs
  • Instructions

You want all of these things. If you don’t buy them, you can just drill each board into the fence post and live with all of those screws staring back at you. But your yard (and your eyes) deserve better than that. These fasteners will anchor the wood to the post and remain hidden. Plus they help space each row appropriately. They come in different gap sizes, we opted for the smallest gap.

Ok, let’s build a fence! Choose a piece of wood. Ideally you want a piece of wood that is rather straight. We’re working with B grade wood, so sometimes that means chopping off a bit that’s warped.

Cut the wood to size. Note: It’s helpful to have someone who is good at measuring perform most of these steps. (You’ll notice that it’s not me.)


The boards are held together and anchored to the post with ipe clips, but to start a row you’ll need to secure the bottom directly to the post. On each end of the board, measure how much the board will overlap the post and then mark the center point. Keep that measurement in mind (or write it down) because you’ll use it a lot.


Drill a hole using a 1/8″ drill bit and then a 3/8″ countersink bit. Aaron loves this one from Rockler. The hole is for the screw and the countersink is for the ipe plug. (More on that later.)



Then seal the end of the wood. This keeps the ipe from cracking over time. It’s also important to do this after you measure/drill so you don’t end up with wax all over your tools.



Liberally apply the wax to the ends of each board use a brush. It’s a good idea to do this in the grass in case there are drips.


Construction adhesive offers additional holding power. Add some to the post before placing your board.


For the first board, screw one side into the post.


Level it. Then add a screw to the other side.


The boards will need a space for each ipe clip. This is easily achieved with a biscuit joiner set at the appropriate depth for the ipe clip. We did a few tests on scrap wood to get the depth correct. For the first row, we opted to make the biscuit cut once the board was in place.





Drop an ipe clip into the biscuit cut.


Use the drill bit from the ipe clip kit to pre-drill a hole for the screw. Then use the screws from the kit to attach the board and clip to the post. Screw down and at an angle.


Choose another board, cut it to length it and mark the center points that you measured earlier. From here on up, make the biscuit cuts on both sides (and both ends) of the board now.


Don’t forget to seal the ends. Add construction adhesive to the post, and place the board onto the ipe clips from the row before. Level the board <– This is very important to ensure your fence stays level all the way up. If you’re working with B grade wood, which we are, most of the boards are not going to be perfect. You can compensate some by pulling down on one end of the board (or sitting on it in extreme cases) to make it level.

Repeat until you reach the top of your post. For the last board, make your biscuit cuts only on one side. Then drill a hole to attach the board to the top of the post.

Use the ipe pegs from the ipe clip box to fill in the screw holes. Add some wood glue.


Tap it into place with a hammer.



Once the wood glue dries, chip off the excess with a chisel so the plug is flush with the board.



Congratulations you just built a section of horizontal fence. From here you can apply ipe oil if you want to darken the wood or let it weather to a silvery color. We opted for the former.


It’s a pretty simple process, but it is time consuming. This section of fence took us an entire Sunday. Of course, we took A LOT of breaks to admire the progress and exclaim how excited we were. Make sure you build that into your timeline.

  1. I’ve really enjoyed following the progress on your house and learning about all these DIY projects along the way. And, I just have to say your photography skills are amazing because you manage to make something as simply as a shot of wood look fantastic!

    1. Thanks for the sweet comments, Liz!

  2. Amazing… it is worth every moment it took. It is stunning!

    1. Thanks! That’s what we like to tell ourselves 🙂

  3. You guys are professionals! Pinning this for my dream home 🙂

    1. Ha! We’re getting close. Do we get some kind of ipe pro certificate?

  4. So. Much. Work. Sweat equity, for realz.

    1. Seriously! Buckets of equity… if you catch my drift.

  5. So where did you get your ipe? I’m in northwest Arkansas and the home centers don’t carry it here. Even had a Lowes man tell me he’s never heard of it so it’s probably not worth having!!

    1. We ordered everything (ipe, clips, sealer, oil) through Advantage Lumber. We took advantage of a President’s Sale that offered free shipping, which saved us a bunch. They were very helpful with ordering, though they may have over sold the clips to us. We’re hoping we can return the unused ones. Besides that they were fantastic to work with!

  6. […] After installing the ipe section of fence, our fence posts were starting to look a little bare. Originally we planned to paint the posts a rusty color to blend in with the steel, but the warmth of the ipe totally changed our minds. Instead, we had a gallon of Behr Semi-Transparent Weather Proofing All-in-one Wood Stain and Sealer tinted to chocolate, which looked like it would provide the closest match to the ipe. Then it was as simple as wiping down the posts with a wet rag to rid them of spider webs and grass clippings then brushing on the stain. I used a large taping knife shoved against the steel/ipe to keep a crisp line on the edge. Voila! […]

  7. Great looking fence. How many feet between your posts? Thanks!

    1. Thanks! It’s a standard fence in that regard, so 8′

  8. I’ve been looking for a tutorial that shows how to build a horizontal fence like this, and most of them have been confusing and vague. Thank you so much for adding a lot of detail, and including step by step pictures of what you did to build the fence! The color of your fence turned out a really pretty mahogany color, which is exactly what I want for my fence! I’ll make sure to use the same sealer and I might use the ipe oil you suggested.

    1. I’m so glad this is helpful!

  9. I love the look of this fence! The horizontal boards look so nice. Also, you choose a beautiful color of stain! The dark wood looks so nice, especially with your green grass! My husband and I need to put up a fence, and something like this would be perfect!

    1. Thanks, Addie!

  10. What color is the wood stain?

    1. The wood isn’t stained, it’s oiled with ipe oil. It enhances the color of the ipe and protects it from sun damage.

  11. […] How to build a horizonal ipe fence – March 31, 2015 – 8:39 am Angela Downer. I’ve been looking for a tutorial that shows how to build a horizontal fence like this, and most of them have been confusing … […]

  12. Beautiful work!
    What do you use to maintain the ipe wood? How often?

    1. Thanks, Ana! We have only oiled it once, but we think it’s due for another coat. So in our conditions, we’ll probably need to do some maintenance every 2 years.

  13. Can I ask how much this project cost start to finish?

    1. Unfortunately we didn’t keep a close eye on the numbers for this – or if we did we didn’t archive it anywhere. Sorry!

  14. Thanks for posting this. The fence looks incredible. I have a few questions though….what dimension ipe lumber did you use? Also, I noticed that they sell pre-grooved ipe boards (typically for decking). Not sure if these were available when you built your fence, but I imagine that would save you the biscuit joiner work. Would you use the pre-grooved boards (except for the one on top) if you were to do this all over again?
    Thanks again!

    1. Thanks, Peter. By dimensions – do you mean width? We considered the pre-grooved planks, but because we needed SO much the price difference was worth the extra work to use the biscuit joiner. We’re really happy with everything and wouldn’t switch if we did it again.

      1. Heather, I’m very interested in your experience with the Ipe clips. That’s what I wanted to do, but the salesman at Advantage Lumber said Ipe clips weren’t recommended for fences. He said they are more suitable and intended for decking installations. Have you encountered any issues? Did you have any installation problems? I would be grateful to hear more about your decision to go with clips versus stainless steel screws. Thanks.

        1. Hi Chris – We didn’t have any issues with the Ipe clips. The salesman is correct that they are traditionally used for decking. We decided that we liked the look enough to try it on the fence and garage surround. The only screws are at the top and bottom of each run and those are covered with Ipe plugs. We also used construction adhesive in any spot that the wood touched a stud/post. Also, we did 18″ studs and a clip every 18″, which may help with the stability. We used that method on a section of fence, the garage, two doors and a planter, and never noticed and slippage. I hope that helps!

  15. This is a great resource, but I just wanted to see how things are going with the fence so far now that it has been up for a few years. How did you choose the 8 ft post spacing? This spacing is good for vertical fences, because rails are made of thicker wood, but I wanted to know how it held up for a horizontal fence. Have the boards sagged or twisted? Also what size posts are you using? Are they pressure treated pine posts, and if so did you clad them with ipe boards?

    1. Thanks, Dan! Everything is holding up well. We went with 8 foot spacing because that’s standard for our area. The wood hasn’t sagged or twisted, but don’t forget that we only have a small section of fence that is wood. The rest if made of steel. We used 4″ pressure treated posts. We stained them, but now Aaron is intrigued by your suggestion to clad them with ipe. 🙂

  16. I think Peter is asking what dimensions 1×6 Ipe, 1×4 Ipe, 5/4 x10 Ipe, etc. I’d like to know that also please.
    Also would like to know what length of boards you purchased?
    It would be nice to dig up, at least, the price you paid for the Ipe (at least all the boards) by calling the company.
    You guys spent a lot of time writing this article/blog but it’s a bit incomplete.

    Also reading about the company you purchased from, their return and delivery policies sounds very scary. Delivery at the curb; inspect before signing receipt (quite impossible to do) nothing can be done after signing, filing shipping claim with pics, etc. Not a typical American Satisfaction Guaranteed.

    In your experience did you have any items that were damaged?

    Thanks a lot.

    Fence looks nice. Some updated photos would be ideal. I for example looking for proof of durability and proof that Ipe looks good overtime. Way too expensive if that’s not the case.

    1. Ah – gotcha. We used 1 x6 boards in a range of sizes. We ordered a lot of B grade wood. So there were some damaged and warped pieces, but we expected that and the cost difference made it worth it for us. Because of that we didn’t worry about inspecting it too closely before we unloaded. We over ordered to ensure we’d have enough for the fence, carport/garage and other projects. We have that plus some so it worked out.

      Delivery is curbside and with no forklift so we moved the boards off by hand. It wasn’t the most fun job we’ve ever done, but again the price made it worth it.

      I’ll see about posting some updated pictures. Everything is holding up nicely. We haven’t noticed any warping and haven’t needed to reapply the oil, though we will probably do that next year to keep the color strong.

      1. Beautiful. Thank you.

  17. I really like your step by step and picture instructions on how to build this fence. I am a very visual learner, so being able to see the steps before I do them is very helpful. Your finished fence looks amazing, and I hope mine turns out as great as yours did. Thanks for the great post.

  18. I was curious what the type of wood was you used, which species?

    1. It’s a Brazilian wood called Ipe

  19. Are there gaps between the boards? You mentioned you bought clips that gave you the minimum amount of gap between the 2. Can you cut the biscuits deeper and have the boards touching so there’s no space between?

  20. Hi, great job! I found your site because I’m in the planning stages for an ipe fence.
    Do you know how many mph the wind blows there? That affects the choice of length and thickness of the boards as well as the size of gaps between boards.

  21. Question about the serviceability of the fence…have you noticed any issues with sagging in the middle of the span? How far apart are your posts spaced? Thank you!

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