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Kimler Adventure Pages: Journal Entries
Getting Off the Fence Project
Summer Season in Full Swing the Hammer
As a "jack of all trades" and retired geophysicist, Scott often takes on handyman projects, both to earn side money and to get the satisfaction of building something with his hands. (Of course, there's now the hopeful outcome that he'll lose some of those winter pounds he's put on too!) ;) This project, for our friends Dan and Jen, is a new fence across the back of their lot and a fence replacement down the side, shared with their neighbor. They have a large lot and it's something like 200 feet of fence, all told.
Dan has asked to work with Scott, both to learn about fence-building and to help defray some labor costs. This is not a problem and Scott likes working with home owners. It's more fun to work with someone else. Dan only has Monday afternoons and Friday's free, so it'll be a multi-week project.
To learn how to make a better wood fence and follow this project, read on
We met Dan and Jen through our landlord, Ron Berezan. They bought an older, 4-story home in the "Little Italy" area of Edmonton, close to Commonwealth Stadium and just across the alley from where our Ron & Laura live. It was build in 1910 and like most older homes, needed some work. Ron was the one who recommended they give me a call. (Thanks Ron!)
I've been doing a bunch of odds and ends work for them, since last summer. I've replaced fascia boards on the second floor, installed bathroom faucets, redesigned their kitchen wall faucet, added a range exhaust hood and fan, painted, drywalled and mounted their pellet stove exhaust pipes. Now that the weather has turned for the better, the focus is on the yard, a perimeter fence (for security, privacy and containment for their golden lab, Harrah).
The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but you still have to mow it.
As fences go, it's not elaborate, as they're wanting an inexpensive, generic, six-foot-high, fence. To save costs, they want to use a few existing ( non-vertical :-\ ) posts. The fence itself, will consist of pressure-treated, 4x4 posts and 2x4 cross-beams, with 6-foot high, S1S Spruce 1"x6" slats. Still, I'll build it to last, by adding four upgrades, which most fencing companies skip.
(1) New 4x4 posts will be cemented in place. This minimizes ground-to-wood contact for the most important part of the fence - where the posts meet the ground. The concrete will extend above grade and be sloped it away from the post, to shed water. The result: posts will be firmly set and provide long-lasting, solid structural support for the rest of the fence. I'll use pressure-treated 4x4's, which costs only pennies more than untreated lumber, but provides years-worth of protection from insects, mildew & decay.
(2) Support brackets will be used on all cross-beams. This will strengthen the next most important part of any fence, cross-beam connections. Typically, contractors will toe-nail 2x4's to the posts. Bad! Toe-nailing is the weakest kind of attachment because you're nailing with the grain of the wood, at the ends of the lumber, where decay firsts occurs. Brackets means one can cross nail, further from the ends and (important) provide vertical support for the cross-beams. The end result is that the cross beams will be more secure and better supported, translating into a much longer life-span.
(3) Structural attachments will be made with deck screws, not nails. Screws provide a much stronger attachment, compared to nails, as the surface area of hold increases considerably. In addition to superior hold, there's less stress on the fence components, during construction, as there's no POUNDING involved. They can also be removed easily, if repositioning is necessary or in the unlikely event that a fence panel needs to be removed.
(4) Bottom cross-beams will be flipped on-end for a no-sag fence. The long-axis of a 2x4 provides more than twice the structual support as the short-axis, which keeps it from sagging, under the weight of the slats, over time.
Bet you never thought that building a fence was so involved? LOL. Well, leave it to the retired geophysicist to over-engineer a fence. Believe me though, these are tried and proven techniques and they're often overlooked by contractors and fence companies (who just want to bang things up quickly and move on). These small changes can make a HUGE difference in the longevity of a fence. I know. I've replaced and repaired more fences than you can shake a stick at and most were failing (prematurely) because of problems that these techniques address.
With material costs for lumber increasing and labor costs going up, doesn't it make sense to spend 10-20% more and get a fence that lasts fourteen years, as compared with seven? I think so.
The Back Fence - Construction Progress
Side Fence - Construction Progress