Our Fence (and the lessons we learned)

After much debate early on, we decided on a fence to incorporate much of the back yard.  I now realize that this is more for my emotional well-being more than the physical safety of our precious pup, Zoe.  But we persisted and finally the fence is mostly done.  Just the final hardware on the gates and we are finished. So here is our fence journey and the lessons we learned along the way.

Figuring out what type of fence, and realizing we were not building a fortress against the Cherokees was the hardest thinking part.  Finally it came down to what mixed best with the rest of the neighborhood.  While there are many different styles around our neighborhood, the French Gothic seemed to be the most common in our area.  The 4′ high worked best with the house, the dog’s reach and our budget.  Since there are both flat and hilly sections of the fence line, straight panels weren’t going to work in all sections.  We had to adopt a two prong approach to the fence strategy.  Premade panels came in 8′ x 4′ high from Home Depot.  They were special order, but only took a few days to come in.  The sloped sections would have to be stick built.

Once we figured out how big the panels would be then we knew how far apart to set the posts (in theory).  We ran neon string around our proposed perimeter and marked each 8′ section with a flag.  We had 40 sections and some questionable terrain.  I think it was at this point that Matt got a bit discouraged and doubtful about digging holes through rocks and roots in the fencerow area.  We made the first of many trips to the hardware to gather supplies.  40 – 8’x 4″x4″ Posts, 20- bags of Quikrette and some gravel.  We later discovered that the gravel was not really necessary.

A quick call to Miss Utility to mark any underground lines and we were ready.  That was an easy no brainer to assure that we would not hit anything unintentionally.

Then came the post hole digging.  thankfully Matt, in true engineer/male testosterone  style, selected the biggest machine at Northwest Hardware for a weekend rental.  This Gas Powered Fulcrum Auger was towed behind the car and was self propelled once unhitched. It was a 9 hp Subaru motor powering the hydraulics.  That saved a tremendous amount of pushing and pulling and cussin’ and swearing.

The moment of truth had arrived, the first hole with a post hole digger.  I could not wait for Matt to see how easy this was going to be.  Auger down, power on…… spinning, spinning not much coming out, spinning, more spinning.  Oh no, this isn’t going to be easy.  Turns out that the first hole was one of the hardest.  We just lucked into the worst spot in the yard full of rock hard dried out clay, unlike anything else in the rest of the yard.  With hesitation I was able to convince Matt to try the next hole.  Auger down, spinning and viola….. lots of dirt and a nice clean hole.  Great only 39 more to go.  Soaking the first hole with water for an hour or two was all it needed, and the auger eventually brought it up as easily as the rest.

We used a 6″ auger bit.  In hindsight, we probably should have used a slightly larger bit, say 8 or 9″.  It would have given us more room for more  concrete around the posts.  Some of the soil we hit was a bit unstable unlike the clay soils I have hit in past hole digging experiences.  So more concrete would have been better.

The post hole digger was rented for a full 24 hours.  It was the beginning of some really hot weather we have had this summer.  Fish was nice enough to come help on most of the holes.  It made the job alot easier.

Setting the posts came next. This handy level, designed for post applications was the best $5 we spent on the job.  The rubber band came with it and made it hands free.  Neat trick. It says “Magnetic” on it, but that only works for iron wood (or metal studs).

Finally we used the wheelbarrow enough in mixing the concrete to chip up the newish paint a little and make it look like a real wheelbarrow should.  Mixing the Quickrette was simple and had a wide margin between too wet and too dry.  Matt developed a skill at this so much that should he ever give up Solidworking he has something to fall back on.

The panels went up with a little effort.  The rails on the panels are smaller than a 2×4 width and are made from very dry pine.  There is not alot of room for error when placing screws.  We ended up splitting a few until we got the hang of it.  But here is the thing that they don’t tell you about the panels.  8′ panels are not exactly 8 feet long. Some are shorter some are longer, slightly.  The only way I can figure to get around this is to set each post as you work around the yard, but that would take forever.  And as much as my architect brain say – yea yea, that is the way to make sure of a perfect fit. It just isn’t worth it.  Some we had to cut and some we had to reach with a simple angle bracket.  In the end it isn’t that noticeable.

The stick built sections went together much quicker than we expected.  It was somewhat daunting to see the big pile of 200 pickets laying under the tree, knowing we had to touch, align and put 4 screws in each one.  As we worked, we developed a rhythmical system that made it go by quickly.  There were times that we didn’t talk but communicated effectively.

This morning we worked on the gates.  We have two of three up.  They still need the latches but that can happen, when it happens.  Self-closing hinges make sure that the gates don’t just stay open. Maybe the next post will address those.  We are pleased with our complete enclosure and as for Zoe she played so hard the first day that she slept well before her usual bedtime.  We will hold on to the satisfaction that comes with a finished job for this Labor Day Holiday.