Monday, September 30, 2013

Fencing, Round Three

The summer is getting on, and before the snow starts flying I have more fence work to do. This time it's the long stretch between me and my neighbor. Like all the rest, it is in sad shape. Observe this lovely lean it has developed:

And yes, that's a broken-down triangle tower that is being used to help brace it. My neighbor provided some impetus to not let this job lapse into next year by pointing out that the fence is unlikely to withstand a broadside from a snowblower. Fair point.

In some ways this section is more straightforward than others I have done. This section has no gate, and the starting and ending points are not constrained by large immobile objects like the foundation of my house. Nope, it is just one eight-foot long section after another. Unfortunately, it's a whole bunch of sections, about 80 feet all told, which means a whole bunch of posts and trim work. Half of the fence is nice, manageable 4' tall spaced picket. The back sections, however, are 6' tall privacy, which are really heavy and unwieldy. All in all, a large (and expensive) job. The joy of home ownership!

Like a fool I decided to do the installation myself, as I did with the others. The reasoning for this is simple: the fencing system I am using - with metal channels supporting wood panels - is uncommon enough that no one around here works with it regularly, and I would rather not have this job be their proving ground. Plus the cost of installation (I could not actually ever get a firm quote - based on the unfamiliarity) was frightful.

If the job were left to just evenings after work and the occasional Saturday, it probably would never get finished. So I decided to make a concerted attack on it and see how far I could get. Last weekend I picked up most of the materials from my supplier. This week I took Friday off and got to work. As Brynna was heading off to school I was pulling out some rotting posts.

The locations of the new posts did not line up with the old posts, meaning that each hole was started from scratch. My progress was hampered several times when, 6-12" down, I would thump into roots.

Goodness only knows where they came from. They aren't close to any substantial plant. I suppose it is possible they belong to the old maple tree, tens of feet away. As I dug holes closer to the stump, the roots became more frequent and thicker.

By the end of my first work day, Friday, I had put in almost ten hours and managed to set just four posts - less than halfway. I was beat from post-hole digging, hauling dirt, and mixing and schlepping concrete. Still, it was a start.

Saturday morning my neighbor picked me up with his pickup and trailer, and we went to pick up the materials I hadn't picked up already. These were the 6' fence panels, four of them, which I could not readily load onto the top of Hilary's station wagon last weekend. I next hung the 4' tall panels. The first one cornered to the first set of fence I installed last summer.

Late in the day, after sinking another post, I installed a "sloped" panel to transition from the 4' fence to the 6'. The first post of the 6' section I doubled up the post to create a box beam. This is not, according to the manufacturer's installation guidelines, strictly necessary. But I'm an engineer and wanted some additional rigidity.

By this point it was about 4:30. I had designs on going further and sinking another post before calling it quits, but figured that my efforts would be better spent making dinner. Here's the extent of my progress at the end of the second day:

Nice to see that I can hew to a straight line!

Day three, Sunday, I woke up pretty sore, but still determined to keep at it. My progress slowed right down when my post hole digger thumped into a tight clump of tree roots the size of my forearm. It took until lunchtime to clear that and dig the first hole of the day.

I managed a second post in the afternoon before packing it in. I could perhaps have soldiered on, but I was beat. The next hole would have brought my closer to the tree stump, meaning a high likelihood of encountering more tenacious roots to saw through. Plus, I was out of concrete. The 6' panels are too heavy to maneuver into place single-handed, so I called it quits for the day. Instead, I did something nice and relaxing, like washing and hanging the laundry. Then I went grocery shopping, followed by a swing past the hardware store for a few more bags of concrete (80 lbs each) and gravel (50 lbs each).

So three full days of work, and about 3/4 of the fence installed. Not bad, I suppose, but I'd hoped for more. Of course, once the fence itself is installed, there will come a long period of trim work to cover over the metal posts. It'll look great when it's finished, but there's a lot of work still to come.

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