Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Building a Stock-Materials PT Privacy Fence

This is for GD and SR, who are close to moving into their first home together: Lessons learned when we built our 6' pre-fab panel privacy fence

This isn't a "how-to" guide so much as a "tips & tricks" list. An abbreviated how-to is simply:
  1. Plan it out, measure twice, go to the store once and get more than you need. If you're not 100% sure what length screws you need, buy both sizes. Keep receipts.
  2. Dig holes in the right places
  3. Put in the poles with something to secure them upright and facing the right way
  4. Connect the fence sections
  5. Build and install gates
  6. Beer only after fence posts are in place.
So here are my random tips & tricks, which I'll probably add to as I remember things and which I invite others to add to as well.
  • Rent a gas-powered post hole digger. Definitely don't get the kind where the motor is attached directly to the top of the auger. That type requires very strong tall people to run it. Instead get the kind where the moter is on wheels and the auger is attached separately- much easier to use. Make sure they have a big enough auger (several inches further around than your posts).
  • Listen to the guy at the rental place when he tells you "up and down, up and down, do a little bit then pull it up, then do a bit more, don't just dig down one continuous time", and "if it gets stuck, don't keep running it - it's not a drill where you can run it more to help you pull it out." He means it. If it gets even a tiny bit stuck, STOP, kill the power, and shovel that puppy out. Don't let some macho strong-like-bull types convince themselves that they know that running it more will help get it out. It will only help drive it 6' into the ground, resulting in 3 hours of digging and a very large truck and chain to finally yank that sucker out.
  • Clearly mark out where the posts will go, then have someone carefully watching to ensure that the auger doesn't dance off that spot and put a hole 4" over from where it was supposed to go.
  • The quickcrete "calculate how many bags you'll need to set posts" folks lie. Buy what they say you need but keep the receipt so that you can return the 1/3 - 1/2 that you ended up not needing. We ended up with some gravel, one bag of quick crete, some more gravel, then well tamped dirt, and those posts aren't going anywhere.
  • Don't forget your levels, nice long accurate levels, and bungie cords to hold the level to the poles while you set them in place. a long and very straight board is also useful for verifying that the poles are all facing exactly forward.
  • Don't attempt to buy poles that are just exactly the right length then bury them all just exactly the same amount. I helped a friend attempt to do this and it was nuts. Pay the extra, get the longer poles, get them set, THEN chop off the tops to get them even.
  • Get the right types of screws for the lumber (PT for the new chemicals) and some good cordless drivers. and extra batteries. And gloves. That much screwing can give you blisters. ::chuckle::
  • Don't forget your building permit if you need one, and to ask you local zoning office about any fence restrictions with regard to height, setbacks, materials, etc. Don't guess on these things.
  • Make sure that you know your legal property boundaries - just becuase plantings or a fence at a particular spot doesn't mean that's your property line. Leave the surveyor's flags in place or devise some way to easily find the exact marks, because you'll need them.
I know there's more, but it's late and I can't remember.

Here's the only pic I have that shows a broad view of the completed fence - along with a broad view of last year's summer floods. We hadn't cut off the top of the poles. Ok, we still haven't. And we need to figure out a way to address that the double gates (seen to the right of the barn) which are warping, as PT lumber tends to do, in opposite directions. And we need to find a lock that won't rust. But other than that, we're really pretty happy with it. Would we have preferred other matierals, a more custom fence built a picket at a time? Of course! But this went up fast and easy and relatively cheap, which was very important at that time.


mindy said...

What a great post - printed this out, it'll be very helpful when we start digging tomorrow. Thanks for the link!

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