Modern fence, pt. 1: Farm out the big dig

gate
Here’s the opening for the main gate. I love Japanese design so I left these posts tall and created my version of a traditional torii gate. I’ll cover that DIY later. Just deep lag screws, really. Plus that big bandsaw cut on the top timber. You might need to find a woodworker friend for that!

Like almost everything else around your house, you can build your own fence. You will save a ton of dough and get exactly what you want. In my case, I pictured a funky wood-metal combo, with corrugated steel panels surrounded by pressure-treated posts and rails. It took some problem-solving (which I love) and about a week-and-a-half of work, but I saved about $6 grand. Those are great wages in my world!

Our old fence was a wreck. Portland rain and rot takes a toll, and our fence was an embarassment. So job one was leveling it and getting rid of a huge pile of debris. As you know from a previous post, I have a fire pit, so the old cedar fence boards would not go to waste. But pressure-treated posts have nasty chemicals in them. Those went to the dump in the back of my pickup. That said there are lots of services that will pick up your construction debris, leaving you giant bags to stuff it in.

It took a day to take down the old fence, chop up the cedar, and dump the posts. Then I was ready to go.

Aside from the initial design concept, my other smart idea was to farm out the post work. From a past deck project, I know how brutal hole-digging could be, and I didn’t mind leaving the spacing and alignment to the experts too. So I asked around, found a fair-minded outfit called Rick’s Custom Fencing, and waited for the arranged day to arrive.

Setting the posts was going to be a tricky business, due to the corrugated fence panels. They are 2 ft. wide each, and I knew I wanted to set them between the posts with no gaps. They can overlap as needed, but the ripples only fit together a certain way, basically in 2-1/2-in. increments, so the posts could only be certain distances apart or I would end up having to cut a lot of the panels to custom widths as I installed them, which is do-able but still a PIA.

I met up with the guys in the morning and told them the deal. They could have rolled their eyes and blown me off, but they were awesome. They totally understood what I was after, but just to be sure, I wrote the possible spacing dimensions on a scrap of 2×4 and put it where they could see it all day! They nailed almost every space between every post, all while setting each one plumb (vertical) and rock-solid in concrete.

Their work cost me about $2,400, for 160 feet of fence with posts set roughly 8 ft. apart, and a few extra posts for the gates. But it was a bargain considering that they would have charged roughly $10K for the whole fence.

With the posts up, the rest was easy. Stay tuned for part 2!

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