The Fence (II)

Brooke here:

As of this time last week, the trash can contained: (1) one bag of garbage; (2) a dead possum which had drowned in the pool; and (3) the last of the orange construction barrier we’ve had up in place of a real fence.  Because we now have a This:

Oh, the fun of building a fence on a hill.

This is a progress shot, mind you!  There is still a ton of work to be done to make it look all pretty and such, including caulking some joints and putting a top cap on to keep the rain off, but the basic framework is mostly finished.  We are very happy.  This might be the first project we’ve attempted where the results don’t make us cringe and regret (I think starting from scratch, rather than working around someone else’s mistakes, has helped a lot with this).

The word Brown  uses to describe this project is over-engineered: we went into this fence knowing we didn’t want to replace it during our ownership of this house, so we have overbuilt the snot out of it.  The design is an adapted traditional American Arts and Crafts fence, with the “peeking” effect allowed by the difference between the wide slats and the thin gaps between these.  We chose the design after we found the materials.  I was at Lowes and they had a stack of 1″x6″x12′ lumber on clearance for twenty-four cents.  Yes, four for a dollar!  We flew over as soon as Brown got off of work and bought the lot of them.  Fully half of those dark brown slats cost us a total of twenty bucks.

It was nice to say goodbye to the orange barrier fence.  Since it wouldn’t keep dogs in or people out, it was there for no other reason than Legal Purposes.

Our neighbors? They love us.

Since there is a slope to the line of the land, we decided to build the fence in sections.  There are several ways to build fences on slopes, but this is our first time building a fence and we decided to go with the easiest method, which is to treat each section as its own little self-contained universe.  The top of each section would be exactly 5′ from the lowest left-hand point, so each section would follow the slope of the land and would be measured from ground-up, then built from top-down.  The top line of the fence looks a little bouncy in places, but the effect isn’t too noticeable.

Brown built a couple of jigs to make the section layouts consistent.   He put a jig on both of the fence posts in the section we were working on, then used a spare board to level the jigs.  The spacer in the center of the jig would help him set each of the rails at a uniform depth on the posts.  He drilled four pocket holes per rail and attached the rail to the post using 3″ screws.

Jig for easy rail placement and leveling, with spacing for the slats. Also, Brown and puppy butts.

My job was cutting and staining.  Or, more precisely, to apply three layers of stain to hermetically seal the wood forever.  The choice of stain also came after we bought that sale lumber; the boards were in generally good condition but there were some really skunky pieces with cosmetic damage.  No problem, that’s where my tool crush comes in (helpful hint!  crushes turn to love when Sherman Williams offers one of their online 30%-off coupons).

Hey, nice job! You’re done! Oh, wait.  Do this forty more times. Screw you, free time!

Once the rails were up and the slats were painted, we attached each slat to the rail with four screws.  We didn’t want them warping so they are stuck to the rails, hard.  We’re very pleased with the progress thus far.  The view from the porch is starting to be beautiful.

The fence through the lens of a Japanese maple.

Next comes the gate.  We’ve really come in under budget so far, but good gate hardware is expensive.  Still, as far as value-added projects go, we’ve done ourselves a lot of good with this fence.

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5 thoughts on “The Fence (II)

  1. Awesome – looks great so far 🙂

    P.S. – There is almost no such thing as ‘over-engineering’ …
    Thare is OK (engineered), Good (‘over-engineered’) and Oops we went to far (structure starts to interfere with function) X3

  2. John Richards

    So glad that you triple-stained the wood. My dad was an engineer, so over-engineering was a way of life when I was little. For the mail box and post to our house, he decided he was going to make one of his own. He took a twelve foot length of four by four, sunk most of it into the ground, and then poured about six bags of concrete around it. Hurricane Katrina took the actual mailbox off, but the frigging post is still there, and it’s been twenty years! A couple teens swerved into it a few years ago because they were vandalizing mailboxes. The front end of their car was totaled as if they’d wrapped it around a tree!…and I totally lost the point of why I was telling you all this…

    Hate it when that happens.

    Beautiful fence, in any case. That yard is really coming together.

  3. We’re huge fans of over-engineering here too (at 360 Yardware where you linked to the gate latch). Better to put the effort into it once and have it last a zillion years. thanks for the link! Happy to find your site!

  4. I’m worried that you may have a design flaw. One of the stated goals for this fence is to keep dogs in. But that gap at the downhill end of each section just looks perfect for a dog to dig under and escape. Even dogs as big as yours. You may find yourself plugging each and every one of thoes gaps with something big and heavy to prevent breakouts. The big granite blocks you bought for the retaining wall could look good there. Just lay them 2-3 inches below and parallel to the bottom rail. As close to the downhill post an you can get.

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