Building a Fence for the Non-carpenter Part 1
Removal and Set-up
So you want to build a wooden fence? We’ll start where I had to start, with an old hurricane damaged wooden fence. Note, this isn’t quite as organized as the how-to-build-a-deck series. I did this much faster and with some professional help. There were a lot more tools involved and everything I describe worked here, but might not work in your location. Consult a pro for this one. At least look st more instructions than mine. Hopefully this will give you an idea of what you’re in for.
Step one is not to remove the old fence or to even order supplies or design your new fence. Step one is to call all the local utilities and get them to come find out where your buried utility lines are. Call the water, electric, gas, and cable. Even you you don’t think there are any buried lines around you, you might be surprised… I was.
Step two now that you know where you can’t build the fence, now start thinking about where and how you want to build the fence. Here’s what I did. I used 4×4 posts (8 feet long) as the posts spaced 8 feet apart. I used 2x4x12ft as rails to nail the pickets to. The pickets are 1x6x6ft. All of pressure treated pine. We hung the rails with 8 inch long 3/8in bolts. Because of rain and an injury, we haven’t hung the pickets yet.
The final fence will cover two sides of the back yard, a grand total of 165ft of fence. It will have one 5 foot gate.
We also had to clear some plants that were in the way of the new fence and move them to new locations.
Step 3 removing the old fence and posts. Easy way, use a sawzall (reciprocating saw) to cut the rails and pickets away from the posts. Cart those sections away (unless the ground is muddy, then you can stand on them. Use a 4×4 and some chain to pull up the old fence posts. We drilled a 1/2in hole through the poles very near ground level and put a large bolt through. We attached chain to the bolt, wrapped it around one end of the 4×4, then placed the 4×4 on some bricks for a fulcrum. About 200 lbs of force was transformed into over 1000lbs of force by mechanical advantage and the poles and concrete support literally popped out of the ground.
NOTE: Be careful, this is where the injury occured. My foot slipped and the 4×4 fell onto my chest. I’ve got a lovely bruised rib and some minor trouble breathing. Yay.
Step 4: The posts
Think very carefully before placing your posts. This is pretty critical. You need to be especially mindful of keeping them straight and where things like gates will be.
RENT AN AUGER (HOLE DIGGER). I can’t stress this enough. With the two of us, drilling the all 16 holes (3 we reused from the previous fence) took less than an hour.
Again, the critical part is lining everything up straight. Get some masons string (it’s pretty stretchy) and pull it tight along the path of the fence. Get some marking flags and put them every place you want to drill a hole for a post. Each hole needs to be about 2 feet deep. the post will rest on the bottom with concrete surrounding it.
Setting the posts straight and even is very time consuming. First one of the end posts in the its hole, fill with 20 ounces or so of water (we used a large Taco Bell cup), start filling with dry concrete mix. Tamp it down and mix with a long metal pole. As you fill, tamp, and mix, check each side with a level to make sure the post is straight.
Your best bet is to let that post set and then use it as the baseline for the rest. Once the concrete has set, put a nail on the inside (facing your yard) of the post. Tie the mason’s string to the nail. Run that to the end of the fence and tie it off to a temporary pole. Then place and concrete the rest of the posts using that line as your reference… ensuring that each post is level on each side and square to the string.