23. July 2012 · 5 comments · Categories: Backyard

Something we noticed about our property during our very first walk through with our real estate agent (love her, if you need one let me know) was that the fence while cute, was WAY past due for a replacement. According to our neighbors, a previous owner who built this fence died 15 years ago… that’s how long it’s lasted. Pretty impressive actually, especially considering we have crazy weather in Northern Virginia.

Apparently the sellers of our house were aware that the fence should be replaced too since they replaced one section… yeahhhhh. Keeping it classy.

Honestly though it’s a good thing they didn’t replace the entire fence because if we had a new 4 foot tall fence that might have been a bit of a bummer. Samson (our killer beast of a dog) can EASILY clear 4 feet when he jumps, and he’s good at “up” so naturally we needed a 6 foot fence. We’re also into having privacy in the backyard, you know, in case I want to plant a smooch on Montana, so the “neighborly” paneled fence wasn’t really the look we wanted.

Montana is going to school year round so we have to plan our big projects around his breaks. Clearly replacing the fence was a big project so I requested 3 days of leave from work. That would leave us with 5 days of work time to tear down the old fence and get up the new fence. We figured we could worry about staining it later. Totally do-able right?

Our beloved Lowes has some pretty great “How To” planning guides and videos on their website. We planned on doing a 6 foot privacy fence with 4×4 posts and use the pre-made fence panels that come in 8 foot sections. Our back fence was 64′ across, the right side fence was 61′ long, and then we had two 20′ sections and a 12′ section, which together equals…. a crap ton of fence and posts. Thankfully our neighbors on the left already have a 6′ privacy fence so that saved us a lot of time and money. By doing the pre-made panels we also wouldn’t have to worry about renting or buying an air compressor and nailer so that would save us some more money. (Unfortunately the closest Lowes or Home Depot to us that rents tools is about a half hour away, so renting is sometimes more inconvenient than its worth.)

That Tuesday night when I got home and started going over our plan one last time I had a major slight breakdown as I looked outside. For some reason it only sunk in at the 11th hour that our plan to use pre-made section was ridiculous. There are no flat parts of land in our backyard, and the fence along the back of the property is shaped like an upside down U. Technically I suppose we could have used the panels, but we would have been forced to use the stepping method which personally I think is less attractive and looks lazy, though admittedly would save boat loads of time during the install.

Thankfully there wasn’t too much involved in reworking the plan since we still were going to put the posts 8 feet apart.

Wednesday we spent all day either at Lowes picking out the supplies or waiting for the Lowes staff to load the truck. How on earth it takes 2.5 hours to load a truck I have no idea, but thankfully they only start charging you for your hour when you actually leave.

I had high hopes that once we actually started the work that things would go more smoothly. Don’t laugh! Remember we’re new to home ownership.

Thursday morning we started tearing down the fence. I used our reciprocal saw to cut the panels close to each post and then Montana came behind me and knocked/pulled the posts out of the ground. We had the whole thing down in about 2 hours. It was marvelous. Of course my hand was numb for a day afterwards from the vibrations but at least it was quick! I posted on Craigslist that we had free fence panels and people came to get all of them in 2 days. Not a bad way to get rid of stuff we’d otherwise have to pay to take to the dump!

By Thursday late day we started measuring and digging. You would think that measuring 8 feet sections would be easy enough but I think we measured each section about 3 times and still had problems. When we started digging our holes with the auger we found that it wasn’t as easy as the Lowes video makes it out to be. We’d dig about 4 inches and hit a rock.

Then dig another 2 inches and get stuck on a large root leftover from our monster trees that we’d have to go get the axe and try to break up enough to get it out of the way of our whole. It also doesn’t help that we have clay and our neighborhood was built on an old stone quarry (Hence Stoneybrooke). Needless to say getting to 24 inches deep took FOREVER and in some areas we gave up at 18 and called it good enough. We also had to stop and take out 5 stumps from trees along the fence line that had been removed by the previous owners but never dug up. Of course one of those stumps was on top of where a post needed to go.

We ran into another problem when we got up to the side of the house and started digging out the hole from the previous post and found that the cement was right up against the brick outside wall of our basement and went down about a foot. After staring at it for a while pondering and calling in a life line (Dad) we decided to just reuse their hole and put in a metal post. My dad said that it would probably be good bug wise to not have a wood post right up against the house anyway. I’m just thinking it will be nice to reuse the stainless steel post again for the next fence in 20 years. I’m optimistic like that.

Digging post holes took all day Friday and Saturday morning. Some of our besties from our old condo rental came over and helped dig the last of the holes. It’s good to have friends. Really good. The first half of the posts finally went up Saturday afternoon. Before cementing in any post we held up our 8 foot long 2 x 4 stingers to quadruple check that the posts would be in the right spot.

Unfortunately since some of our holes ended up being WAY wider than necessary because of all the rocks and roots we ended up with not enough cement. Also on Saturday night we had a rain storm so all our holes filled back up with water. I mentioned how this project was one pain in the butt after another right? I may or may not have started to shop-vac the water out of the holes before Montana pointed out that we could just mix the cement with the rainwater instead of carrying buckets around. He’s a smart one that husband of mine. Even the posts that were complete on Saturday were too wobbly because the dirt was still saturated on Sunday so we went to bed after our weekend with only our posts up. I was pretty bummed considering I had used up 3 days of my 20 yearly vacation days and we had so little to show for it but I guess that’s how things go. I told my mom on the phone that this was when I realized that house projects always seem to cost 150% of what you expect and take at least 3 times as long.

Monday I went back to work and left Montana and his brother home to start putting up the stringers. I returned home to this:

It was glorious. Simple pleasures. The three of us worked until dark that night and were thankfully able to get all the stringers up that day.

Tuesday after work we fastened our leftover stakes to the top of our posts and tied off string where we wanted the top of our pickets to sit. After a week of incredibly slow progress it felt soo soo good to see those pickets go up so quickly. I stood back to make sure the board was at the right height, Montana’s brother held the board in place and Montana screwed.

We decide just to put in 2 screws per board to place them and go back later and fill in the other 4 screws. That way we’d at least finally be able to let Samson run free again the backyard. He was not a fan of being tied up every time he went outside.

To be fair most of his days were spent like this:

There’s a free loader on every work site.

Ahhhh.. Finished at last!

Did I say finished? What I meant was ready to put on Thompson’s Waterproofer, which took no less than 3 weeks to complete between the sprayer being a total piece of worthless poop, and having to wait for the weather to give us at least 48 hours of no rain at a time (24 hours for the wood to dry out and 24 hours for the sealer to set). Harder than you would think for this area. But in the end it looks so nice and it the water beads up just like its supposed to!

Bottom Line: This was WAY harder than I thought it would be. But $1500 in materials and a bunch of work = better than $7-$10 grand!

**This is probably the longest post I will ever write… I’m pretty sure you’re not even reading this anymore. If you are… see me to collect your free drink. 🙂