Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mending Good Neighbors

"Good fences make good neighbors" - Robert Frost

When we moved into this house, one of the reasons we picked it was the privacy fence. Little did we know that the fence was recently constructed, and on the cheap, to attract a buyer. The posts were not treated against moisture rot, nor were they standard 4x4s, and the rails were 1x3's instead of 2x4's. The result after two years is a leaning mess.

This fence leans because the post has rotted clean through at ground level. I blame the sandworms, personally.

the weight of the unsupported fence panels has cracked the concrete footer of this corner post. this one has to be replaced too.

The sagging rails and warped pickets are minor problems, mostly aesthetic. I'd have to rebuild the whole fence. The pictures above, however, show posts that have rotted clean through at ground level due to moisture rot. The only thing to be done is to replace them.

Step 1: Detach fence panels from post. Of course, as soon as you do that, the post has nothing to hold it up, and it falls over.
The base of this post has crumbled to worm food at the soil line. 

detached fence panels
closeup of rotted end of post. n.b. I counted 27 slugs living inside
Step 2: Since these posts are kept in the ground by a concrete footer sunk 18inches in the ground, that means we have to dig out the stub of the post, encased in concrete, before we can put in a new post. And because the old post rotted  off at the soil line, we have nothing with which to grab the footer. Time to dig.

most specs recommend at least 18" depth for these footers, so they stay deeper than the frost line, preventing heaving out of the ground. These were only 12" in, but since it doesn't get too cold here, I didn't bother going much deeper.

these suckers are heavy, even at only 16" x 8" cylinder

Step 3: Go buy some treated 4x4 posts and concrete. Put the new post in the old hole, plumb it, level it, and brace it. Then fill the hole with concrete.

refill the hole with dirt before adding water to the concrete. check your post level every time you touch the hole.

If the footer extends slightly above grade, water-to-wood contact is minimized.
Step 4: After 24 hours, reattach fence panels, and you are good to go.

Alternate method: For one of the posts, I tried a product called a Speed Post, which is esentially a 30" metal stake with a bracket to hold the butt of a 4x4 at the top.

You sink the stake into the ground and bolt the 4x4 into the bracket, eliminating the need for a concrete footer. It was certainly faster, and the post seems just as stable, but at over $20 each, it wasn't worth the dosh imho.

Remember folks, I do this shit with my bare goddamn hands.

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