Lessons Learned on Completed Fence Project


Old 07-11-04, 09:47 AM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Lessons Learned on Completed Fence Project

I figured I'd share some lessons learned on a fence project I completed yesterday.

Some background:
Old inground pool - needed a new fence. Priced out some different options at local fence contractors, and I was looking at about a $7000 installed wooden semi private fence.

So, I rolled up my sleeves and took on the project myself. I bought 6ft tall cedar pickets and had them delivered to my house. I went to the lumber yard and bought my cross sections - home depot supplied the metal poles, simpson brackets, concrete, and other misc items.

Here's some things I learned along the way that was NOT mentioned in any threads here.

1) Building permit - make sure you check first. You may or may not need one, and you may be able to make minor modifications to your fence and avoid having to get one. In my example, keeping the fence 6ft tall or less allowed me to avoid a permit.

2) Simpson PGT brackets. NOBODY sells the corner brackets that are linked in this forum. Plan early and special order them through home depot. Expect to wait 2 weeks for them.

3) Pickets twist and warp. Don't undo more bundles than you can nail down in one day. As soon as you let them, cedar pickets twist like Chubby Checker. Also, don't be cheap - you need the middle crossmember to keep the pickets from twisting.

4) Not every picket is EXACTLY the same height. My first fencing panel was nice and even on the bottom, and all crooked and jagged along the top. You want the top even - nobody will notice an uneven bottom. Use a stringline along the top for best results.

5) Procedue for building your panels. Take your three cross members and lay them on a flat surface. Measure the distance between them to desired. Don't bother with trying to get things square just yet - it's futile. The boards will move around when hammering/screwing. Nail in one picket on the end with only one nail per cross member. Measure the other end's cross members, and nail down another picket - again with only one nail per member (so the whole thing can twist easily). NOW it's time to get anal. You won't notice an unsquare fence panel on the ground, but when you hang it - you'll be surprised at how well your eyes detect the smallest amount of error. I found measuring the diagonals to be the best method to check for squareness. Make sure your diagonals are equal distance, hold the panel down tight, and secure the end pickets with more nails. String a line from the tops of the two end pickets so you know how to place the remainder. Nail down the rest of the pickets. Repeat

6) If you're building a semi private fence - may I suggest a 3/4 inch gap between pickets. It's enough space to allow a breeze, yet close enough to make things private. The other benefit of a 3/4 inch gap is that you can find a piece of plywood, particleboard, or a million other flat items that you can cut and use as a spacer. I cut two pieces of 3/4 inch plywood, and my pickets couldn't be any straighter. Also, don't be afraid to bend your pickets to make them straight - put some elbow grease into it and force your pickets to be straight.

7) Pulling old posts. I had to pull 20ish metal poles before I could put down my new fence. Don't underestimate this task. Concreted metal poles do not come out easily. I got lucky whereas a backhoe was doing some other work in my yard, so I had him pull them out. It would have taken me weeks to dig them all up.

8) Use the quick dry, fast setting concrete that you can just pour right into the holes. It's more expensive, but it made setting posts SO much easier. Put the pole in the ground, pour in the concrete and water, plumb it, and then your done.

9) Use stainless steel shank nails or desk screws. You don't want the cedar to streak.

10) You need two people to hang 8 foot long fence panels. The Simpson PGT brackets make things easy enough, but you need four hands. You CAN hang all your panels in one day if all your posts are set.

11) Gates are a pain in the rear when using metal poles. The hardware just doesn't match well. I built "special" fence panels on either side of the gate, where the panels had a vertical 2X4. Then I could use regular old wooden fence gate equipment and hinges.

12) Corners are not fun. Measure carefully, and remember to take into account the width of the poles, brackets, fence panels, and anything else. This part is easy to screw up. This is the only part of my project where I messed up. Two of my corners don't meet.

13) Got a fence panel that isn't square? Hang the panel from the top brackets and tighten them down. Get a crowbar. Jam it between the panel and the pole and literally force the panel square. While it's being forced square, tighen down the bottom brackets. You'll find that your eyes detect off squareness easily. Often, you'll only have to bend the panel less than an inch to make it look good. This is the nice part about the pickets being able to twist.

14) I built about 250 feet of fence. It took me about 2 months from the day I started buying stuff until I was completely done. I was working mostly on weekends when my toddler allowed me free time. It's not a hard project, but slightly time consuming.

I saved about $4000 by doing it myself, and my fence looks GREAT! Make sure you're ready for a large project, be patient, and you too can complete a successful fence project. Hopefully, this post helps others avoid some of mistakes I made...

Good Luck
Sponsored Links
Old 07-16-04, 03:45 PM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Arlington, WA
Posts: 9,238
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts

I just might have to make a 'Sticky' out of this!! Having built several hundred fences, I know all of the issues you ran into -- I just tend to overlook mentioning them in my posts. Good point about the corner PGT's. (I have about 30 of them laying around, and when that number gets to about 15 or 20, I reorder another case!!)

Fence boards aren't all the same length, so the string line across the top -- just don't make the run too long!! The string WILL sag in the middle, and your fence will show that sag.
Old 07-19-04, 08:46 AM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
ooooooo sticky status would be cool

I had read so many good ideas in the forum, that I felt the need to try and contribute back. Hopefully, it helps people avoid some of my mistakes...

Old 08-19-04, 11:18 AM
dsw is offline
Join Date: May 2004
Location: us
Posts: 136
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
great post. thanks for all the info!
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Your question will be posted in: