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trying to build a cedar fence and avoid problems

trying to build a cedar fence and avoid problems

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  #1  
Old 05-24-08, 12:00 PM
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trying to build a cedar fence and avoid problems

After reading some of the previous posts I'm realizing how easy it is to mess up when you don't know what you are doing. I've come up with a design for a privacy fence that is like a shadow box without any space between. I've gone and purchased 81 6" X 6' western cedar pickets. These are not what I'd call boards because they are only 1/2 inch thick (from Lowes for only $2.60 a piece). Some of these are heavy and wet. Others are bone dry and very light.

I'm attempting to dry the pickets right in the sun in my back yard. I'm watching them to make sure they don't warp as they dry. So far so good. But maybe I'm just asking for trouble. A previous post mentioned that you don't force wet wood to dry in the sun unless you want warping. You are supposed to lay them flat, cover them, and wait for months I guess. So my first question is about the correct way to go about drying fresh wood boards. Keep in mind these 'boards' are only 1/2 inch thick.

My second question is whether or not I should use 8" (7 1/4" actual) or 6" (5 1/2 actual") wide horizontal boards for the fence.




The top image shows the fence using 7 1/4" wide horizontal boards. The second image shows a bottom up view to reveal how the the fence is constructed. It consists of offset pickets that are sandwiched between a pair of cedar boards on the top and the bottom. These are real boards with an actual thickness of 3/4". I'd like to use 5 1/2" wide horizontal boards but am not sure if that will be strong enough for a 8' wide panel. So do I really need 7 1/4" boards horizontals for structual strength ?

Thank in advance for your thoughts and suggestions.
 
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Old 05-24-08, 05:47 PM
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You need a solid surface to mount your verticle boards to. 1x material used as horizontal stringers inset into the 4x4 posts will not be strong enough in my opinion. You have to toenail the 1x material into the 4x4 to get the inlay. The fact that you want to use cedar, a relatively soft wood, also adds to my concerns from a structural perspective. It will probably split at the nail holes when you add weight to it.
 
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Old 05-24-08, 11:08 PM
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jjtbay,

Sundrying your boards is going to create problems for you. They will warp, twist, crack, bend, and everything else that a board can do to create headaches for you.

Best bet is to install them in the fence, regardless of wet or dry, and let mother nature take her course. At least installed, both ends of the boards are anchored in place. What happens in the middle is what happens.
 
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Old 05-25-08, 07:19 AM
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czizzi, I see you point about the 1 X1"s. To the extent possible I'm planning on fastening with screws and not nails. I'm hoping that pre-drilling pilot holes for the screws will avoid the problems of splitting. Would I be able to use a hardwood just for the 1x1"s ?

As for drying the wood, isn't dry wood a pre-requisite for any kind of staining or waterproofing treatment? When I called up Cabot paints they also suggested it's a good idea to clean the wood before applying any kind stain / preservative to kill off any mold spores.

I also have to confess the design is not really my idea. It came from a place called Rustic fences http://www.rusticfences.com/. Here is their fence:



I think this fence is built entirely of 8" X 8' boards. And it looks like high grade cedar. That's way too expensive for me so that is why I'm using the 5 1/2" wide boards from Lowes. I wish I could see how they have fastened this fence to the 4X4"s.
 
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Old 05-25-08, 08:12 AM
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I am going to guess that there is a 2x4 stringer set at the extreme top and bottom located dead center on the 4x4 and screwed or toenailed in place. This 2x4 is then faced with a 1x6 to hide the 2x4 top and bottom. The pickets are then set on top of the 2x4 and nailed to the 1x6. Once the pickets are up, the opposite side gets the 1x6 added top and bottom with a 1x4 top cap to dress it out. All the endcuts of the pickets are then sandwiched between 1x6 decorative boards but the strength comes from the 2x4's hidden top and bottom. Finish off with nice post caps and you should have a beautiful fence.

So a slight modification to your design and you should be good to go.

Is the cedar from the box store square cut, or is it bevel cut. The only ones I have seen are used for siding and they are tapered along the width.

Dry them on the fence, not as individual pieces.
 
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Old 05-25-08, 08:02 PM
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czizzi, That is some great insight you have. I'd never have guessed or thought of there being a hidden 2X4" support. As for the box store boards they are the same width with no tapering. But they do have a dog ear on top. But that is going to get covered up by the top horizontal board.

What I'm wondering now is how the pickets will positioned on the 2X4". If they are on top then 2X4", as shown below, then that will make the fence a shadow box which won't have the 100% privacy I'm looking for.



So I'm wondering if it's possible to have the pickets fastened to the board and then have the board fastened to the 2X4" like this:

another view


Of the 81 boards only one ended up with a bad warping after two days in the sun. The others all seem to look OK. They are now laying flat on my porch, covered, and away from the direct sun. It's going to be awhile till everything is ready to go for building them.
 
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Old 05-25-08, 09:01 PM
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My suggestion was your second drawing. Follow the steps I've previously outlined. 2x4's up first, then one side 1x6 (top and bottom), then pickets, then other side 1x6 (top and bottom), finish with 1x4 on top.

Use the appropriate sized nails depending on which board you are putting up to prevent "blow through" of the nail out the other side of the fence.

Make sure your 4x4 posts are accurately spaced so that each fence panel looks balanced with the same approx. end cuts on the pickets on both sides of each panel.
 
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Old 05-26-08, 09:25 AM
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Glad that you meant the second drawing ! That is the one I like best. Everything is looking good now except for one hopefully final dilemma. I've put two pickets next to a 2X4" and can see they are not as thick as the 2X4". The 2X4" is about 1/4" thicker. Should I put something between the pickets to make them as thick as the 2X4"? Or maybe it would be better to see if I can have 1/4" taken off the 2X4"s with a planer? Of course if these were real boards instead of cheapo pickets then I wouldn't have this problem. Putting material between the pickets sounds good because it would not weaken the 2X4"s but then I'm wondering what material would be best. If I used thin hardwood laminate, which I think comes in 1/4" thickness, then over time might that decay away? That would especially be the case for the lower edge of the fence which is not protected from the elements.
 
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Old 05-26-08, 06:13 PM
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The inlayed pickets while functional from a visual perspective are not structural from a practical perspective. They are merely there to provide a screen. The strength comes from the 2x4's.

Think of a kitchen cabinet door, many have a frame with an inlay in the middle that floats, you can actually move and wiggle them. They are there to provide a closed structure but do nothing as far a structure. In fact, you can replace this panel on a door with glass if you want and it would not effect the function of the door.

If you feel better with a spacer, then rip down a piece of PT lumber to fill the void rather than reducing the size of the 2x4. Make the piece small enough that it is well hidden under the 1x6 siderail.
 
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Old 05-26-08, 06:53 PM
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Czizzi, Thanks very much for the guidance you've offered. You obviously know what your talking about. Once the fence is up I'll post some photos. Of course that is assuming I don't run into more problems along the way !
 
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Old 09-08-08, 08:12 PM
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photo of finished project

Put the last screw in yesterday.

 
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Old 09-09-08, 02:26 AM
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Fabulous Job!!! What a beautiful looking fence, you should be quite proud of your accomplishment.
 
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Old 09-09-08, 03:26 AM
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Yeah, that is one beautiful fence - great work!
 
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Old 09-12-08, 04:51 PM
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Hopefully the neighbors will find it agreeable as it affects their view more directly than me. But on the other hand I can finally go in my back yard and not feel like I'm on a stage for them anymore ! And don't get me started on their crazy dog's barking which this fence will hopefully control.

On a final note I think this forum (and the people on it) are great !
 
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Old 09-19-08, 08:22 PM
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Good work - good ideas

How about some post caps on that pretty baby? Copper? Wood? That the ONLY minor finishing touch I could see. It looks great as-is though!

After seeing the ideas, drawings and photos here, I went out today to get started on mine. I've been hunting a style for ages and this one and drawings just "clicked". I've got 17' on the side of the house to do, and I figured I'd give that a shot before tackling the other 140'... next year...

I'm going for the true "shadowbox" fence however (pictured in one of the suggested drawings) and am using 6x6 posts with post caps above the top rail for this section facing the street, otherwise same construction. I went 6x6 for aesthetics, but also because one could be supporting a 4' iron gate (a real iron gate, not this Lowe's and HD microguage crap). I don't need any warping posts. I also believe the 6x6 will allow the supporting 2x4 runners (well, the top one is a 2x6 for added strength and anti-sag), 1x pickets, and 1x facing boards while still leaving the facing board slightly recessed to the face of the post (um, that's 1.5+.75+.75+.75+.75= <5.75). The longer 70' segments on either side of the backyard yard I'll use 4x6 to save $. I also said phooey with toenailing and am going with bracket/hangers for the 2x4-to-post connection. Figure they'll hide easily under the pickets and facing, last longer, and be much stronger to the random kid climbing the fence.

Thanks for the great ideas and diagrams to make my imitation of your work so much easier. I'll try to post up some pics once I get finished.

Keith
 
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Old 09-22-08, 06:12 PM
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Nice job! Home is the place we should do our best work!
 
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Old 09-27-08, 07:30 AM
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a few details

I used deck brackets to hold the horizontal 2X4's to the post. There was another style of bracket that was designed for fences but I decided not to use these because they didn't seem like they were as sturdy as the deck bracket. I need to modify the brackets before I could use them because they had areas that were sticking out for nail openings. I used a vise to squash these areas flat. I'm somewhat concerned that I've caused the zinc coating on the bracket to flake off in the places where I did this squashing in a vise. So the brackets may start to rust in these areas. I guess time will tell.

This bracket was designed to have the 2X4's toe nailed into the post. But I didn't want to do toe nailing as it would make it more difficult to take the fence apart and it seemed like overkill. I figure having four 2 1/2" wood screws holding each bracket to the post would be plenty strong as it is. Another benefit is that it will be easier to replace the 2X4 if needed because it will simply slide out.

As the photo shows the deck brackets stick out. Another problem is the screws stick out also. But I decided the extra strength of these brackets was worth these negatives. If you have a router than I suppose you could route 1/4" or so from the fence post area where the bracket is mounted to the post and that would recess the bracket so the screws would not stick out. I ended up chiseling and routing out the area where the brackets touched the inside of the 1X6"X8' horizontal facing boards. That way the bracket was flush with the surface of the wood. It was a pain to go through this step because I don't really have a 'real' router but a Dremel tool with a router bit. This job was too big for this small of a tool.<br>
<table><tr><td>
<a href="http://s195.photobucket.com/albums/z105/jjtohio/Fence/?action=view&current=screws.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i195.photobucket.com/albums/z105/jjtohio/Fence/screws.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>
</td><td>
<a href="http://s195.photobucket.com/albums/z105/jjtohio/Fence/?action=view&current=routing.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i195.photobucket.com/albums/z105/jjtohio/Fence/routing.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a></td></tr></table><br>
My design has a flaw because the water will not readily drain out of the cavities along the bottom edge. If you look at the 'another view' photo from my 05-25-08, 11:02 PM post, and turn that upside down, then you'll hopefully see what cavities I'm talking about. If you building a shadowbox design then you shouldn't have this problem because there will be a way for the water to drain out. I've done some tests to see how fast the water does drain out and in the worst case it takes a few minutes for it to seep through and find an exit. Water is the worst enemy of wood so I'm more than a little concerned that this might cause the structural 2X4 in the middle of the sandwich, along on the bottom edge, to go bad. These 2X4s are pressure treated so that should help but only time will tell. But since everything is held together with screws it I can always take the fence apart and replace the bottom 2X4 at some point in the future.

I have some post caps which I'm putting on for cosmetic reasons but also because the exposed grain on the top of a post is susceptible to damage over the long term (or so I'm told). So a post cap is protecting the post and hopefully prolonging it's useful life.

We did stain/treat the fence this week. It was hard to do because it covered up much of the subtle color variations going from white to brown and red. However I felt like it was the right thing to do because those subtle colors would fade away and turn to gray in a few years anyway. I used the clear Olympic brand 'Maximum waterproofing sealant' product. So now the overall color tone is amber but it still looks nice. And now the appearance should stay the same for much longer than if I just let it go gray.
 

Last edited by jjtbay; 09-27-08 at 09:02 AM.
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