Question about botched fence job

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Old 03-29-15, 07:04 AM
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Question Question about botched fence job

Our neighbors put in a six-foot cedar fence (they have two dogs), and when we got a dog recently, we decided to contract with the same company. The fellow who gave the estimate (we thought a contractor, turns out a salesman) understood clearly we wanted a dog security fence like the neighbors -- only difference we requested was a one-foot lattice at the top so it looks less monolithic.

Unfortunately, when the job was complete, they had left numerous 3 to 5 inch gaps between the ground and the fence. There are more places with large gaps than places where the fence goes to the ground. Turns out the crew were subcontractors, not the same crew that did the neighbor's fence. The company's rep by phone said -- while the crew was still present -- that they should fill those gaps with dirt. Didn't sound optimal to me, but when I passed the rep's instructions along to the crew chief, he just said "no, we're done."

Called the company back, and the owner came right over. He said filling the gaps with dirt wouldn't work. He also said the gaps -- this is more than a 200-foot length of fence -- were due to a single oak tree's roots that supposedly dictated the lack of consistency. (Somehow, though our neighbor's fence 50 feet away and is interrupted by several oak trees, it uniformly comes within an inch or less of the ground.) The explanation defies logic. You have posts, you hammer the fence sections to the posts. You can either align the sections with the ground or with the tops of the posts. They made the wrong choice.

While the cement was wet, he said it wouldn't be his recommendation, but if I insisted, they would use a sledgehammer to drive the posts deeper. (Which pretty much negates his explanation about the tree.) I replied that, since he didn't recommend it, I didn't want them to do that. They took a sledgehammer to one of the posts anyway. It was by now pitch dark out -- no way to make any informed decisions or assessments of what they were trying to do. I insisted that they stop, and that is where the fence stands now.

Do any experts on the forum have an opinion of this, or any advice about how to fix it? My sense is that the proper way to fix it would be to remove the fence sections and reaffix them at the proper level.
 
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Old 03-29-15, 07:52 AM
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Can you post pictures so we can see what you see?> http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...rt-images.html
 
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Old 03-29-15, 10:38 AM
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Thanks for the suggestion, Chandler. Here are a few. In each shot, we left the loose dirt, leaves and sticks exactly as when the crew was here. In other words, if we swept the debris away each gap would be at least an inch bigger.

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In this one, there's a sawed-off tree limb sitting under the fence, exactly where the crew left it. That's how much space is open.

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No tape measure in this next one, but you can see that the fence bottom is flush to the right. At the left, you're looking clean under the fence to the other side.

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Finally, here is our neighbor's fence, which runs parallel to ours, 50 feet south. In other words, the terrain is virtually identical, except they have more trees along the property line. Their fence never gets more than an inch from the ground, and it's probably 90 percent flush. Huge difference.

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Old 03-29-15, 11:15 AM
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Fence

Was this fence stick built or is it built from prefabricated fence panels?

Stick built can place each board either on the ground or any distance above the ground. Panels are less forgiving and need smooth, level ground to produce minimal ground clearance.
 
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Old 03-29-15, 11:23 AM
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Note, too the staining on your neighbor's fence. This is caused by ground contact. I would be glad to have that spacing and just run a cedar skirt board along the bottom to keep the pets contained. That way you will only be replacing one board at a time if ground moisture decays it too much. Having the fencing sit on the dirt is not a really good idea. I can't fault the installers, too much as it appears they did have uneven terrain to deal with, and as Ken said, if they were panels they would be limited by that terrain.
 
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Old 03-29-15, 11:52 AM
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Wirepuller, thanks, it seems to have been prefab. They did not offer us a choice or describe any option similar to what you describe. Our neighbor's fence seems to be what you describe as stick built. The sales guy didn't tell us there would be any difference except for the lattice.

Chandler, thanks for the skirt board suggestion. Would you try to taper those to fit the varying gaps in each section, or remove some of the dirt to allow for a consistent height of the skirt? Any particular width you'd suggest?
 
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Old 03-29-15, 11:59 AM
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IF you have a maximum height of difference figured, go at least twice that size. If you have a 3" gap, use a 1x8. To keep from having to sculpt the board, I would just trench it and lay the board level. It would look more eye appealing and if you have to replace it in 5 years or so.....so be it. The fence will still be intact and the critters will be contained. Use 2 1/2" decking screws to attach the skirt board so you can remove it easier.
 
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Old 03-29-15, 01:06 PM
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Agree with others recommendations, but think that a 2 1/2" screw will be too long for the sandwich on the bottom course of the fence. Look like 3/4" cross member + 3/4" picket + 3/4" skirt = 2 1/4". So I would knock the deck screws down to 2" max.
 
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Old 04-08-15, 06:55 PM
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Follow-up from fence company

Thought you'd be interested in the company's reply (after no word from them during two weeks of Angie's List mediation). Bold emphasis is mine:

We are willing to attempt lowering the panels and still establish a nice consistent top line. I would like to schedule this for Monday. Your fix is and has always been pretty simple. Your lack of understanding what needs to be done in achieving the desired end result seems to be the problem. We are the experts and have no desire to leave you with a fence that does not meet your needs. It is not as complicated as your making it out to be. The suggestion of placing 1x8 cedar boards under the fence and trenching them in the ground will never happen. It is the exact opposite of a knowledgeable idea or suggestion. A 1" board placed on or into the ground would rot out in a year or two, not to mention look ridiculous. That would be a last resort and we have many better options before that.
Unusual approach to customer relations, but I'll just leave it at that. I would certainly be interested in any comments, and I sincerely appreciated having your expert advice in dealing with this situation. By "lowering the panels," I assume he means knocking them off the posts and reaffixing them
 
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Old 04-08-15, 07:13 PM
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I can take the heat. What he is proposing is bringing your entire fence panel to the ground and letting it rot out. If that is smart then I'm not. I'd rather have pristine panels unaffected by moisture and slathered mud and dirt, and a skirt board to buffer that moisture and keep the pets at bay.

Of course, it isn't my call, but their snide remarks to you about your not understanding would never wash in my court. They have the tact of a hyena.
 
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Old 04-08-15, 09:09 PM
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Larry, we've never met, but I have way, way more confidence in your views than this fence contractor's. He was making similar comments the day they were on-site here, re: "we're the experts" and "you (the customer) are the problem."

If you don't mind my asking, what would you estimate the skirt would cost per section for materials and labor? The posts are 80 inches apart. Rather than let these guys touch my fence again, I'm inclined to deduct the cost of fixing it from what remains to be paid of their fee. His statement that he'll "attempt lowering the panels" doesn't instill much confidence.
 
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Old 04-08-15, 09:25 PM
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I would suggest treated wood rated for in contact. It might not match the ceder but you could paint it a color such as green so it blended in. Caveat, I haven't read the whole thread.
 
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Old 04-09-15, 02:58 AM
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I agree with Ray on the PT. 5/4 x 6 x 8 may run about $12 each depending on your local pricing. Don't know how many you have, but it is definitely DIY, doable. As Z stated, go with shorter decking screws to attach the boards and try to level them with the bottom rail of the fence for aesthetics, even if it means embedding the boards slightly. I'd much rather pull one of those boards and replace them in 20 years than to see the bottom of my fence rot away as it will if he lowers the panels.

The contractor already has an attitude, and his workers won't be instilled with any better if they decide to lower the panels. Panel degradation and tear outs are possible, which they probably won't fix. Leave the panels alone, as they look good.
 
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Old 04-09-15, 03:22 AM
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Arrogance vs logic - Move the whole panel down to be vulnerable to whole panel rot vs the sacrificial board that is easily replaced keeping the panels pristine. Exactly how does that make them the "experts". But wait, let me belittle you in the process, that will make sure I get recommended to all your friends and family. Perfect logic... (sarcasm off)

Reminds me of a client that I just finished a bathroom remodel for. They had issues with the procedures of the contractor they had previously hired to do their hall bath. When they questioned him, he immediately spouted "I've been doing this for 14 yrs, how dare you question my procedures" Who talks to people like that? Well, they put the cement backer boards up backwards (I read the lettering from the other side), did not tape the seams (I could see the trowel marks at seams), no vapor barrier, grout in corners and at tub, and recommended/installed Laminate for the bathroom floor. They even refused to fill in the hole where the medicine cabinet used to be - because the mirror would cover the hole. I hate arrogant contractors.
 
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Old 04-09-15, 03:34 AM
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I would suggest treated wood rated for in contact. It might not match the ceder but you could paint it a color such as green so it blended in
I wouldn't use paint but the right color stain will go along ways toward making it blend ...... which is probably what Ray meant
 
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Old 04-09-15, 04:56 AM
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I had a similar problem with my new fence install (3 years ago). I insisted that the contractor leave a 2 x 4 height distance between bottom of fence and ground. He did except where my ground had a severe slope at one point. I could have the bottom level at a 2 x 4 height or the top of fence level. But not both. They put about six panels nearly touching the ground and made the tops level. I had to dig out the ground to avoid contact. I was miffed at first but later on understood that their decision was correct. The overall land layout should determine how the fence should be built. By the way my fence was built on site board to panel.

I had a neighbor who wanted a fence on a hill going down. He wanted the tops even and the bottom also even distance to ground. He would not accept the staggered look needed to build a fence on hill. He could not understand why no contractor would build the fence. He decided to do it himself. He had no choice but the staggered look.
 
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