Answers to Your Fence Questions Answers to Your Fence Questions

Q. Can I put 4+4 post in concrete, if there are cinders under the post? I'm concerned that over time the cinders will deteriorate, causing the post to settle. Because it is a freestanding deck, I wasn't concerned about putting the posts below the frost line, but would having some posts over cinders and some over clay soil cause problems when the ground freezes?

A. You can go with pressure-treated lumber rated for below ground installation and concrete if necessary. You probably need to run your deck plans past your local building inspector. Many areas require permits for decks and special requirements for tying deck to structure and baluster placement.

Q. I'm getting ready to build a fence around my new pool. I have a question about fence pickets. What types of pickets work best and will last the longest here in the southern San Joaquin Valley: cedar, pine, or redwood?

A. Cedar or redwoods for the pickets, take your pick. Pressure treated wood or redwood will work for the rails, it's your choice. These ones will last the longest compared to anything else you can use. And, since it's around a pool, all of the pickets have to be on the outside of the fence, so that it will meet the code requirement of being "no climb," and it has to be 6' tall.

Q. Which is better: Two-man power auger vs. digging the holes manually? From what I've heard about the two-man power auger, it's still a lot of work lifting that bear up and clearing out the hole. Since I'll probably have to buy a skinny shovel to help with that anyway, does it make sense for the DIYer to just buy one of those two-stick hole diggers and get to work?

A. The power auger is worth the while, if you want to dig a lot of holes in a hurry. The machine is not too heavy, and the hole is clean when you finish. Posthole diggers are good exercise for the shoulders. It depends upon your soil. If it is hardpan, the auger will be great. If the soil is loamy to some extent, the posthole diggers will be sufficient.

Q. If I go with metal posts and the collar things, how does this give the cross members of a fence enough support?

A. Your posts are 8' apart. A 16' 2x4 or 2x6 will attach to three posts. If you number the posts from one end to the other, have the top rail break on the even numbered posts and the bottom rail break on the odd numbered posts or vice versa. If you are still concerned about strength, add a center rail.

Q. I'd like to add on to my existing 4' cedar fencing to enclose the entire backyard for the safety of my children. Professionals providing a quote told me that they "only put in the hole what comes out of the hole" with the exception of the gatepost, where they use quick crete. Even though the posts are pressure treated, would you still recommend sealing with creosote?

A. Creosote has been outlawed in many areas because of its toxicity. The pressure-treated posts should work fine. Make sure you buy pressure treated lumber for below grade usage.

You can anchor the posts more firmly by making the holes slightly larger at the bottom than at the top. Place a large stone or two shovels full of gravel in the bottom of each hole. This provides drainage to avoid excessive moisture at the base of each post. If using pressure treated lumber, then you will not need to treat with wood preservative the section below ground.

You can pack the posts with either dirt or concrete. In either case, place two or three shovels full of gravel in the bottom of each hole before the post is placed into position. After checking alignment of posts, posts can be staked into position until concrete has set. Posts can be readjusted. Once properly aligned soil around posts needs to be tamped. Once post is properly aligned, build a mound of soil around it to provide run off of rain. It is recommended that posts stand several days and settle firmly in position before adding the fence. Heads of posts should be rounded, capped, or slanted to provide run off of rain in order to avoid decay.

Q. What's the best way to install a fence along a property line, when you can't connect the ends? I know where my corners are, but there isn't a clear path along the entire line. I've got about 125-150' of clear area, and then it's woods. I only want about 100' or so of fence at this point. How can I make the fence follow the line? What do you think the surveyor would charge to come drop a marker at the midpoint of each side of the lot?

A. There are no straight lines in nature. Fences will take some turns. Just make sure you don't place fence on neighbor's property. A survey will be necessary to assure the fence is on your property. If you live in a zoned, urban area, the heights of fences and placement along property lines tend to be dictated by Building Codes. If so, you will need to check in with building inspector and get the proper permit.

Q. I just bought a house that has a fenced in yard with chain link fencing. The bottom of the fence is curling upward in places and I'm afraid my dog will get out, or worse, another creature in! As a single woman, I'm clueless as to a remedy. Are there ground anchors or something that I can put in to hold the bottom tightly to the ground?

A. You can dig a trench along fence and attach hardware cloth, 12 inches deep. Hardware cloth buried in soil will keep out invasive animals and keep bigger dogs inside the fence. The fence was probably poorly constructed. A good fence has terminal posts set three feet deep and line posts buried at least two feet. The spacing between the posts should not be greater than 8 feet.

Q. I'm building a "shed." That's what we call it in Mississippi. I've got my strings pulled for my corners. The poles are approximately 10" in diameter and I'm going to rough cut them at 12'. I will be pulling a string and notching them later. My first question is, How deep should the holes be? Next would be, What diameter if I'm setting in concrete?

A. If you're doing a Mississippi fence, they recommend as a standard that you set your fence post about 6' - 8' apart from one another. The spacing of the posts depends on the type of fence, the terrain, the purpose of the fence. They recommend that posts be set approximately one third of their total length in the ground. This way the fence will be strong and maintain its appearance for a long time. Posts can be packed with dirt, concrete, or gravel. Depending upon how much force the fence will be sustaining, different materials can be used to pack the posts. Concrete is the strongest. If doing a building, I would tend to recommend the same guidelines. If you are in doubt, contact your local Dept. of Agriculture Extension Agent who is a wealth of info.

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