Repairing the Old Fence for the New Dog
Romance writer KB Alan adopted this big guy just in time for the holidays, and that means in the middle of all that, his new (dog)mom had to quickly bring the backyard up to snuff.
One gate got a new lock - some potted plants and old outdoor furniture found new homes – but the sagging old fence needed more CPR than she could handle alone.
Demo and Reclaiming
It can be fun to wade into a demo with a hammer and destroy everything in your path, but in this case it looked like there were several fence boards worth saving.
We did attack it with hammers, flat bars and a reciprocating saw, but gently. About half of the boards survived.
Leveling and Marking
This step is often “measuring and marking” but with the existing post and boards not being level or true, the ground not being even and the wall not being square to the fence there was no reference point to measure off of. Luckily, the post in question could be muscled straight and it was also overly tall. Based on the many creative techniques the original builders used to create the old fence, my guess is they were too lazy to cut it to size – but this worked in our favor now.
We shoved the post plumb and used a level to mark spots for 2 eye-screws straight across from each other, one in the post and one anchored into the stucco. We strung a steel cable between the eyes and adjusted it with a turnbuckle to keep the post true. All this hardware is about 7 feet up, so no one’s going to get clotheslined.
Sistering and Framing
Now that the post was a useable reference, we set a 2x4 on the next post down the line and used the level to mark its proper height on the newly plumbed post. At the same time we scribed the 2x4 to length. The top rail was nailed down.
We cut another 2x4 the length of level line to the ground and nailed it on the flat to the post, sistering in a jack stud for the top rail to rest on.
Then we measured from the good post to the jack stud and cut a 2x4 to that length for the bottom rail and toenailed it in.
The other end of the fence needed some work too. It came up 3 feet short of the wall at the back of the property, presumably for a gate that was never installed. Instead of a gate, there was an old, sideways door and a scrap of plywood leaning on the fence from the neighbor’s side. Not good enough for the dog. We made a mark on the wall level with the top of the last fencepost and screwed a vertical 2x4 to the cinder block wall with masonry screws as a nailer and attached new top and bottom rails.
With the rails in place, now it was just a question of attaching the boards. Being more concerned with doing a good job than matching the (terrible) old fence we decided to do it on the inside, rather than the neighbor’s side. We made sure the first board was straight and plumb and nailed it in place. Then it became a production line of handing over a board and tacking it to the rails with an air nailer.
We used all new boards for the long stretch and the reclaimed boards for the smaller area by the wall. As with any DIY project, you've got to clean up, but because the dog will be romping back here it's especially important to pick up all the stray splinters and nails.
Now big Zeke has a safe place to sprint and to keep that damn squirrel out of the yard. And maybe the rest of the fence will get a makeover one of these days too.