Easy, Illustrated Instructions on How to Fix a Fence

Part 1 | 2 - 50 Fence Ideas - How Fences Break - How to Fix a Gate

Introduction
So, part of your fence fell down? Its no big deal, it happens to everyone. Fences are usually ignored until they fall down, but then all of a sudden you can see into your neighbor's yard and everyone gets freaked out.

Fence building and mending is an easy do-it yourself project which can take between 2-5 days. The toughest parts, which aren't really tough, just vexing for the unexperienced, are:

1) You have a big opening in your fence and people can see inside.
2) You will probably need to pour some concrete.


Figure out what you want to do then talk to the neighbor. If you are lucky, they will offer to pay for half of the materials and may offer to help do the building or hauling.  If you are a vampire, or socially awkward, you may be tempted to resist talking to the neighbor and just fix it yourself, paying for everything. Don't do it. Fence mending is a great opportunity to work with your neighbor.

There are plenty of fence-repair businesses. They are busiest right after a windstorm or tornado, so their prices might go up during the winter.

Repair or rebuild? Probably repair.
Tear down the old fence. New fence boards will be bright and new, old ones are dark and grey or stained. But, they are about $2 for each board, so deciding which parts you are going to keep and which parts you are going to replace is a question of cash.

Sometimes the old post holes can be re-used. For example, you might have nice square holes into buried cement chunks, filled up with dirt and deteriorated wood fragments. These are holes are reuseable, but you don't have to use them. Maybe they failed for a good reason, such as poor water drainage or from being too loose or shallow.

 

If the old cement work is in the way, you'll have to remove it. If it is out of the way and not ugly, you may want to just leave it in the ground.

Planning
Inspect the posts which are still standing. Give them a shake. Are they crumbling? They will probably move a bit, but if they are still firm you'll probably want to keep them.
Do you want to keep the same fence line?

Stretch a line of construction string from the beginning of the broken section to the end. You can use regular thin string or dental floss if you want, but construction string is nice because it is a really bright color and you can see it more easily from a distance. The string should be pulled tight and will reveal a perfectly straight path for the new fence construction. If you are re-using some existing post holes, decide if they are in acceptable alignment or if you want to work around them with new post holes.

You definitely want a straight line of fence posts. If you screw it up and get a curved one, remind friends that a crooked one is actually stronger. 

Deciding on materials can be confusing. In most cases, the sturdiest, longest lasting materials are the least attractive and most expensive.

Shopping (2010 prices)
Cement
80 lbs. bag  $3.15

Gravel
50 lbs. bag $3.75

 

 

 

Posts
redwood
pressure treated
steel poles
steel rails
$7
$10
$17
$25

Rails or Stringers
redwood
pressure treated
$2.09
$5

Boards (or pickets)
redwood - $1.97

And while you are shopping, make sure you've got gloves, a bubble level, eye protection and a dust mask (for pressure-treated wood).

 

I recommend using pressure treated wood for the posts and redwood for the rails and pickets. Pressure treated lumber is a bit more expensive, but should resist rotting about 4 times as long as redwood.

Digging
A post-hole digger is a special kind of shovel which grabs dirt like a pair of salad tongs. These work very well and have the advantage of making a smaller hole than a regular shovel. Smaller holes take less concrete to fill.

If the dirt is rocky, rooty or super hard, or if you have many holes to make, consider renting a tool; the power auger. Digging holes with a power auger is still hard work. It takes two people and it's tough, and dangerous, but its a lot easier and more fun than digging 20 holes with a shovel.

Cut roots if you can.

Gravel or Rocks
Place two inches of small rocks (gravel) in the bottom of each post hole. This will help drain rain water away from the buried end of the post, where it is susceptable to rotting. I know it seems weird to fill in part of this awesome deep hole you just dug, but its really important that the posts aren't swimming in a little cup of water all winter long.

Place a post into the hole right next to, but not touching the construction string. Don't twist it into the gravel so that it extends below the gravel layer. You want gravel to sit under the bottom of the post. If you are lucky, it may stand straight up on its own, but you should be prepared to nail some wood braces into the sides to keep it upright.

Make sure the posts are plumb (straight up and down) by using a bubble level.

Concrete
Concrete can be intimidating if you have never used it before, but it is easy to use. It mixes with water just like a cake mix. You will need a wheelbarrow or giant strong container for mixing. One of those heavy plastic keg tubs from BevMo would probably work. You can rent them for $3 a day. Ha ha ha ha!

Wear gloves. Concrete is like liquid sandpaper. Wear eye protection. Don't wear nice clothes.

Mix one bag at a time. One way to get started is to have one person rest half of the bag over the edge of the wheelbarrow and to have a second person stab into the bottom of the bag with a shovel. Spray about a gallon of water into the dusty mix and shovel it around to get all the concrete wet. This is not a pancake recipe. The amount of water needed is not precise. It should be all wet, chunky, not soupy. You may wish to use a tool shorter than a shovel to mix it.

You have about 10 or 12 minutes to use all the concrete you have mixed. Use the shovel to fill the post hole around the post. Fill it to the top. Stab a stick gently into the top of the concrete in about ten places to release any air bubbles. Make the top of the pile angled slightly away from the post, so that rainwater tends to drain away from the post.

When you are done with all of the cement work, you will probably want to quit for the day. Let the cement harden for 10 hours before you start nailing things to the posts.

If you have any unused wet cement remaining, dump it into a cardboard box for easy disposal.

Wash the wet cement off of your gloves, all your tools and off of the wheelbarrow. Actually, you'll probably want to wash your gloves last.

Please continue reading page 2.

Part 1 | 2 - 50 Fence Ideas - How Fences Break - How to Fix a Gate

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