Cedar privacy fence

single handedly Replacing my "deplorable" privacy fence

April 13, 2021

One of the added bonuses of the house we bought is that it came with a privacy fence. We like to let the cats and dog outside when it's nice out.

Unfortunately the previous owner of the house did a poor job on this section of the fence. From what I can tell from my google maps research, this section of fence was added somewhere around 2012. The rest of the fence was installed in the 90's and while it shows wear, its condition is nowhere near as bad as the newer installed fence.

Most of the old fence appeared to be scrapped together. The 4x4 posts were all varying lengths and some of them were actually 2x4's doubled up.

You may be wondering why some of the fence is missing and replaced with temp wire fence. That's because our basement flooded so we had a contractor come out and replace the drain tile as well as other water mitigation performed. They needed to remove the sections of fence and I remember him commenting that our fence was "deplorable" and we thought that was hilarious so it stuck.

I had never built a fence before and I wanted the new fence to stay for a while, so I researched materials and techniques in the hope that this new fence will actually last.

Before: This is actually the Google Street View from 2019. The lower image quality makes the before pic look extra crappy.

After (2021): I'm currently waiting for the wood to dry a bit before staining. The lawn looks better too.

Here's a quick view of the back side of the fence a few weeks before I replaced it.

**If the pics are too small, you'll have to right click and open them in a new window/tab for full size. This site was made using the most basic google page editor, so options are limited.

I decided to buy my pickets from Lowe's because I find the Menards outdoor gated lumberyard to be inconvenient. Here's what I originally thought I'd need. I had to adjust the quantity due to a design change, but there are 160 pickets shown here.

I previously built a trailer hitch for my car and it is so convenient! I did have to take 2 trips though. Being that the trailer is attached to a unibody and a homemade hitch, I'm not super comfortable loading it too full. While I'm capable of hauling 1,100 lbs I don't like to load more than 800 lbs in the trailer.

Here's all the stringers and 4x4s. All cedar.

This is after I tore down all the panels. The posts are still in the ground and the useless narrow gate is still standing.

My friend commented on how annoying it was that the Weber is in every progress pic.

All the posts and footings have been removed. As an added bonus, I also had to remove the footings from the chain link fence that was here before the wood fence. I think I ended up removing 20+ footings. They were all roughly 24" underground.

It doesn't look like much, but it was kind of a hassle.

Prepping the posts with Woodlife CopperCoat wood preservative. Ideally I would have soaked them overnight, but I couldn't think of an economical way to submerge 11 posts, so I just gave them 2 coats.

My tools! A shovel, a post hole digger, and a homemade tamping tool.

I dug my post holes with a diameter of about 11" to a depth of 36". I then filled the bottom of the holes with about 6" of rocks. I dug 11 holes.

The frost line here is about 39" or so, however, from what I found while researching, The min frost line depth is typically referring to sandy soils. I had about 24" of clay to dig through, and from what I read, the clay insulates much better, so it's not as susceptible to heaving like sandy soil is. Not only that, but the previous posts were only 24" deep and none of them fell victim to heaving.

My guide line. Most holes were measured on 96" centers. I had to make some exceptions due to the previous post holes.

All the posts in their respective holes... Except for 1. Due to a design change, I had to dig another hole. I've also got all the pre-mixed concrete bags on the ground.

60lb concrete bags start getting really heavy after a while. I also had to take multiple trips to the store for the concrete due to the weight. btw, my car has 600lbs of concrete in it in this pic.

Getting ready to pour. This was the day I poured 7 posts. That means 7 wheelbarrows full of concrete. Each wheelbarrow was 3 bags of concrete. My bicep felt like it was going to tear off at the end of that day.

A set post. I sculpted the concrete with angled edges to help with water. I later sealed the seam between the concrete and the wood with some latex acrylic caulk.

All the posts are in and now I wait for concrete to set. I'll install the stringers tomorrow.

My glove tan/dirt line.

Stringers installed. There was one angle that was fun to figure out. I also had to scrap some boards so I had to go back to Lowe's, but that's okay, I needed to get boards for the gates anyway.

Here's the angle cut I had to make. This way the pickets will sit flush.

I tried making a little outdoor cage area for the cats while I worked on the fence, but they just wanted to escape. Here's Benny standing like a little man trying to find a way out.

The next thing to do was to plane all the pickets. Due to the time it took and how thin the pickets became, I decided to only plane one side. It's really neat how much the grain pops on a smooth surface.

Aannnd.... The mess. I don't have a dust collector, but in hindsight I probably should have at least hooked up the shop vac. Benny has already used this as a litter box.

All the pickets ready to picket!

This was a good day for labor. I worked from the gate opening outward to the edges so I wouldn't have any weird half pickets in the middle of the fence.

This was such a crappy day. It was overcast, which was nice for labor reasons, but then the rain started... Then stopped... Then started again...

I eventually became annoyed by packing up and going inside, and decided to finish in the rain.

I actually didn't finish that day. I had about 7 pickets left and it got dark. Luckily I was able to finish the next day before 2 full days of rain.

For the first day of rain, I decided to rest. Although I was laid off, I had become accustomed to my computer chair.

The second day I decided to start on the gates. I made every attempt to make them square, but they're not. 3 sides are good though.

I actually used a circular saw guide to make the outer edge of every board flat. Most of them had pretty bad bowing before that.

Thankfully I found the two edges that were parallel on the correct side.

The test fit. I settled on a .25" gap between the gates.

At this point I ran out of good pickets, so I had to make another run to Lowe's. I also noticed the the "A" on the right has a horizontal board that is lower than the one on the left. I guess it'll be my signature.

This part truly was not planned. I assumed that I'd have to trim at least one picket, but the last picket fit perfectly. It is screwed to one of the gates, and overlaps the other. If the hinges weren't there, it'd look seamless.

The backside with all the hardware installed. BTW, all the fasteners on the fence are stainless. Apparently carbon steel has a reaction with the chemicals in cedar and dyes the cedar black, so you end up with a fence that looks like it's been crying.

The one gate won't open all the way due to the current ground clearance, but it's neat that they have the ability to open all the way flat against the fence.

The last Weber grill shot.

The downside now. Benny climbs the new fence, so I need to integrate a cat barrier on the top. Steel should be here soon for that, so I'll update when it's complete.

The purpose of the fence is less about privacy and more about keeping our critters inside. This is Benny. Benny is very good at climbing fences.

Here's how I resolved the climbing issue. I made the brackets from mild steel flat bar and the net is heavy duty deer fence.