A Post About Posts: Fence Stage Two

After a (two-)week-long hiatus from posting to catch up on sleep and life, here comes my triumphant return. Yay.

We're going back a couple weeks now to catch up. When I left off, I was having to go to work while Jessie, Roxi, and Steve stayed home...to work. By the time I got home, we had a bee hive, full of bees, half a staircase and a couple posts in the ground. We were ready to roll. I jumped in to help Steve set the posts and make sure they're level while we packed around them with a little Quikrete before covering the very top with dirt to conceal it.

Now seems as good a time as any to discuss some of the finer points of fence building. First, we had to have a line for the posts to follow (you'll probably have to click the picture to see it). The best way to do that and keep it straight, is to wrap string (or some of Jessie's craft yarn in this case, hehe) around a stake in the ground and run it to another one, then dig holes off that, every 8 feet for us because of the design we decided upon. That's what we did in the last post. Now we're setting the posts in the holes.

Steve and I managed to get all the posts set after I got home from work, as well as all the treads screwed onto the staircase stringers. The reason it even took as long as it did is because setting fence posts takes a while (duh). What I mean by that is, if we were just plopping them in the dirt the end result would be a jacked up fence, which is unacceptable. Each post has to be checked multiple times (as Jessie is doing below) to make sure it is vertically level on each side (i.e.- pointing exactly straight up). Each post also has to be sticking out of the ground to the same height so they're equally well supported and look right. Each post also has to have one face just resting against the yarn line we pulled earlier to ensure that it is straight along the length. Doing this with just two hands is not a great idea, so we combined efforts to do it right, which is why it takes a while.

After researching fence options, the cheapest pre-made fence panels we found were the standard picket panels at Home Depot at $24.97 per panel. This didn't include the 4x4 posts at each end, or hardware. Plus they're flimsy and ugly. That means it's a minimum cost of $3.50 per linear foot of fence. Well, we set out to cost-optimize our fence to get it to half that. From experience we know that Optimus has the hops of chubby third-grader without his inhaler, meaning a 30" tall fence is more than adequate. Plus, he's 75 lbs, so we know he can't squeeze anything but his head through a 6" opening. So instead of pickets, we figured running 4 2x4's between the posts with 6" gap in between them would give us the height and opening restriction required.

Then we had to make sure the 4x4 posts are set deep enough into the ground to not wobble loose when someone leans against it, or when Optimus barrels into it for no reason. There are two options for this particular fence: get long enough posts to bury them at least 2 feet into the Earth (also requiring deeper holes...ugh...) OR get a few bags of Quikrete and bury the posts 1 feet deep. Since the concrete hardens in a larger diameter blob around the post, it requires more force on the post to make the wider footprint move in the dirt, making it possible to set them shallower while retaining strength. For the 2 foot burial depth, 4x4x6's are needed, which are $6/ea. For the 1 foot depth we could cut a 4x4x8 in half and get two posts for $6 (they were on sale this month or something), plus the $1.78 per 40lb bag of Quikrete which covered about 1.5 posts....all in all we come up with a fence that costs roughly $1.81/ft, which as you all know is exactly half of $3.50/ft...

With Quikrete, you have the bag of powder and gravel that you usually mix with water for it set up and harden. Another option that works well with fence posts like this is to dry-pack it where you just fill the holes around the posts with the dry Quikrete and just let moisture seep in from the soil (or if you live where we are, you hope that it rains sometime in the next month). It really doesn't take much and the posts set themselves. Score.

Now we're rolling, ready to put up all the 2x4's and we've got a fence, right?!?

Fail. Apparently, the zoning board here is fairly observant and has sent the friendly neighborhood Sherriff over to drop off a Zoning Application to fill out. This means that since we are erecting a structure on our property we have to explain the intended use of the structure as well as provide scale engineering drawings for it to be approved, so that we can actually finish it. So now what?


Currently listening to "Ain't Nothing Wrong With That" by Robert Randolph & The Family Band

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