Fencing

So the old nasty fence (which belongs to our neighbor, the guy who owns the grocery store/laundromat building whose parking lot is behind us) is still leaning precariously, and now is the time to build our own nice, strong fence on our side of the property line.

Only, where is the property line? Looking at the plat map, it seems the neighbor's fence may be on our side of it, and indeed all the fences at the back are on our side. And they're not exactly straight or square, either. So we just sort of drew a line from one edge to another, keeping the line itself straight, and that's where we're putting the fence. A foot or so either way really doesn't matter much (adverse possession in California would require them to pay the property taxes on the land, so we're not worried about losing ownership of the property on the other side of the fence).

So we set the first corner post. On this side of the yard, neither the fence that runs along the property line (visible in the photo) nor the fence that divides the two neighboring properties and is perpendicular to the visible fence has a post at this point. So we decided to put a post here and tie the visible fence into it, because three fences meeting with no post seemed stupid.

Location of the first corner post

You will note that of course this is right next to the Mme. Carriere rose I moved this winter. Of course.

For this job we went and bought a post-hole digger. We'd been borrowing one from our neighbor, but hers is fairly simple and there are all kinds of fancy improvements in newer ones. This one has really big scoops, and also a handle that is shaped so you can't whack your hands on the handles all the time. Nice. Noel's going to be digging eleven more post holes with this this weekend, and then some more holes for the upcoming deck construction, so it seemed worth it to get something more comfortable to use.

Fancy new post-hole digger

And in no time at all, we had a nice, straight post. Nothing else back there is straight, so every time I look at it it seems to be leaning, but the level assures me that it is dead-on.

New post

And speaking of the new post, it turned out that the only fence posts of reasonable quality that were not pressure treated (which I didn't want for both aesthetic reasons and because at one corner the fence will be in the chicken yard, and the chickens will definitely peck at the fence and I don't care to ingest whatever they use to treat the wood in my eggs) were FSC wood.

FSC certified wood is sustainably forested, so you get to feel like your fence didn't mean clear-cutting an old-growth forest. It costs a bit more, but not much on the larger scale of things (about $3 more per post). But even better, the quality of the wood was notably much better than the quality of the redwood posts that were not FSC certified. So you could say that the certification of the wood was free; we just paid more for a higher grade of wood.

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posted by ayse on 04/11/08

6 Comments

Enjoy that post-hole digger! I have had one for a while and have never used it for actual posts; I use it for digging planting holes. You can make a perfect hole deep and wide enough to drop a nursery-potted plant or shrub in without disturbing the plants around it too much.

Will you come build a fence for me, too? I had to fire one fence guy, and everyone else is expensive and booked up for weeks.

You don't even want to know what it would cost to ship in two software engineers to build you a fence. :)

I admit we're doing it ourselves because every business that would do it would cost more than four times as much. This is the story of a lot of the things we do for ourselves on this project.

I hadn't considered using the digger to do planting holes. I guess I mostly buy things in 4" pots, so a post-hole sized hole seems overkill. Also, we didn't have our own until yesterday.

Good call on the FSC redwood. Did you get it at Truitt & White?

As I'm sure you know, the stuff they use to make PT wood is arsenic, by the way (copper arsenate). You don't want your chickens eating it.

I wonder what people do who don't live on the west coast? Redwood is not really an option for them.

Shockingly enough, we got it at Home Depot (Truitt and White is too far away for hauling lots of material; I try to stay as close possible when I fill the car to capacity with lumber). The Home Depot here has started carrying more green products, I guess because there is demand.

As for copper arsenate, that's now banned for non-industrial uses, so it's not generally in the wood at home centers. The replacements are either alkaline copper quat or copper azole, neither of which is as straight-up toxic as copper arsenate, but both of which are still, essentially, toxic materials (which is pretty much the point of treated lumber: impregnate tasty wood with toxic stuff to make it not so tasty to microbes and insects).

I try to avoid treated wood except where it's called for by code on principle. They were slow to act on the copper arsenate thing, so why on earth should I trust that they've got it all figured out now?

People with no redwood generally use cedar, which has similar properties.

11 post holes? Make sure there's plenty of Tylenol and brandy for Mister Pie afterwards.

We don't mix acetominophen and alcohol because we like our livers. So the stock-up is on ibuprofen and gin before a big hard work day.

And actually, digging the holes is no problem. It's sand we're dealing with here, remember. Humping eleven sacks of concrete into the car then across the lawn is the real back-breaker for the day.

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