Fence Mending

November 22nd, 2010

Our side yard fence was physically falling apart, which meant that we were using metal rods to hold it upright and boards fell off every time the wind kicked up. A board would fall down, we’d screw it back up, the posts would slump over and we would prop them up, seriously, we put up with this crap for almost three years.

The cause of the deterioration was the rotted off bottoms of the support posts and the poorly chosen nails that secured the boards in place. Both issues equaled ghetto failing fence.

We couldn’t afford to replace the entire thing, so in order to keep things budget friendly, we reused almost all of the weathered fence boards and just replaced the support structure.

That meant that we had to carefully disassemble the fence and install new 4×4″ posts. We called Carpenter Craig to come help since he just finished a big mending fencing project at his new house and had the skills and tools to help.

Digging post holes by hand? BLOWS.

Of course we hand dug all the holes, centered our posts and then Quikreted them into place.

Then the horizontal supports went into place. We just followed the design of the rest of the fence, nothing to exciting design wise.

Removing all of the boards (and all the nails) also blew. We had to be really careful since we needed the wood to be reinstalled. Four nails a board + a couple hundred boards is a whole lot of tetanus to avoid. Filthy dirty tedious work.

After all the wood was prepped, we strung a string line from the existing fence top to keep everything even and cohesive. Totally rocket science. Then we started screwing up the fence boards with some deck screws. Totally tedious.

One of our curious neighbors came over to watch. He tends to come over and watch while we do projects…and drink our beer. Lend a hand dude!

Speaking of neighbors…

So, the cat hoarding guy who lives next door (who shares the fence with us) didn’t want to chip in $100 to help pay for half the materials. We already said we would do the labor, and he still hasn’t paid for some work The Boy did over at his house when the city threatened to fine him, so we didn’t have much hope. But still, its kind of the principle of the thing.

Anyway, while we were working on the fence, weird neighbor guy’s ex(?) wife ran through the back yard and jumped on a chair to climb through the back window into the house. It was so unexpected and strange that I think she was really surprised to see us standing there. That’s the chair on the left. On the right is the pack of feral kitties staring as we worked. I can’t even begin to explain how much cat poop is all over our yard. Ungodly amounts of cat crap.

So anyways, it gets super dark very early now, so we had to postpone putting up the rest of the boards till the next day…

…and on the next day it was all about screwing fence boards up. It took a long time and was not exciting.

But then it was done! Check out the after compared to the before. NO MORE METAL RODS. It stands up all by itself! It’s a fencing miracle.

I am amazed by how satisfying it is just to have an upright fence. Not even an awesome horizontal slat fence, just solid, upright and private fence.

Oh yeah, we gave ourselves the nice side since we paid for it all, did all the labor and were covered in cat shit for our troubles.

It only cost about $200 to do the full repair and took two days. Not bad, if I do say so.

Now the perfect and professional shade sail doesn’t look so out of place next to our crappy wonky fence. I’m not sure if I want to finish the weathered boards. We were discussing some sort of opaque stain, but I think I kind of like it all aged and beat up. Something to think about for sure.

Solid as a rock. Straight as an arrow. Something something total cliche.

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  1. Brismod on 11/22/2010:

    Great job! It’s amazing what a big difference this makes to your backyard. You have to be happy to have it repaired, especially since your neighbour is such a lousy wanker…

  2. Tonia on 11/22/2010:

    Can they come to Dallas? The fence looks fabulous!

  3. alex sunday on 11/22/2010:

    yep, your neighbour is certainly an a-hole. but your fence rocks! glad to see you gave yourselves the good side. it’s only fair. now i’m not sure about the raw wood look, but that’s just me and i am NOT the design expert.

  4. Lucy on 11/22/2010:

    Look great! I kind of like the beat up look too…the weathered look is a nice contrast to the extreme precision of the install! Ne’er have I seen such a straight fence…

  5. Ana on 11/22/2010:

    I think you missed a cat hiding in the middle of the hedge/tree(?)

  6. tiziano on 11/22/2010:

    Why don’t you pain the fence black?

  7. Dan on 11/22/2010:

    Congrats, it looks about 1,000,000 times better and I’m sure is a HUGE relief for you guys that it’s DONE! I wonder if some middle-ground would be better, like a dark stain without red undertones that will just make the rustic/weatheredness just a bit richer and more dimensional. I feel like opaque stain/black paint would fight too much with the condition of the boards and the cutout shape on the top… anyway, well done!

  8. Kate on 11/22/2010:

    you are so unimaginably clever and I’m always excited to see what you kids are up to next-personally I like the look of the weathered boards,but since you didn’t flip them and install them with the straight side up, could you go back and trim the tops??
    You just don’t strike me as a picket fence kinda gal 🙂

  9. Mrs. Potts on 11/22/2010:

    Looks ten times better than before, but still a little ghetto next to your nice, pretty house. My vote would definitely be to stain the fence. You know, since my vote is so important.

    I want to know what cat hoarder’s ex wife was doing. That sounds like a fun story.

  10. ModFruGal on 11/22/2010:

    Yay for privacy…and I think the stain would make you happy…it’s amazing what funk can be hidden under an opaque stain. Having just done it myself with aged boards mixed in with new….it makes everything feel clean and fresh.

  11. Sophie on 11/22/2010:

    Awesome job!
    We just power wash our wooden fence once a year – it removes the gray and evens up the tones while keeping the natural, weathered look.

  12. Maggie @ Okay, now what? on 11/22/2010:

    What an improvement! It was totally worth the effort.

  13. Cheryl on 11/22/2010:

    We have a cat hoarder next door too. I feel your pain.

  14. Lauren @ chezerbey on 11/22/2010:

    Using reclaimed lumber is all the rage, and you found it in your own backyard. Nice work! I’m kinda diggin the look – the patina of age juxtaposed with the more modern elements. (Two design-y words in one sentence!)

  15. Becky on 11/22/2010:

    Wow, very nice. At least having a crazy neighbor makes things interesting! I gotta say, one of the things I hope for in my first house is a Crazy Neighbor, along with a fireplace and crown moldings.

  16. molly on 11/22/2010:

    if our neighbors could make a fence by stacking beat up crap cars, they would. yours looks much better (amazing!). i think a super dark stain would look killer.

  17. Jean on 11/22/2010:

    What Lauren said. And it looks great. Congrats on tackling that big pesky project.

  18. ben smithson on 11/22/2010:

    Ahhhhh, neighbors. That’s all I need to say.

  19. susan on 11/22/2010:

    It is such a shame that your awesome house is right next door to such awful people. Your house and yard (and now fence!) look amazing.

  20. courtney on 11/22/2010:

    Love your blog. Everything that you say in print would be totally going through my head if I did those projects! Your fence rocks I love the weathered and aged look. Can’t wait til you get everything all finished!

  21. Jen@BloggersAbode on 11/22/2010:

    Great job AS ALWAYS. Isn’t it nice to have a man that pays attention to detail? Love the weird neighbor story. They sound like total tweakers.

  22. Karen on 11/22/2010:

    I’m just visiting for the first time, but I actually live very close by. I love the fence with the random weathered finishes. But, that’s my aesthetic, may not be your mid-century modern fun look. Don’t you hate bad neighbors?

  23. Michelle on 11/22/2010:

    Congrats! My parents have the same issue with their fence. They were quoted $1000 to fix it! And none of their neighbors want to pitch in either. What is with that? Kinda effed up!

  24. Caitlin on 11/22/2010:

    Sorry your neighbor wouldn’t pitch in the $100 but at least the fence stands and looks great! Love the reclaimed lumber look.

  25. THE BRICK HOUSE on 11/22/2010:

    We thought about flipping the boards, but the bottoms on most were had some rotten bits and were ugly. I don’t think we will cut off the tops. Obviously this is not my ideal fence solution, but budget wise I’m really happy with it.

    We are rebuilding the front portion that looks out on the street to be much cooler! Its only 16′ and much more affordable to do.

  26. Ryan on 11/22/2010:

    I build my first fence like that. My parent’s neighbor was building an all new fence so I took his old 20+ year fence panels, took them apart and trimmed off the rotten parts. I put in new posts and screwed the old boards up. It was a big pain to take apart the old panels without destroying the fragile wood. Then I build raised beds out of some of the leftover pieces.
    I bought all new wood for the fence at the new house, and 18 months later its almost all still in the garage waiting for me to put it up. There’s snow now so I get an automatic 5 month reprieve.

  27. jesse.anne.o on 11/22/2010:

    Congrats on the fence!

    I’m sorry about your insane (and uncooperative) neighbor. I can offer you some consolation – at least the cats are outside and not inside, which is a whole other level of smell and illness-hotbed of cat hoarding. It looks like he has some standard feral cats hanging around. Is he fixing them? If he’s insane, maybe not. But I guess it’s something you can mention to him if he’s not thinking about it – it’s better for the cats (and for the people who don’t want a lot of cats on their property!).

    For full disclosure, I’ve fixed and maintained a colony of feral cats for 7 years (from 15 cats now down to 2!). One of my “jobs” is working with the people on the street where they live to make sure they’re not annoying people!

    In the meantime, here are some sites with cat deterrent tips:



    Please feel free to contact me if you want more info about anything and I’ll do whatever I can to help. I am a big feral cat advocate (which means I don’t think they should be trapped and killed but fixed, released and *monitored*), but not by any means does that mean that I think cats should be pooping all over your property!

  28. Coletta on 11/22/2010:

    kudos for putting the nice side on your side.
    ya know, as i have said before, you CAN take your neighbor to court to make him pay his half of a shared fence.
    there is a great book i use to have….i think it was called “california neighbor laws”…shoot..i can’t remember…but anyhow….the shared fence bullshit is in the book!

  29. Tamoto on 11/22/2010:

    I too wrestle with to stain or not to stain the fence we put up a year ago. I like the silver weathered wood, but dont want it to rot. Some one suggested Boracare? Its something you spray on that protects the wood, but you gotta be careful not to kill all your plants when you apply it and it only lasts 5 years,while stain lasts longer. Decisions.I guessed your wood was rotton on bottom or you would have flipped it, but whatevs it still looks good. cat poop is so gross…

  30. augusta on 11/22/2010:

    i like the weathered look on the fence. it will be a great contrast to the modern (and fabulous im sure) landscaping you are planning on.
    great job!

  31. Kimberj on 11/22/2010:

    The fence rocks now! We had the same problem with our cheap neighbor so we had to fix it ourselves too. Took my husband and son quite a while. We’ve been told (although we’ve never done it) to put capsaicin or hot pepper sauce on the tops of the boards or along the top rail as well as anywhere the cats can sneak through. It will get on their paws and fur and they won’t like it and will probably not come back. We were told it wouldn’t harm them. If anyone else knows better please feel free to refute 🙂 Just trying to help…
    PS your house is truly an inspiration!

  32. Stephanie on 11/22/2010:

    She just jumped through the back window?! Crazier than our neighbors, I wish I could put up a fence big enough not to see them, or listen to their obnoxious dogs.

    I like the weathered look of the fence. Might not go with the design aesthetics of the sail shade, but still nice.

  33. Adriane on 11/22/2010:

    Do your dogs eat all that cat shit? Ours acts like it’s the best food that ever happened. I mean, if you offered her a T-Bone or a pile of cat shit, she’d totally go for the cat shit. I keep telling her to have some dignity, but I’m not getting through.

    Your fence looks so nice. I’m a vote for leaving them as they are, although I think pressure washing is a great idea.

    Oh, and in Georgia, there are some organizations that maintain feral cat colonies like one commenter already mentioned. I think that’s a fabulous idea. We used to live near a crazy cat compound in Athens, but it was a trailer and not a house. We adopted one of the kitties, but contacted a group about the rest. The last time we visited, there were not any lazy-eyed inbred kitties wandering around. And the air smelled sweeter…

  34. erf on 11/23/2010:

    I think the weathered/aged wood looks amazing, and provides nice balance with the slickness of the sails while offering texture. Also, it totally kicks ass for the environment that you didn’t buy new wood. Looks great!

    I grew up next to a house with A LOT of feral cats, and one darted under my truck the first day I drove after getting my license when I was 16. I killed a feral cat on my first day as a legal driver. I started to cry, but the neighbor/”owner” came out, scooped it up with a shovel and tossed it in the creek without a second thought. I kept crying. Another neighbor come over to say I’d done the (country) road a favor. Oh, brother. However you break it down, living with many feral cats and caged, inbred dogs next door is a SUPER BUMMER. I feel you.

  35. the vintage cabin on 11/23/2010:

    Good joerb! As you know, I agree that post hole digging with your hands is one of the worst jobs ever but it is worth the slave labor when it’s done. It looks great and I’d leave it as-is because once you get into stain, you have to keep that shit up and it’s just another thing to maintain. If you plan on moving in a year or two though, then stain away!

    As for your crazy neighbors, I have some dirt bag neighbors next to me too that I plan on writing about this week. Let’s just say my nightmare neighbors hoard everything from great danes and cats to old mattresses and bike parts…

  36. jeannette on 11/23/2010:

    looks really gorgeous and so proud of you for recycling.

  37. Carol on 11/23/2010:

    Maybe the ex-wife is feral too. meow.

  38. Echo on 11/23/2010:

    I am with the camp who votes to keep the wood as is. I LOVE the weathered look contrasting with the modern. I can’t think of two styles that work better together.

  39. Ashley on 11/23/2010:

    To quote Robert Frost, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Sounds like the better your fence, the better you can ignore your neighbors…they sound bat shit…

  40. redneckmodern on 11/23/2010:

    fence looks great — congrats. totally on board with the “nice side” sentiments. we faced the same thing. you might think to stain if only for further weather protection… and setting up a cutting-fence and ripping the tops of those boards level with a circular saw would be easy. like, so easy, it’d be a shame if you didn’t do it.

  41. Lena on 11/23/2010:

    I think the old wood looks good. And I do think it will look even better when the rest of the garden is done. Than it will be a nice contrast to the modern, clean lines and help keeping it from looking too cold.

  42. Bill on 11/23/2010:

    I think it’s the dog ear pickets that kills the esthetic. You could cut the tops off the pickets so they’re flat or you could build a faux frame to hide them and create a panel effect. A pressure washer will clean up the pickets and use a roller to apply stain or sealer. A panel look fence would be very swass. Very swass indeed.

  43. Jon on 11/23/2010:

    if you paint that fence i will come all the way from northern ireland and give you a black look. seriously, look at it. give it a coat of something clear to stop it dissolving and sit back with a smug look. that is all

  44. Simone on 11/23/2010:

    I like the weathered look. When things become perfect they kind of die in a certain way.
    I have been told that at some zoo’s you can buy Lion-poo and that working that into the compost in your borders in strategic places keeps unwanted cats away (I never tried it though). Interesting way of financing a zoo.
    The US is of course the land of the free…

  45. julia wheeler on 11/23/2010:

    yay finally! this looks great… i love it weathered in. your neighbors are surely on methamphetamines.

  46. jeannette on 11/24/2010:

    off topic, pls excuse. check out jean arthur’s 1970s burled-out carmel hobbit living room.


  47. Rayna on 11/24/2010:

    I LOVE the weathered look. Slap some poly on that bad boy so it will stay beautiful and be done…well, for a couple years anyway!

  48. Lisa on 11/24/2010:

    I’m so proud of myself for becoming obsessed with your blog. You do not disappoint! Love the budget-friendly, DIY, eco upgrade.

  49. carla on 11/24/2010:

    god, there is something so satisfying watching your home projects come together…maybe it because i don’t have to do any of the work! thanks for that. it looks great. 1,ooo,oo times improved. i’d vote for a dark grey stain/paint job, only because your house/yard are turning out so stellar, but i get the natural-wood thing, too. the ex-wife and the chair story it hilarious.

  50. Gloria Graham, AKBD on 11/24/2010:

    I agree. I totally love the multi colored, organic, earthy look of the fence posts au natural! Well done.

  51. Tami on 11/25/2010:

    Looks terrific – and what a relief to have that done, huh?

    You might want to reconsider stain, however, just use something subtle and transparent, like on your incredible recycled wood bench. It preserves that weathered appearance while deepening the color and preserving the wood. We used a Superdeck stain at our last house and were very pleased with it.

  52. Tom on 11/26/2010:

    Power-wash that bad boy and it will look just like new.

  53. Bee Gomez on 11/27/2010:

    Feral cats have fleas that carry typus. Read Megan Daum’s column in the LATimes.

  54. nancy on 12/30/2010:

    I love your fence.
    You can get some inexpensive vines like honeysuckle or some fast growing bushes. there’s a website called fastgrowingtees
    that i like.
    i too have just built a new fence. Good fences make good neighbors. but my neighbor is just spittin’ mad. she’s lived next to me (and spying ) in her house for 40 years (i am a newbie) and this has hampered her ability to keep tabs on me.
    I had to duct tape my old fence to keep her from looking at me through the gaps in the boards. she’s freaky. my fence had to go to 8 feet!!!

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