Front Slat Fence

January 24th, 2011

When we first moved to the house almost three years ago, all of the fences were mismatched and falling apart. Very slowly (very very slowly) we’ve been reconstructing and redesigning them.

The front fence is one of the bigger eyesores round these parts and divides the street from the side yard. It poses an especially difficult design dilemma with a number of annoying problems to address. I’ve been thinking about how to span the weird 16’10” gap with as little wood splicing possible and the lowest overall cost, while still maintaining privacy and staying sympathetic with the horizontal front slat screen.

There is also the whole ugly backside issue with the added bonus of having to meet up with the vertical posts problem. All in all, lots of odd issues to deal with.

I called around and got tons of quotes for different materials and sizes and ended up having a semi-local lumber yard custom mill twelve 1 x 6″ x 20′ rough cut cedar boards. It ended up being about $200 for the material and was the cleanest looking and least expensive method of spanning that wide space that I could figure out.

One of our many talents as DIY home owners is being great at demo. Maybe the methods are a little ghetto at times, but in the end we are very good at destroying things.

It was unbelievable how huge and heavy the cement footings for the fence supports where. These things had to be knocked down and drug out by the diesel truck and everything hacked apart. Although, nothing goes to waste around here…

We cut up all the old fencing material and are now flush with firewood.

After everything was demolished and removed, we needed to start rebuilding the supports. Initially, I wanted the far right post to be flush with the wall, but unfortunately, there is a huge chunk of the houses foundation and lots of pipes to contend with in that immediate area. Our first big compromise was moving the support post over about a foot instead of flush to the wall.

The far left support post also had to support the rest of the perpendicular fence, so we had to compromise again by moving it all the way to the far left. This move caused the center support to be centered off the two supports, which is not quite center to the yard.

Funky old houses. I’m telling you, nothing but redesign and compromise constantly. With Every. Single. Project.

Maybe if we weren’t so cheap we would have devised some crazy scheme to make it work – but then we probably wouldn’t be building it ourselves either…

Once all the support posts where cemented in, we made a template to keep our screws square and centered on the horizontal face boards. It appears that the third attempt is the charm.

With the template in use, installing the front boards was a breeze. We’ve been slowly learning how to build this stuff a lot cleaner, more efficiently and a tad more pro looking…slowly. After screwing up a bunch.

Here is where you can see the support post compromise assert itself. Didn’t really solve the ugly backside problem, but it doesn’t really bother me that much. If in a year it does bug me, maybe I’ll clad the backside with some cedar boards to hide the supports.

To finish off the top of the fence, we used the same 1×2″ redwood boards we used for the slat screen. After we measured out the same 1-1/2″ spacing and installed the smaller boards, we marked out how high the supports posts needed to be and then unscrewed the top run and chopped off the top of the support posts with a skill saw. Custom fancy stuff.

Here it is all finished up with the construction phase. The next step was to oil the wood down and seal everything against the weather, bugs and chaos of the outside world.

Through the power of internet immediacy, here it is all oiled up. We used Penofin for the slat screen and then Superdeck for the fence. The logic being? Superdeck is easier to find? More options? I don’t really recall.

They are pretty much the same stuff – oil that binds inside the wood and protects it from UV, water, termites, ect. Just roll it on and wipe it off after twenty or so minutes.

The broken down front planter looks terrible. This must be the next big project and it’s totally getting the steel edging treatment.

So fresh! So clean!

After a little while in the blinding desert sun the color is going to mellow out. The slat screen was similarly bright when we first treated it.



We tested a patch of the oil on the weathered wood of the side fence and it looks really good. So that solves the question of what to do with that.



Now, we just need to redo the planter then build a gate then hardscape then build a side fence then irrigation then landscaping then lighting then mailbox then roof…arrrgggghhhhhhh. This is going to be the Decade of the Exterior.

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  1. Anne on 01/24/2011:

    Love it. It’s really nice to see the horizontal lines extend from the house/the slats to the edge of the yard. Well done.

  2. Roslyn on 01/24/2011:

    it looks GREAT! totally motivating me to consider doing something on the side of my house. i am soooo tired of looking at the neighbors junk heap! but you are right – there are soooo many projects to do. even small steps make a world of dfiference!

  3. Shawn C on 01/24/2011:

    Wow! It looks so brilliant. I love it.

  4. Laguna Dirt on 01/24/2011:

    mucho mejor!

  5. Kim @ HousetoHomestead on 01/24/2011:

    Wow, that fence looks gooooood! I love the detail of the slats at the top. I would never have thought to do that, but it looks amazing!

  6. alex sunday on 01/24/2011:

    looks fantastic!
    you and the boy never cease to impress me.
    you got skills!

  7. Shannon on 01/24/2011:

    Looks AMAZING!! LOVE the skinny slats on the top.

    Not to be Nancy Negative, but be careful if that old fence wood was treated. Burning that stuff will give off all kinds of nasty chemicals… not anything you’d want to breathe.

  8. THE BRICK HOUSE on 01/24/2011:

    Oh no worries, we don’t burn that green tinged treated stuff.

  9. Ryan on 01/24/2011:

    Looks great!

  10. rivka on 01/24/2011:

    Whoa this is beautiful! It even makes the house look bigger! I love the brilliance of the small slats at the top. Beautiful job!

  11. Anna @ D16 on 01/24/2011:

    I feel like I leave the same comment on every post, but DAMN. That looks SO! GOOD!

    I need winter to be over pronto so we can get back to our garden, because you’re giving me all kinds of ideas here.

  12. David on 01/24/2011:

    “Funky old houses. Iā€™m telling you, nothing but redesign and compromise constantly. With Every. Single. Project.”

    Amen to that. Every project is envisioned with twice the time needed and generally involves mocking it up fine then having to redesign on the fly.

  13. martin on 01/24/2011:

    You are single handedly pushing the value of your neighborhood RE up.. Your neighbors should throw you a parade or something.

  14. jeannette on 01/24/2011:

    gorgeous, what a schlep!

  15. Jules on 01/24/2011:

    I agree with Martin.

    It really does look amazing, Morgan.

  16. THE BRICK HOUSE on 01/24/2011:

    We are over-improving in a big way. Every prudent person in the world would tell me to stop. But hey, even if we just mowed our weed lawn that would be an over-improvement. Why not just go for it. We keep the projects cheap and learn a lot…for the next house.

  17. bianca on 01/24/2011:

    looking good. šŸ™‚

  18. Fat Cat on 01/24/2011:

    Looks great ! Can’t wait to read your fantastic posts for the next ten years šŸ˜‰

  19. Jeannette on 01/24/2011:

    Looks incredible! What a change. Can’t wait to see it with some landscaping!

  20. kim on 01/24/2011:

    you two are remarkable. the energy and skills you possess continue to blow my mind. and the compromises do not distract at all. absolutely outstanding!

  21. Tonia on 01/24/2011:

    Looking good! Looking good! Question, have you inspired any of your neighbors to do a little sprucing up?

  22. DirectionsNotIncluded on 01/24/2011:

    It is such an inspiration. It looks absolutely wonderful!

  23. Sarah on 01/24/2011:

    You win again. Love it. So elegant.

  24. juliamanuel on 01/24/2011:

    The texture of the cedar is beautiful. I love the close-up shot with the shade sail. Fantastic as always.

    P.S. I’m curious about Tonia’s question too!

  25. Jen on 01/24/2011:

    Looks fabulous! I’m always so excited when you post about a finished project! If it’s that satisfying to me, I’m sure it’s over the moon for you. Solid work!

  26. tom on 01/24/2011:

    beautiful. agree with shannon above about burning anything that might be treated, even if it’s not toxic-looking green. stick to, i don’t know, rustic desert branches… as for the shifted support post near the house, embrace the asymmetry and imbalance, it’s functional b/c it acknowledges the adjacent foundation, it’s more modern! the great modern designer gio ponti famously said: “symmetry is surrender.”

    …imagine how cool if you used the exact same cedar, spaced 3/8″ for drainage, as a wood decking adjacent to the new fence under the sun sail, same material for wall and floor–very scandinavian…!

  27. Ellan on 01/24/2011:

    Awesome fence. Awesome work on everything. Just a caution. About burning the wood from the deconstructed fence as firewood. You may need to exercise some caution as the chemicals that were used to seal the wood (formeldehyde?….) may not be stuff you want to be breathing. Just a thought..

  28. Ellan on 01/24/2011:

    Oh dear, sorry, I see now that someone has already made this comment..

  29. ella on 01/24/2011:

    It looks great!

  30. Robert on 01/24/2011:

    Looks great Morgan ā€” the slat detail on top is perfect. How tall did you go?

  31. The brick house on 01/24/2011:

    It’s about six feet, the solid part is a little over five and a half…

    1×6″ isn’t really 6″…that’s why we added the smaller slats at the top.

  32. erin@designcrisis on 01/24/2011:

    Man, even your scrap wood pile is gorgeous. Your awesomeness is starting to annoy me… heh.

    Seriously, the fence looks amazing.

  33. misa on 01/24/2011:

    oh yes. that is the

    just kidding, i didn’t really say that.

  34. my little apartment on 01/24/2011:

    dude, it looks awesome!! high-five.

  35. jen on 01/24/2011:

    looks awesome! Question. Did you leave some space between the slats? We did the same thing our deck but placed our cedar a little too close and sadly it buckled. You have inspired some Spring projects for us!!

  36. Anna on 01/24/2011:

    lookin good. get. it. girl.

  37. Jessica on 01/24/2011:

    Freaking amazing!!! Someday I’m going to steal this idea from you. First I just need a house.

  38. Lawny on 01/24/2011:

    Fantabulous! excellent work.

  39. Libby on 01/24/2011:

    great fence!

  40. jeremiah russell on 01/24/2011:

    simple, modern, gorgeous! i’m stealing the design for my own fence. šŸ™‚

  41. angie on 01/24/2011:

    I approve! šŸ˜€

  42. modernhaus on 01/24/2011:

    You’re getting so glamorous…now all you need is an archway at the driveway that says “Satterfield Arms”

    No seriously, the new project really gives your house “presence”
    It could almost be a PS estate. A realtor will try and call it “Palm Springs-adjacent estate of noted author-designer” when you try to sell. Mark my wordz.

  43. the vintage cabin on 01/24/2011:

    You’re such a slat! Loving the new fence in all it’s sexiness.

  44. Adeline on 01/24/2011:

    Your house looks perfect now, Each part represent your high taste..Keep up the great work.

  45. avimom on 01/24/2011:

    Love your demo methods. I think the back side looks as cool as the front. You need the posts exposed so you can swag the party lights.

  46. Pam on 01/24/2011:

    It looks awesome! Take a whole hour to revel in your solution and not kick yourself about what is yet to be done. Congrats!

  47. Patrick on 01/24/2011:

    FYI, dont burn the old fence boards if they were treated for contact in the ground. It is a health hazard

  48. sally ogilvie on 01/24/2011:

    It looks amazing!!! And for $200!!!! I am gobsmacked!

  49. Mike W on 01/24/2011:

    Very cool and well thought out solution!

    Also to chime in for the millionth time about burning the old fence, alot of older lumber contains arsenic. Here is a good article.

    If you’re not 100 percent sure about the wood I wouldn’t burn it.

  50. THE BRICK HOUSE on 01/24/2011:

    I’m about 100% sure the parts we salvaged were untreated. That boards were falling apart, rotten and chewed up, no green tinge and warped to hell. They are very very old and in completely awful shape.

    I get it. Trust me. We didn’t cut up the new posts because they were pressure treated. Those we got rid of.

    *please don’t worry, I know its bad to burn treated wood.

  51. kate on 01/25/2011:

    damn girl, this is looking good! there are so many slatted fences in Venice, it gets my heart all a flutter on walks around the ‘hood.

  52. kate on 01/25/2011:

    ps. people are very concerned about your safety in these comments! šŸ™‚

  53. teresa on 01/25/2011:

    i agree with rivka…it makes the house look bigger, like an extension. oh btw, be careful burning….j/k.

  54. Maryalice Eckart on 01/25/2011:

    woooowhooooo! it looks *awesome* congrats. I wish I had your DIY skills. can’t wait to see what you do next. m

  55. stef on 01/25/2011:

    I thought the new fence was looking pretty good, then I scrolled to see the 2 slats at the top and it blew my mind. Jaw-dropped amazement. You make miracles happen.

  56. Liquid6 on 01/25/2011:

    Damn that looks amazing! Keep up the great job.

  57. Dana Perez on 01/25/2011:

    What an amazing transformation. I plan to do a very small job similar to your porch treatment on a small indentation on my house that I think must have been a side door back in the 50s. You’re an inspiration.

  58. Lauren @ chezerbey on 01/25/2011:

    I’m always so impressed that you can simultaneously conquer thrifty and awesome!

  59. Lisa on 01/25/2011:

    Looking gooood!
    It’s so annoying/ inspiring to see someone come up with what in hindsight seems like such a simple idea, that brings it up about a thousand notches.
    When something, once done, seems obvious, it’s always the proof of genius creativity.
    Why I read these blogs:
    1: I copy mercilessly, and let my friends believe that I’m that creative (As if!)
    2: It does make me think *slightly* more creatively, so I do get better thanks to you and other fab interior bloggers.

    And I agree completely that as long as you don’t spend lots, it’s so worth it improving, even if it is overimproving.
    Have you decided what to do at the side, where the white fence is?

  60. Tami on 01/25/2011:

    Great choices – doesn’t it feel good to get past that one? Kudos.

    Agreed that the disintegrating planter needs something. I nominate removal. It’s way too cramped up to the house when you’ve got that great horizontal, expansive line going on.

    I can’t believe how green it is there. Shows what I know, huh.

  61. steven larson on 01/25/2011:

    Sorry, but I feel the project would look better if there were 3 slats on top. 2 slats look like an after thought.

  62. Laguna Dirt on 01/25/2011:

    want some mcm inspiration for both the outside and inside of your home? you must check out hortense:

  63. Tamara on 01/25/2011:

    My mind is blown. It’s amazing what a huge difference a fence makes! And those top slats…thoroughly impressive.

  64. Jason Hudson Dot Com on 01/25/2011:


  65. susan on 01/25/2011:

    That is astounding. Your fence looks gorgeous. Your blog is one of my favorite reads. I just love what y’all have done with your house – inside and out.

  66. Kyle @ chezerbey on 01/25/2011:

    damn, looks awesome brick & co.

  67. THE BRICK HOUSE on 01/26/2011:

    Thanks everyone! I really like how it turned out. Was just outside admiring it today and thinking, damn, that’s a nice fence.

  68. Dan @ Manhattan Nest on 01/26/2011:

    Beautiful, beautiful job you two! It looks amazing!

  69. Anthony on 01/26/2011:

    Great work!! It looks really good. I can’t wait to see a post by you that reads ” We bought the house next door for only 100 bucks” hahaha

  70. iv on 01/26/2011:

    Have you considered putting every other horizontal board on the other side of the main post? Then the fence would look the same from both sides and match your slate screen.

  71. Shayna on 01/27/2011:

    Hey, awesome fence! Glad to see the penofin is still coming in handy. We just finished up a major fence/gate project and slapped penofin over everything. That stuff is magic. It makes everything so damn pretty. Lovely work!

  72. mike on 01/27/2011:

    that fence and slat screen are made-of-awesome! your projects rule and I just might have to use that fire pit design someday real soon.

  73. redneckmodern on 01/28/2011:

    well done. the screw template is a great idea worthy of replicating … now you need to rig up a jig to chop the top few inches off the dogeared fence boards on the side (+ some dark, opaque stain to pick up the porch color…). kudos, too, on sourcing the lumber at that cost. even in lumber-rich norcal, that’d be hard.

  74. jennski on 01/28/2011:

    Looking great! Looks like you started to paint that front planter black.

  75. Susan Harris on 01/30/2011:

    just a quick fyi….the old fence that you have cut down and made into firewood should NOT be burned indoors. It is loaded with chemicals. I was even told I should not burn our old wood fence we took down outside on a bonfire either. Because I would still be breathing in the smoke. LOVE your new fencing and love reading your blog!

  76. Eric on 01/30/2011:

    Once again very nice idea…executed nicely! That cedar lumber has some great personality…

  77. kelly on 01/30/2011:

    Holy crappola… 77+ comments. It’s lookin’ good, lookin’ good I tell ya;)

  78. THE BRICK HOUSE on 01/31/2011:

    Thanks everyone! I’m loving it more and more every day.

  79. IJ on 01/31/2011:

    Nicely done! May I suggest that you carry a horizontal line at the height of the stairs off to the left. Could just be 3 slats (simple) or a planter of the same material as the stairs (harder).

  80. bigBANG studio on 02/05/2011:

    Just amazing. The place is looking SMOKIN’. So, if we happened to buy a tiny mid-century homestead cabin in Joshua Tree (emphasis on *if*) do you guys do, uh, consultations?

    Also, did anything ever come of that stock tank/short grain silo pool from that post I did last summer? Do tell!
    xo lily

  81. Josh Gruetzmacher on 02/12/2011:

    You just got Curb Appealed. Nice.

  82. BKMY on 02/16/2011:

    My wife and I are about to do a similar fence in our backyard. Can you tell me what’s your post to post dimension for spanning 1x2s? We’re using W R cedar

  83. bob on 06/25/2015:

    Hi, what kind of wood did you use for the front slat fences ?

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