The Best Defense is a Good Fence

We had to have our fence repaired. One of the major selling points for this house when we purchased it was the fenced yard for Pippin. The fence, like so much of the rest of the house, wasn’t pristine, but Pippin has never tried to escape and even if he did, he would need a pretty big hole and substantial motivation to do so. As we became better acquainted with the wind and migration patterns of the neighborhood, the fence became just as much about keeping vagrants, ne’er-do-wells and loose trash (literally, like empty cans and crumpled fast food wrappers, but if I’m really honest, I don’t particularly want figurative “loose trash” in my yard either, but that’s why I wrote “ne’er-do-wells,” because that seems a little less derogatory) out of the yard as much as keeping Pippin in the yard.

Our very first fence repair back in 2016

As spring storms blew in each year, sections of the fence would reveal their weaknesses, and over the course of a couple years, Kalen and I replaced all the cross boards and pickets of the fence. We didn’t replace the posts, however, because they seemed, well, not great, but okay. That would be a problem for future us.

This past spring (particularly rainy, you’ll recall if you’ve been following along for a while) revealed that every single post had significant rot at the base. And every single rotted base had originally been sunk in concrete, which would have to be dug out in order to place new posts. We braced the dangerously wobbly fence with spare 2x4s that we had stored for just such an emergency and looked at our options.

We briefly considered trying to replace the posts ourselves, but pretty quickly concluded that we don’t have the proper equipment or patience for the job. I still have nightmares about all the rocks and roots we had to dig out for the retaining wall two years ago. And the spacing between houses on our block is pretty tight, more so when you consider the flower beds with all the plant babies I don’t want to destroy. Even if we figured out exactly what equipment we should rent, we would probably still kill a lot of my flowers. We decided to bring in some professionals and let them dig out 18 chunks of concrete buried in rocky soil.

Dad voice: “And that’s why you don’t throw away scrap lumber, kids!”
Not pictured: the squirrel bridge 2×4 anchoring the fence to the deck.

After reaching out to several companies and hearing back from only a few of them, we found a company that said they could replace the posts and were happy to accommodate our request to reuse the cross boards and pickets that we had installed ourselves. There is a little bit of pride at play in saying “Look at that fence! It’s not perfect but we did it ourselves!” but the real issue was that the pickets on the fence were all only a couple years old and still in excellent shape. We could probably afford to have the whole fence torn out and replaced, but we really didn’t want to see perfectly good lumber go directly to the junk heap. Another company had refused to even try, so it was a relief that this company thought it was no problem at all.

They were scheduled to come Thursday, so I spent the day Wednesday removing bird feeders, planters, hooks, and decorative lights from the fence and pulling the irrigation out of the way.

I also discovered a cicada freshly emerged from its nymph-stage shell. It wasn’t yet a screaming missile, and was still so green and soft that it was kind of pretty. I love that shade of green on its wings.

They didn’t actually get here to do the repairs until Saturday morning because they were running behind on another job and then we had some rain, but they kept us in the loop, so I wasn’t worried. Kalen and I have done enough home projects to appreciate how a job can take longer than you plan and also how much a little rain at just the wrong time can transform an otherwise simple job into a mud farming operation.

Based on my previous experience with a few other contractors on other jobs, you’d think I would have been a little concerned about the delays, but by chance I had just seen pictures on Facebook from one of our friends from the dog park showing off her new fence. I looked at the excellent work but refrained from asking who she had hired because I was already in too far to change my mind at this point. But she ended her post sharing who had done the work: Miller Fence. The same company we had gone with! What a relief!

So I wasn’t too concerned when another job took too long on Thursday and Friday morning’s thunderstorm yielded a second apologetic phone call asking if Saturday would be okay. They said ours was a one day job, and while I was skeptical of that, I also knew they would need to use the little skid loader machine that I had seen on their truck earlier, and if we could reduce the tracks we made through both our and the neighbor’s yard, we should.

They arrived Saturday morning at 8 o’clock on the dot and jumped right in. They had all the panels of pickets removed, set aside, and numbered for accurate replacement within an hour. We didn’t want to creep them out by just standing in the yard watching them work, so Kalen and I surreptitiously peeked out of various windows from time to time and commented on their progress and methods. A couple of the concrete chunks gave them some trouble and I anticipated the rattling cacophony of a jackhammer. They instead produced a steel breaker bar and manually stabbed it into the concrete a few times to break it up. I wouldn’t think there would be much variation in how you can use a such a simple tool, but somehow this work crew made less noise with the bar than my neighbors make using the exact same tool in their driveway. (Don’t ask why the neighbors are regularly using a breaker bar to smash things in their driveway; I’ve watched them do it and I don’t think I’ll ever have the answer.) By 1:00, they were finished. Not just with the removal, but with the installation of the new posts and the reinstallation of the picket panels, and clean up as well.

Because our original, less-than-perfect panels are back on the fence, it doesn’t quite have that shiny new “wow, look at that!” appearance, but the posts are upright, sturdy, and made for ground contact, and they got the whole job done in five hours with just three guys! If Kalen and I had tried to do it ourselves, I don’t think we’d have finished in five weeks. My plants all survived unscathed. Any second thoughts that had lingered over hiring the job out or hiring them specifically vanished.

I’m still putting the yard back together, but it feels like a concrete weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Or more specifically, 18 concrete footings, with fenceposts sunk in them. And Pippin’s happy, which is what really matters.

4 thoughts on “The Best Defense is a Good Fence

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    1. He does love supervising labor! πŸ˜… he only barked at the fence crew once or twice when they first showed up and then he just watched them intently out the window.

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