Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The One Woman Fence - part 2

in the last post about the fence, I talked about my experience in working with an auger.  If I had to do it all over again, I would probably not have rented the towed post hole digger because it was a rather large piece of machinery.  The drawbacks to using the towed auger are many.  If you don't have a trailer hitch, you might as well forget it because having one delivered does add expense and may not get you the savings you are looking for by doing it yourself.  Also, if you are drilling on any type of slope, it becomes very difficult to maneuver the digger and drill a nice vertical hole because the slope can cause the auger bit to drill at an angle.  On the other hand, the towed auger is great for rocky clay soil, which I have over here!  It also is somewhat safer for one person to operate in that the torque from the auger bit is absorbed by the frame and it will not throw you like some of those smaller one or two man auger models you can purchase at the big box stores.  If I had to do it all over again, I would probably try to rent something like the little beaver earth drill as I have heard it is more easily operable by one person and more portable.  My local rental shop didn't have one available so I ended up renting the towed auger.

When you build a privacy fence, there are certain materials and tools you will want to have on hand

Materials List:

Nylon mason line
marking stakes
marking paint (that bright florescent stuff that sprays upside down)
3 lb metal mallet (you will use this later in your building project)
60 lb bags of quick set cement
large bucket
manual post hole digger
duct tape
post hole auger (optional - you could dig your holes by hand - estimated 45 minutes per hole in hard clay)
post hole level
shovel (spade type)
wheel barrow (handy for premixing cement if you choose to do it that way - mix it like peanut butter consistency)
rock breaker bar (the big tall one with the chisel on one end and spike on other end - often found near excavating tools in the big blue store)

The Process:

The following steps detail what you will need to do in order to build a fence of your own!

1. Buy one of those nylon mason lines and a bundle of stakes at your local hardware store.  Stretch the mason line nice and tight from corner stake to corner where you want to place your fence.  I marked the places where I wanted to drill my post holes with stakes, however, in hind sight, I wish I would have just used marking paint instead because when it came time to drill the holes and remove the stakes, it was difficult to ensure that the auger bit was centered in the place where the stake was. 

2. When you are marking where you want your posts to be, have in mind what size of cross beams you will be using.  I used 8ft 2x4 treated lumber for my cross beams and drilled my holes about every 7 and a half feet. So I could have 3 inches of overlap for my cross beams on either side. 

3. When you have your fence line marked with where you want your posts, you are ready to dig.  Please ensure you call that utility company number that gets all the underground utilities marked.  This will save you big bucks and perhaps your life in the end.  I called and had the utility lines marked but still ended up severing my neighbor's phone line because the phone company neglected to mark all the points where the phone line crossed our property.  Like I said earlier, I rented a rather large towed post hole auger and it was a little too big for me to handle on my own.  We got the auger blade stuck on the first hole we dug (corner post hole) and it took over an hour to get it unstuck.  I was able to handle the auger on my own for about a third of the holes that I needed for the fence posts, however those holes were not on a hill.  My neighbor across the street was so kind and came over to help me dig two thirds of the holes (the ones on the hill)  The post hole auger kept wanting to roll down the hill and it was a beast to handle.

4. After the holes were dug with the auger, we used the manual post hole digger to ensure the bottoms of the holes were widened.  This prevents heaving when the ground freezes and helps your posts stay in place.  I put some duct tape around the handle of the manual post hole digger to help measure the depth of the holes.   After the holes were adjusted, I was ready to place the 4x4 posts.  A post hole level is a great tool to have for this phase as it allows you to level a post both horizontally and vertically all at once.  It really saves time and by the end of it, I was able to tell if the post was level just by looking at it.  It took about 1x60 lb bag of cement to fill the hole with the post.  I just dumped the dry cement into the hole and the poured a 3 gallon bucket of water into the hole.  The cement set up within 30 minutes and my posts were sturdy.  Make sure that your posts are facing the right direction or the next step will be much more difficult.

All in all, the marking, drilling, and setting of the posts for the fence was about 2 solid days worth of work.  It ended up taking me the better part of a week because I have 3 kids and was not able to put in long work days.  I ended up renting the auger on a Saturday and since it was a weekend rental, I didn't have to return it until before 9:00am on Monday so I had 2 whole days to use it for the price of 1 day's rental.  It ended up being the perfect amount of time to complete my drilling project.

Go to part 3 - Build your own fence


  1. My husband and I are thinking of putting in a 20-30 ft. stretch of privacy fence on one side of our house, to keep our dogs from going crazy when the neighbors are in their backyard. We can't afford to have it done professionally right now, so I'm really curious to see how your project goes, and glad for advice on any pitfalls!

    1. Great! I finally completed my a little side tracked from blogging this summer. If you do 20 or 30 feet, you could definitely dig the post holes manually without having to rent an auger. You would only need 4 to 5 sections of fence to cover the area so that isn't too many holes to have to dig!