Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How to Make the Perfect Hard-Boiled Egg

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The One-Woman Fence - part 3

In the last post (found here), I discussed using a post hole auger and how to set your fence posts.  Even though the quick set cement sets in about 30 minutes, I think it is a good idea to let your cement cure for at least a day.  This gives a chance for the water to percolate through and set all the cement in your holes and also ensure that attaching your cross beams will not cause your posts to jiggle loose.

Here are the materials you will need for this section:

battery powered drill with 2 batteries
extra screw driver heads (nice hardened ones - go for the more expensive ones...they really are better)
3 inch deck screws (get at least 1000)
2x4x8 treated planks
mason line
framing hammer or nail gun
1.5 inch galvanized ring shank nails  (galvanized is for outdoor use and ring shank helps prevent nail from backing out of the hole)

When you are ready to attach your cross beams (treated 2x4x8 lumber) to the fence posts, use 3 inch deck screws and a battery powered drill with at least 2 speeds.  Years ago, my parents bought us a terrific battery powered drill that we use for everything and I absolutely love it.  One thing I must say about using battery powered tools is that it is handy to have at least 2 batteries so one can be charging while you use the other one and you don't end up waiting around for your battery to charge.   I also recommend buying some screwdriver bits made from hardened material with good shoulders on them.  Get a whole pack of them because you will go through bits pretty quickly using deck screws.  Look for the type of bits used by people who install drywall for a living.  They have good shoulders on them and prevent slipping while you are trying to drive the screws into your posts/ crossbeams.

1. measure and mark posts.  Start with the bottom cross beam and mark your posts about 8 inches from the ground.  When you are determining the locations for your cross beams, you need to also determine how you want your fence to look.  Do you want to have a style that runs with the contour of the ground or do you want to step your fence up and down in panels?  The way you set your cross beams will be determined by the style you choose.  If you choose to step your panels, make sure your cross beams are level.  If you contour your fence with the slope of the ground, just measure and adjust the bottom edge of your cross beam accordingly by measuring roughly 8 inches from the ground and marking your fence posts with chalk, keeping in mind that the ground immediately around your posts has recently been disturbed and may not be the exact same level as the ground between your posts.  8 inches is a starting point.  You will need to eyeball it to get the correct look.  (Note, see step 3 for an explanation on stacking your cross beams from neighboring sections.)

2. Begin to attach your 2x4 cross beams to your fence posts.  If you are the only one on the job, put a deck screw in to one post of the section you are working on right on the chalk line you drew for your bottom beam and use that screw as a pivot to hold up one end of the 2x4 while you affix it to the post on the other side of the section you are working on.  It may be over kill but I used 2 deck screws per side on the 2x4.  Once you have it fastened on one side, you can use that supporting deck screw as one of your screws to attach the other side of the 2x4 to your other post.

3.  The style I used for my 2x4 cross beams was to stack one on top of another with an overlap the width of the post.  For example, the bottom rung for one section was at 8 inches above ground level while the neighboring sections were stacked on top of that bottom rung and they were each about 10.5 inches up from the ground.  It doesn't look as pretty in my opinion but that is the way most fences in my neighborhood are built and it does provide more stability if you live in an area with high winds or rowdy kids!

4.  Once all your cross beams are attached, your fence will start to look more like a fence instead of a construction project.   Congratulations!  You can now start hammering pickets.  I used 1.5 inch nails for my pickets and it is really helpful to have a nail gun for this part of the job.  I bought a 30 degree pneumatic nail gun and I absolutely love it.  It was on sale for just over 100$ and I have already used it for 2 projects.  Don't be intimidated by the nail gun...it does make a loud noise but it is much easier on your fence posts because they won't bear the wear and tear that repetetive hammering will inflict upon them (you will be hammering pickets until you are blue in the face!)  If you do decide to hammer them all in by hand, get yourself a good framing hammer (they are longer in the handle, have a nice large strike face and usually the strike face is lightly spiked.  It definitely grips the nail heads better and you have less of a chance of having the hammer glance off a nail and mash your thumb..  To take the sting out of the inevitable thumb mashings, wear a good heavy pair of gloves when you start hammering. 

5.  Hammer pickets in sections - stretch mason line by tying it to the top of one of your pickets and stretch it out about 15 feet.  Nail another temporary picket and tie the mason line good and tight.  Use the mason line to follow with shoulder of dog ear for a nice straight looking fence section.  This works great for fences that follow the contour of the ground.  When placing your pickets, put a 2x4 under your first one to give it a nice space between it and the ground...this helps prevent warping and bending pickets from ground moisture being wicked up into the picket.  You will have a bit of a gap but keep in mind that it can be filled in later with a little soil or some pretty garden plantings. Leaving yourself some space between the bottom of the picket and the ground will also prevent you from having to cut the pickets as you are putting them on the fence due to uneven ground underneath.  (Trust me, I learned this the hard way!)

6.  When you build your gate, you don't want it to sag.  They usually do anyway just because your gate posts will shift in the ground from the weight of the gate opening and closing.  (Put a nice big cement base for your gate and corner posts).  I used a gate kit I purchased from the big blue hardware store.  It included hinges, a latch, and angle brackets to help prevent sagging.  So far, the kit has worked pretty well and I like that it is pretty simple to build with the instructions provided on the box.

7. Finally, when you finish your fence sides and find yourself at a corner or gate opening with a space to cover with pickets but your picket is way too wide to fit properly, look ahead and purposely leave a space near the end of the fence section but not on the corner or right at the gate opening.  The space should be 1 picket distance away from a corner or opening so you are able to cover the hole with an uncut picket.  This looks just fine from a distance and is a good way of having a nice-looking fence without having to use a saw to cut a picket to an odd size in order to fit a small space.

The hardest part of whole thing for me was drilling the holes with the auger.  I would definitely try to enlist somebody's help if you plan on doing it yourself with a piece of machinery.  If you dig it by hand with a post hole digger, go slow, expect it to take about half hour per hole once you get good at it if you don't have overly rocky soil.  Anyone can do this project and the money you save is a nice bonus.  Good luck if you decide to take this on yourself!