Friday, July 22, 2016

Mending the Fence: The Upgraded Version

As many people have seen on our FB page, Instagram, and Snapchat (@cbrookemullens); we have built another fence at The Castle

Snap of the new fence... keep reading for more pictures!
The last Mending the Fence post was a fence at our previous house (now rental).  Last summer we spent a few days painstakingly getting our backyard ready to build this fence.  We downed a large pine tree, got rid of a ton of ivy, slightly regraded the yard, and also took out as many irises as we could.  The battle of the irises is not over yet as we still get 1 or 2 popping through the grass.

Large pine tree downed
Ivy removed, irises, removed, and regrading of the yard before fence installation
Bonus: #teddymullens
Demo of the yard
Demo complete
As a couple, we have built several other fences (seem like every house we buy always needs a new fence), but as we plan for this house (The Castle) to be our house for the long haul, we wanted to make this fence special and striking.  Luckily, we only had to enclose 2 sides of the backyard since our neighbors already had fences around the other two sides.

Day 1 of the Castle’s fence: Installing the posts

As with every fence we build, we first started to lay our string lines and mark where the post holes would go.  We went from the corner post of our back neighbor’s fence to the corner of our yard, and from the edge of our garage to the corner.

String lines established for the fence outline
Quick Tip: to make sure you have a right angle between the 2 string lines use the 3-4-5 rule.  Mark 3 feet from the line intersection on one string, 4 feet from the line intersection on the other string, and adjust the lines until it is 5 feet diagonally between the marks.  Perfect 90 degree angle every time!!

Math time: Now that we had our corner marked out, we measured the distance accurately from each line of fencing to calculate out post spacing.  Between each post we wanted to have approximately 6 feet spacing. We took our overall length and divided it by 6 and that got us the number of bays (bays = spots between posts we need).  For instance, for 32 feet of fence, 32 divided by 6 equals 5.3333 so we needed 5 bays. Now to knew the center of each post, we took our 32 foot and divided by 5 (number of whole bays), which tells us each post is 6’-4.8” feet center of post to center of post.  In this instance, I would make each post 6’ 5” until the corner post and that last bay would be slightly smaller.  This wouldn’t be noticeable overall.

Now that we had the fence locations all marked out (by use of strings), we had to mark the ground where the posts were going and start digging.  Luckily, we own a post hole digger and auger (we pretty much own every tool out possible)!  So, we made relatively quick work of most of the post holes.  However, some of the post locations aligned perfectly with where old posts were (from an old chain link fence), so that involved digging out old concrete in one case, and using a sledge hammer to bust out old concrete in another case.  This was the end of our DAY ONE!

Old concrete chain link fence posts being removed
Leveling of posts
Bonus: #teddymullens
Fence posts held in place with concrete and braces
End of Day 1 accomplished!

Day 2 of the Castle’s fence: Installing the rails

With all the posts set and perfectly plumb, we began to put in our rails for the fence.  The fence design we chose involved attaching the rails to the sides of each post instead of the norm of attaching the rails to the face of the post.  To do this, one could use a concealed flange joist hanger, but we did not want the look of that.  So, we used our trusty Kreg Pocket Jig and the Kreg blue coated screws.  We first put 2 pocket screws on each side of the rail, then we put a Deckmate screw at an angle on the top and bottom of the rail as well.  The rail was installed flush with the back side of the post (the side facing our backyard). 

Using the Kreg to make perfect pocket screw holes
Also, in addition to the top rail, an additional 2x4 top rail was put across the top to put a “cap” on the fence, to add to the aesthetics of it. We continued this for 3 rails on each bay.  We made the sidewalk side fence rails perfectly level to each so you would see a clean line when walking your dog, the driveway side of the fence we stair-stepped the top rail. 

Top rail installed flush to the back of the yard with flush decorative top rail "cap"
Our foreman hard at work #teddymullens
Flat top rail along sidewalk all at the same height;
Flat top rail along driveway stair-stepped with grading
End of Day 2 accomplished! All rails installed

Day 3 of the Castle’s fence: Installing the pickets and gate

Next, we split up our tasks.  Brooke worked on the pickets of the fence, while I worked on the gate frame and post caps.  Luckily we each have our own "his" and "hers" Dewalt impact drivers

Brooke’s job: The pickets.  Due to the design we picked for our fence, each picket had to be cut individually (custom to the MAX).  Also, since we did a layered picket design, more cuts were required than normal.  The way we chose our layer design was to start with a whole picket at one edge of the bay and space the next picket 3 ½”(a standard 2x4 width) apart.  The whole first layer of pickets was spaced that way.  If there was a gap between the picket and the second post of a bay, a piece needed to be made for a level screwing surface for the second layer.  Each picket was attached with Deckmate screws.

First layer of pickets being installed
The second layer of pickets started with a 1” overlap of the first whole picket, then the standard 3 ½” spacing.  For the last picket in the bay, we would use our rigid table saw if a full picket would not fit to rip down a picket lengthwise.  Again each picket had to be cut to height individually so this was a slow-ish process, luckily we had our Dewalt 12” miter saw and stand to help make it be built quicker.

Second layer of pickets being installed
Matt’s job: The gate.  For the gate frame we attached a 2x4 to the garage for the latching side then measured the exact distance between the post and the 2x4.  I subtracted an inch off this distance to make sure the hinge and latch had the proper clearance to close.  To build the frame, I made sure the rails of the frame were spaced the same as the fence rails.  I made sure the verticals were the length from the bottom of the lower rail to the top of the top rail.  I assembled all of these pieces by using the Kreg pocket jig again.  After I had that assembled, I put a piece of wood under the partial frame and traced the cuts for the cross member of the frame for the upper and lower portions.  These diagonal members are important as they prevent the gate from sagging.  Again these were attached to the frame with the Kreg pocket jig.

Frame laid out before braces were cut
Bonus: #teddymullens sleeping in, yes, sawdust
Frame ready to be hung
Frame hung
Bonus: #teddymullens thinking 'what is this contraption'
Then we had to attach the frame for the gate to the rest of the fence using gate hinges and a latch. Then the “cap” was added to the top of the gate frame and the pickets as well.  With the gate closed, it is hard to tell there is even a gate there.
Completed gate (can barely tell it's a gate!)

Day 4 of the Castle’s fence: Installing post caps and arches

Post caps.  Next came the post caps. Each post was cut to 3” above the highest top rail.  Then, a post cap was installed - relatively simple task.  We did have to add a 4x4 entender piece back to the end post to make the end post the same height as the other corner height.  Then to hide our mistake we added some trim to the post.

Before trim added to the post to conceal our mistake
After trim added to the post to conceal our mistake
Brooke wasn't quite tall enough to reach by herself
Arches.  The last thing that needed to be done was the arches in each bay.  First a template piece was cut using our Dewalt jigsaw.  After the template was made, we used our Dewalt router with a guide bushing to “trace” the template so that every arc in each bay would look the same.  For the gate, we just used the jigsaw to cut the arch.

Template piece being cut out with the jigsaw
Guide bushing on router
Router used with template to cut the next arch
The last thing to be done is, always, enjoy our hard work!

Finished fence!
Finished fence from backyard!
Finished fence from the street!

-Mullens Out

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