Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Fence "Post" - Our most recent fav project

We (finally) have a fence!

Over yonder on houseblogs.net, they are having a little show-and-tell contest, sponsored by True Value Hardware: www.StartRightStartHere.com. So, because we love our local hardware store (and we love contests), we'll join the fun and show off the latest in our yard improvement.
My previous post talks about all they "whys" of the new fence- basically, the puppy could get out. And the old fence was ugly (see this first pic). The "hows" of the new fence are another story. As in, who knew HOW much work it is to put up a new fence?! I'll take you through our saga act by act.

Act 1: Trying to dig 15 Fence Post Holes
Act 2: Trying to dig 15 Fence Post Hole Again
(Interlude): Angry dancing and occasional cursing
Act 3: Re-digging Fence Post Holes
Act 4: Setting posts, Putting up Fence Panels (YAY!!)
Finale: Happy dancing and cheering

Act 1: Digging Fence Post Holes
Before we begin, there are several important things to know about our digging environment. Our house lies in what was a river valley several thousand years ago. As a result, the ground beneath our home is an unpredictable mixture of sand, clay, limestone, and a host of other "earthen" varieties. It is in this mixture that we attempt to dig.
We also live in Minnesota, where the frost line sits at about 42 inches. Technically, you need to dig below the frost line to prevent heaving, although in our investigation of other neighborhood fences, it is clear that many post holes are not that deep. Hmmmm. Since our city code doesn't give us a firm rule, I examine the "literature" on the subject (ie, the internet). I see suggestions to dig anywhere from 2-4 feet deep. But we want to "do it right." So, 42 inches down we plan to go.

We begin our scene with a discussion of the best digging tool. The two-man auger is available for rent at the local hardware store, which is still open. Never having used a two-man auger before, Sean and I assume I can play the role of one of the "men" on the two-man team. (In the end, this decision would be the plan's fatal flaw.) With the 10" auger bit attached, Sean and I begin to drill our first hole. About 6 inches in, we get stuck. We lift and heave the auger out of the hole and try again. We dig further. Are stuck again. We lift and heave, and this time it is REALLY heavy. I can barely lift it. We take a break. We dig a third time, and this time, we go all the way down but stick hard. And I can't lift the thing up no matter how hard I try. The auger completely stuck, Sean and I tug, we dig away dirt and try again. Finally, a strong neighbor happens down the alley and offers to help. Between the two of them pulling with all their might and me digging it out, we manage to get the auger out.
We realize this is not the right tool for the job. Grrr.

In my internet search to find out where we went wrong, I learned 25% of all post holes end up having to be hand-dug. Interesting. I also read that using a two-man auger is a brutal, back-breaking task, even if you are pretty strong and have a lot of stamina. And... that two-men augers are virtually useless unless you are digging in regular ol' soft dirt. Ha! Why didn't we know this? (If you have never used a two-man auger before and you are thinking of it, I recommend watching any of the sometimes comical, informative demos on YouTube to be sure it's the way you want to go.)

Act 2: Trying again: Rent a Dingo.
This time, we got our tool of choice: a DINGO. I own no stock in Toro, have no ties to Dingo, and had never seen one before this project, so I can shamelessly recommend it for any of your post-hole digging needs. Yes, it was a bit more expensive to rent (about $240/ day with the trailer). But to operate it, you only need to be able to control a joystick and a lever... significantly saving on that back-breaking labor. Can I say it again? I LOVE the Dingo. Sean's brother, Jarame, had 15 post holes dug by lunchtime.

With the post holes dug, we were ready to pour concrete and set posts. So we started on our merry way, making sure our layout was still accurate and everything in the right place. Was everything in the right place? No. No? NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! (Angry dancing and cursing ensues.)

Act 3: Re-digging fence post holes
Four of our post holes were not going to work. Old concrete for old posts beneath the ground had shifted the Dingo's path enough so the holes wouldn't work. We should have double-checked this while we still had the Dingo. But we didn't. So we began to hand-dig- We had to dig up the old concrete and relocate 4 holes. Did I mention that we did this by hand?

Act 4: Setting posts, Hanging panels
Setting the posts was also a two-man (ok, one man, one woman) job, but not a back-breaking one. One of us needed to make sure the posts were plumb and get them staked, then we did the concrete pour. With the posts set in concrete, the hard part was over. Now we just had to attach the pre-made panels. It starts to look like a fence! Happy dancing and cheering begins!!

The dogs are a little confused. But we're ecstatic.

This post was written for Houseblogs.net as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by True Value.


S & T said...

Nice!!! That is exactly the same type of fence I want in front of our house. (Don't worry, I live in NH so no one will think I copied you =-) ).

If I may ask, where did you get the supplies, how long is your fence, and about how much did it cost?

My father and I rented and dug 20 4' deep post holes with the two man augur. That will never happen again. Even with my father's constitution (like a bull) and my 220 lb frame, we still had a tough day digging with that thing.

Thanks for the tip!!

Nadja and Sean said...

We got our panels at Menard's (a more local building supply store in MN)- They were 59.99 apiece for 8ft. panels (quite a deal!) The fence is about 80 ft. long along the side, but we did our back too, which is broken up a bit by the garage (probably another 40 ft total). The posts are green-treated 4x4s, which we will (eventually) cover with 1x6 Cedar to create a total "Cedar" look. Home Depot had similar panels but were a bit pricier. Hope that helps!

S & T said...

Definitely helps! Thanks so much!!

A. said...

Thanks for the info on the dingo. We've discovered that the two "man" auger is pointless but hadn't found a better solution than hand digging in our root filled yard.The fence looks great!