Hello everyone and welcome to The Hippie Geeks!
In our video a couple of weeks ago, we finally got started rebuilding our collapsing fencing around our place starting with a double gate. This weekend we moved on to the next phase, replacing the thirty-five feet of fence between our yard and one of our neighbors. We are on good terms with the neighbor, which is a good thing because his side of the fence is completely clear, while on our side there is a chicken coop, compost bin and two bee hives, one of them being full of bees!
So the first thing to do is to pull down all of the old fencing. I had to pull out all of the extra screws that I had put into it over the last couple of years trying to keep it together. Once that was finished, it was time to start knocking everything apart. I just used a claw hammer turned sideways so that I don’t destroy the boards too badly. I would like to be able to use them to build some bird houses down the road. This part was pretty easy to do, as the fence was almost completely rotten.
One of the posts in the fence had been replaced at some point and was not rotten. I needed it to be taller however to match the other new posts that I would be installing so it needed to go as well. I couldn’t snap it off at ground level, so I grabbed the sawzall and chopped thru it. Our bees are pretty active during the day, but they are also really chill and don’t attack me for no reason. You may not know this if you don’t keep bees, but the hives behavior is dependent on the queen. If you have an aggressive hive that attacks any time you get close, replacing the queen can completely change them. Ours were pretty good before they swarmed this spring, but now they pretty much completely ignore me, which is pretty great.
I was hoping to not have to replace the corner posts, as to do that I would then need to chip or dig out old concrete. Needless to say, I really do not want to mess with old concrete. I got lucky on the front corner posts, it had been replaced more recently and I was able to re-use it for the gate in the last video, and it will be the far left anchor on this section of fence. Unfortunatly, I did not get so lucky with the back corner post, it was completely rotted out and I had to dig out the old concrete. I didn’t have a whole lot of room to work with, both back fences intersect there and I cant take them out to take care of it. Luckily it wasn’t mixed very good when they poured it, and I was able to chip thru it in a few hours.
Once the corner hole was dug, I wanted to get that post set so that I could reassemble the back sections of fence. Now the concrete I am using is the same quick setting mix that I used on the double gate. The interesting thing about this concrete mix is that they advertise that you don’t even need to brace the post to keep it level while the concrete sets. For this post it wasn’t really necessary, as the post location was pretty boxed in by the existing stringers. I propped it up a little with the shovel just to get it completely leveled. To make sure it was level I clamped a level on each side of the post so that i could keep track of both directions at the same time. Per the instructions on the bag, I filled the hole one third of the way with water and then started pouring in concrete. The mix looked a little dry, so I added in some more water, and then added more concrete. To finish it off I added more concrete and more water, and then mixed it up by hand to get the consistency I wanted and to get it sloped away from the post. Once that was finished, I decided to take a break and get a snack, so that the concrete would start firming up.
Once I came back the post was solid enough to put a new hanger on it, and get the existing fencing re-attached. I checked to make sure that everything was still level, and then started screwing everything together. First the existing stringers to the post, and then the fence boards to the stringers.
I was rapidly running out of daylight, but I wanted to get at least one more post set before I called it a night. Now, I am going to be digging all of these post holes by hand. Depending on what your soil is like, that can be a pretty easy way to go. Unfortunately my soil is not easy. It is a mixture of clay and gravel that is a complete and utter pain in the ass to dig out with hand tools. If you have the money and your post hole locations are accessible, you can rent a gas powered auger that will dig out an entire fence line worth of holes in a fraction of the time that doing it by hand will take. We are doing this on the cheap though, so I got to digging to try to beat the encroaching darkness. When digging post holes, most places will recommend that you bury your post one third of its length deep in a hole that is three times as wide as the post you are using. In our case, we will have seven feet of four by four post above ground, so the hole should be three and half feet deep and twelve inches in diameter. Our hole finished up much closer to three feet deep, but that will be enough as our hole is closer to fifteen inches in diameter. I wound up using an old one inch butterfly bit with our corded drill to help break up the rocks and clay mixture, and it actually worked out pretty well.
I finished digging the hole just before we completely ran out of light, and Noah came out to help set the post. There is nothing quite as cute as watching a six year old try to balance a ten foot tall four by four. He couldn’t quite do it, but he tried as hard as he could and helped me measure four feet away from the corner post. I only went four foot, because at that distance I would be able to space the other holes properly so that I wouldn’t run into any of the old post locations. I went thru the same process with pouring and mixing the concrete, and amazingly enough the bags were correct, as long as you level the post as you are filling the hole, it will not require any bracing to keep it in place. By the time the concrete was finished it was completely dark outside, so I picked up my tools and headed into the house for a shower. I would finish up the project the next day.
The next morning I headed outside, and started digging holes. I am not going to bore you to death by making you watch me dig them, it was just as much of a pain in the ass for each of these three holes as it was for the last one. Once I had them dug, I ran a string line from the backside of each end pole, so that I could make sure my posts were all lined up. Once you have a string like this set up, you can just place the post in the hole and line its back face up with the string, and then make sure that you are level. As long as the post is level, and the back face is just barely touching the string, your line will be perfectly straight. I continually checked for level every time I poured in a new bag of concrete, and once I had it all poured in and wet it was still nice and level. You can make this process easier on yourself by either having someone hold the post in place, or bracing the post just long enough to get the concrete set into the hole.
Again I am not going to bore you with setting the other posts, but I just repeated the steps each time, making sure that the interior faces of the posts would be no more than eight feet apart. The stringers I bought are all eight foot pressure treated two by fours, and that is a pretty standard max distance apart. As I am working aroung existing post locations, my distances ranged from eight feet down to seven feet, but it is unlikely that anyone else will ever even notice it. Once I had all of the posts set, I went back into the house and grabbed some lunch, and gave the posts a chance to set up.
The hardest part of this project is getting your posts set in a level straight line. If you do that part correctly, the rest of this is ridiculously easy. The next step for me is to set up a pair of level string lines to guide the placement of the fence hangers I will be using to hold the stingers. I started off on the left side, and measured up from the ground six feet. The left side of this section of fence is the high point so I started there. The fence will be a little high on the right side, but I will fix that later with a couple of extra boards placed along the bottom.
If you have never seen one before, this is a string level. It has a couple of clips that will hold onto a piece of string, and you can pull a string tight over fairly long spans to level things like this. I did not want to run the full span however, and leveled the string from post to post and put a new screw in each one to hold it in place. Once I had the string installed all the way across, I measured down from the top string five foot six inches to get the placement for my bottom string line.
Once the string lines were up, I started placing my hangers. For the top hangers I measured down three and a half inches from my string line, that gave me the proper placement for the bottom of the hanger. On the bottom hangers I just lined up the nottom of the hanger with the lower string. On outdoor projects I always use ceramic star drive deck screws, they are a little more expensive then the alternatives, but they are built to last outside, and typically do not shear off when screwing things down tightly. This part didn’t take very long at all, and once the hangers were up it was time to place the stringers.
Now, as long as all of your posts are square, you will only need to take one measurement for both the top and bottom stringers. This part goes even faster, simply measure your length, cut two of the stringers out and place them both in their hangers. Do that for each and every one of your spaces, then screw the hangers into your stringers to hold everything together.
Once those were all up, we decided to place another two by four laid on its side on top of the upper stringer. We prefer the way it looks, and it makes it easy to line up all of your fence boards. It will need to be cut a little bit longer than the stringers did, as it does not have a hanger.
Finally we are in the home stretch! At this point it is simply hanging fence boards onto the stringers. I typically put in two screws per board, per stringer for a total of four screws per board. Start from one side, and place each board tightly against the previous one. Something to remember is that if your fence boards are still wet, once the fence has been up for a day or two they will shrink, and gaps will appear between your boards. It will not be a huge gap, but it is something to make a note of. When you come to the next fence post, it really helps to have a table saw so that you can rip a board to fit. Seventy two fence boards later, and the fence was complete!
What do you folks think of how it turned out? We are completely thrilled to have a sturdy fence back up on this side of the yard. It took me two full days to do it, but it was worth every bit of sunburn that I ended up with.
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