Home inspectors

Office:  949 716-0934    Cell:  949 981-6558    E-mail:  seay@cox.net

 

Building a Good Fence
 

Fences, often taken for granted and unnoticed (until that gate won't close properly), actually perform many important functions on your property. Many factors must be taken into consideration when choosing to install a particular style of fence, including privacy, security and landscape enhancement. If you build it right and keep it simple, it will last for years.

 

Q: My wooden fence is leaning over and needs to be propped. Can I have it repaired or should I install a new one?

A: It depends on the integrity of the horizontal rails. If they are sturdy enough to hold a nail, we can generally replace the posts as well as any damaged panels to extend the life of the fence another 10 years. But if the rails are deteriorated to the point that they cannot be secured, I usually advise replacement.

Q: The fence at our last house was installed years before we moved in and was still stable when we moved out 15 years later, but the fence at our current house is only five years old and the posts are broken. Why?

A: Because the redwood used years ago came from very old trees, most of the lumber produced was heartwood from the center of the tree, which is disease and rot resistant. Redwood trees harvested today are much younger so fencing material, which is always the lowest grade of lumber, consists of a lot of white sap wood. Since it does not have the same resistant properties of red heartwood, posts made from it rot easily when exposed to dampness. We compensate for this by crowning the concrete above ground level around each post to protect the wood from the damage caused by constant contact with wet soil. It requires more labor and concrete when we construct the fence, but the fence will last many years longer.

Q: Our fence is holding up fine but the gate has never closed properly no matter how much I tinker with it myself. Any suggestions?

A: It's important to remember that the gate post carries an extra heavy load. Therefore it is crucial that this post, more than any other, be crowned with concrete because the slightest decay will cause it to break immediately. It's also essential that every gate post is complemented with a back-up post for extra support. The gate also needs to be braced properly when it is built to prevent sagging. Finally, don't slam the gate!

Q: The fence between our house and the neighbor's needs to be replaced. Will you bill us both? Who is responsible?

A: Ideally, you and your neighbor will agree on the type of fence you need beforehand, and share the cost equally. Sometimes, however, neighbors cannot communicate and they do not always have the same priorities, so we frequently deal with each party individually to work out mutually agreeable terms and conditions.

Q: We already have a chain link fence but would prefer a wood fence. Can this be re-done using the existing steel posts?

A: Absolutely! You can either use brackets to hold the horizontal rails or box the steel posts so that they look just like wooden posts, which many people prefer for aesthetic reasons, and they last forever!

Q: There is a cinder block sound wall along the back of our yard and we need to fence the sides. Any suggestions?

A: You can install a wood fence along the sides and use cinder block posts to complement the existing wall or build it entirely of wood. You can also build a wood fence on top of an existing retaining wall.

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