The fence is now done! It's complete, it's private and our backyard is a million times more useful and comfortable to spend time in than it was before the fence.
So let's take a minute and evaluate this process. I think, first of all, that I had the notion this was going to be more difficult than it actually was. I'm not sure why, it just seemed like people were saying, "wow, building your own fence is going to take FOREVER, that's a lot of work!".
And if anything, I would say, yes taking out that old fence by hand was A LOT OF WORK. However, digging new fence holes, putting in new posts, putting on 2x4s to create a frame and then nail planks up was not that bad.
Although I have to say that I, personally did not do a lot of the heavy lifting. I did not help that much when it came to removing the old fence, at least not where pure physical labor came into question (sure I moved a lot of chipped cement, and worked with the carjack and all that, but I didn't actually LIFT the posts out of the ground.) I also helped dig some holes with the post hole digger, but most of that heavy-lifting-work was left to the males in the family, and for good reason. So, I guess I'm saying if you're a girl and you're alone (or you only have female friends) I would not attempt to remove an old cement-grounded fence by myself. I might not dig the holes completely by myself either. That's just too much physical work. However if you have strong and able family and friends (in possession of x and y chromosomes) that are up for some real work, then go right ahead!
Building a new fence on the other hand, was so much easier. I would have no reservations doing that myself. I just wanted to clarify this. Because, I'm not saying that putting in a new fence was too difficult, however you need someone around, especially when taking out an old one, that is stronger, because boy some of those things are tough to budge!
I guess there are really two parts to this, and you can hire people to help with one or the other. The first part being, removing an old fence. If anything, I might have hired someone to take the old fence out, especially if I was on my own. Although, if you attempt to take an old fence out by yourself, like we did, then I can't highlight enough how important that old carjack was to have around. It helped us out immensely.
Then we have the second part, and that is building the fence. If there is anybody out there, thinking about whether to do this yourselves, I would say go ahead! This is not that difficult, and it's rather fun!
Gravel or Cement
It seems like it's popular to pour cement in the holes with the posts to secure them. We decided to use gravel instead. Mainly because it made more sense to us: that way water won't be pooling at the bottom of the fence posts so it will prevent rotting later on. Gravel was also just a lot easier to deal with, and once you put the posts in with the gravel and tamp the gravel down, those posts are in that ground for sure!
We had 100 feet to fence. We were curious, so we checked what some companies would charge to remove that old fence and build us a new fence. We got quotes ranging from $4,000 - $5,000. Not cheap in other words.
So, I'm proud to announce what we ended up paying for this fence. In other words, the materials, since labour is obviously not included!
Total New Fence Length: 100 feet
Wood: $920 (we used our local lumber yard and they gave us a really good price!)
- 20 - 4" x 4" Cedar Posts
- 50 - 2" x 4" Cedar Rails
- 6 - 2" x 4" x 8' Cedar Rails
- 240 - 5/8" x 6" x 6' Cedar Boards
Metal 2x4 Hangers: $65
Screws & Nails: $50
Gate Hinges: $50
3/4 Minus Gravel: 1,800 lbs. - $18
Misc Tools Used (Some may not be necessary)
- Hole Post Diggers
- 5 - 6 foot Iron Bar
- Wheel Barrow
- Power Drill
- Hand Saw
- Small Sledge Hammer
We had most of these tools, so I'm not calculating that into the cost, however you could really get all of them for a few hundred dollers (depending on what power drill you get, since that's really the only thing here that can get pricey!)
We choose to go with cedar for all the wood, posts, 2x4's and fence boards. Some people may not have access to the quality of wood we have around here in the Northwest, and even here cedar is more expensive than pressure-treated lumber, but we wanted a natural wood. Pressure-treated lumber contains many heavy metals that are extremely corrosive to screws, nails and metal hangers, as well as humans. In keeping with our natural concept it was just better to use cedar. Luckily in this case it was actually cheaper to go with cedar.
There is a lot of different information available about how long a fence should last. It was one of our concerns with this fence, which is why we choose to go with gravel instead of concrete. I suppose any wood will last forever if you make sure bugs and water don't get near it, but since that is not possible if you take as many steps as possible to prevent water problems then cedar should last a very long time. We added a couple of inches of gravel to the bottom of every hole and then placed the post in, leveled it and filled it with gravel. The idea is that there is no dirt near the post and water moves away from it. But if you really want a maintenance free fence then you can always go with plastic.
Since we were removing a plastic fence 4 feet high with posts 6 feet apart we decided to go with that to make it easier and much stronger than typical 8 foot sections. It calls for a few more posts but in this case we found a great deal on 6 foot 2x4's that made it worth the trouble. We used exterior screws on all the hangers and exterior nails on almost all of the fence boards.
We ended up using most of the gravel to set the posts. It seemed reasonable to add a good-sized pile around the post and tamp it down to really prevent water buildup.
Many of our neighbors have their fence boards right down on the ground, and as a result they are rotten, but it made sense to us to place each board up a few inches to avoid that problem. So we used the remaining gravel to fill in any gaps below the boards.
So, for around $1,000 (that included that double gate as well!) and some effort, we have now completely transformed our backyard. I think the worth of this is actually hard to calculate, because the difference is just massive. What price do you really place on turning something from a relatively unusable space (or at least uncomfortable, since it was NOT private), to your own private space, ready to be used for anything? I think that's worth a lot, because suddenly we have SO MUCH MORE living space, especially in the summer. We basically expanded the size of our house it feels like.
But, if you break it down, straight down to dollars and cents, this whole fence costs us around $1,000, and since we got quotes that were a lot higher, we definitely saved tons of money doing this ourselves.
For more in-depth reading on each part, check out:
Getting Ready (and Motivated) To Put a New Fence Up
Removing an Old Fence is No Walk in the Park
Putting Cedar Fence Posts Down & Nailing Planks Up
Continuing Building 2nd Part of Cedar Fence
Building Large Cedar Double Gate