Author Topic: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground  (Read 30379 times)

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Offline Kodi Crescent

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Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« on: January 30, 2011, 09:41 AM »
I just had a 6' wooden privacy fence installed at my house.  The grade of my lot is fairly undulating, and my lot conveys and drains the water from the surrounding properties.  When the contractor installed the fence, he put the bottoms of the pickets against the ground.  When it rains the water will most likely wick up through the bottoms of the board ends.  I need to trim them, and I think the Festool rail system will be great for this.

Has anyone done this on ground that was relatively uneven?  If the lot was nice and level or had a constant slope I think this would be super simple.  My lot has many changes in slope, valleys, etc.  Any tips for how to do this and have it look "professional"?


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Offline Brice Burrell

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2011, 11:05 AM »
You can try the TS saw and guide rail with a jigsaw in the bad spots.

Test

<<edit by Peter Halle - Moderator to test a function of the forum - added the word Test above >>
« Last Edit: January 30, 2011, 11:50 AM by Peter Halle »
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Offline awdriven

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Re: Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2011, 11:16 AM »
What kind of wood? I assume the panels are stair-stepped down the slope now? So you have panels that are tight to the ground on one side, but too far off the ground on another?

A key to making sure that the end result looks ok is not to have an uneven or jagged look where the panels meet at the tops.

You can trim the bottom of the panels so they match the slope of the ground under that section, but I recommend you first measure and plan your cuts for the whole fence so you don't accidentally trim so much that your panel sits too low in relation to its neighboring panels, making a big difference in the heights.

You can just compromise a bit on the cutting.

At risk of showing how OCD I am, I made a Sketchup elevation model of my site, so I could plan my cuts ahead of time. I built an accurate model by measuring my post locations and then measuring the slope under each panel using a string level. In your case you could just use a tape measure to measure the gaps at the bottom of each panel.

The way to avoid this issue is to construct your panels on site. Set your posts, hang your rails on the posts and then nail your pickets to the posts. The pickets will conform to the slope.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2011, 11:49 AM by awdriven »

Offline wooden

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2011, 11:40 AM »
Your most professional results will probably require scribing, removing fence, cutting and reinstalling fence.

With a little practice, you can do pretty good with a reciprocating saw.  Start in an area that won't be seen.

Offline Kevin D.

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2011, 02:52 PM »
 A multimaster would probably make semi-quick work of this, but with excellent results if executed correctly.  Fasten a scrap piece of wood to help with guiding the cuts, and try to cut using a quick left to right motion in cutting to lessen heat build up on the blade which reduces their life expectancy.  How's your back at crouching for a few hours?  [crying]

It's not to say that using the TS55 with guide rail would not work, but somehow I got an odd feeling it would have ease of set up issues, and the cut may necessitate cutting a little higher than may be esthetically acceptible.  [eek]
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Offline Holzhacker

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2011, 03:21 PM »
Good pencil or marker line and jigsaw. I wouldn't bother getting to technical about it, its a fence. I would cut 2-3" above grade.
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Offline Sparktrician

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2011, 03:32 PM »
A multimaster would probably make semi-quick work of this, but with excellent results if executed correctly. 

Gads!!  The only thing slower than a MultiMaster on a fence might be a coping saw [scared].  I'd go for the reciprocating saw or jigsaw option for speed and the ability to follow the ground line. 

 [smile]
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Offline awdriven

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Re: Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2011, 04:41 PM »
I have a dog and wouldn't have the fence more than an inch or inch and a half above grade.

You'll need to remove the panels from the posts to do a good job. I don't see how you could use the TS55 otherwise.

Offline WarnerConstCo.

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2011, 04:54 PM »
What about having the guy that installed it that way come back and make it like you wanted?

Offline Ken Nagrod

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2011, 04:57 PM »
I agree with Darcy.  I think it was your fence installer's fault for installing the pickets or panels that low since it's real wood.

Offline WarnerConstCo.

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2011, 05:17 PM »
I agree with Darcy.  I think it was your fence installer's fault for installing the pickets or panels that low since it's real wood.

At the same time it could because the installer didn't know he wanted left off the ground a little bit.
Depends what the work scope said and if it was supposed to be installed that way.

Offline Ken Nagrod

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2011, 05:30 PM »
Common sense is always foremost.  Wood + water = rot (Unless your name is something like Cyprus, etc.).  You don't have wood in contact with the ground if you're worried about the effects of water.  Even pressure treated wood will succumb to the water, so it's best to play it smart and keep a gap, any gap is better than none.

Offline WarnerConstCo.

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2011, 05:51 PM »
A small gap makes it easy for pets or critters to get out or in.
A wood fence really only has so many years service life no matter what. 
I can't remember the last privacy fence I saw with a 3" gap at the bottom.

Now a PVC or the like would last a lifetime.

End grain is evil, I would think bullet proof would have a rail at the bottom to keep the fence boards off the ground.
But that makes it hard to follow the grounds contours.

If he wanted a gap and it was installed without, I would be calling the installer to come back out and fix it.

Offline jmbfestool

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2011, 06:01 PM »
Why not use a bit of hardboard 8' long and about 6inch wide hard board is very flexible so will fallow the ground to a certain extent certainly if your pushing on it.

 Then using a normal circular saw small one if you have 1 and and set it just deep enough to cut thru as less blade allows you to curve more so thats y I say a small circular saw is best as a smaller blade is better as you know you cant bend blades.

Having the hard board down allows your saw to glide along the ground with out your saw diggin into the soil and the hardboard  blends your uneven ground smoothly together.

Just a thought

Jmb
« Last Edit: January 30, 2011, 06:02 PM by jmbfestool »
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Offline Kodi Crescent

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2011, 06:04 PM »
The fence is pressure treated pine.  And I didn't specify the gap in the scope of work.  I forgot when the contract was bid.  I did ask them to include it, and he said that would cost extra.  That's fine, I offered to pay it.  The main guy didn't want to do it, but had his helper make an agreement with me.

But, to support Warner's previous point in a different post...

I went with the cheaper guy.  This is what I get.  I think the more expensive guy would have done it off the grade.  But he was way more expensive for the same spec.  The cheaper guy wasn't a very good communicator either, and left a bunch of mud spots on my fence that I'll have to clean off before I stain it.  I hate when contractors leave a board in the mud and then finish the board with the mud on it.  I should have known better.

I made an agreement with one of the installers to trim the bottom of the fence.  He said he would be here "this weekend".  I assumed that meant Saturday, since many people keep Sunday as family time.  I had decided to do it myself and I went out to run some errands today, and lo and behold, there he is.

His solution was to use his circular saw to follow the contour of the ground.  He figured that 1 1/2" would be sufficient.  He was doing alright dragging his saw across the ground to cut it.  He kept tripping the breaker and he wanted me to leave my garage open with all my Festool stuff so he could reset the breaker.  No way!  He burned up his Ryobi circular saw after about 50 feet of cutting.  He probably should have changed the blade first.

He said he'll be here tomorrow with a new saw to finish.  We'll see.

I'll leave a piece of Masonite out for him to use per JMB's suggestion.

Offline Ken Nagrod

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #15 on: January 30, 2011, 06:12 PM »
Nobody ever said anything about 3".  What's so bad about it being let's say an inch off the ground.  What pet do you know that hangs out in the yard that'll get under that, unless you're letting your snake out for exercise?  Critters are going to go where they want, fence or no fence.  I just wouldn't do a fence with direct ground contact.  The idea behind the work I do is making it last as long as possible, even if what the customer is willing to pay warrants the use of less expensive materials.  The building practises should still reflect quality workmanship and decent longevity.  I guess that's my $2 again or 1.47 Euros. [smile]

Offline WarnerConstCo.

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #16 on: January 30, 2011, 06:13 PM »
At least he showed up to try and fix it, albeit on a Sunday.

The strip of ply works as a good smooth guide on the ground to ride the saw on.
I think the offset on most sidewinders is an 1 1/2". Poor ryobi saw.

It is a lot of work to keep a consistent gap when the ground pitches and rolls alot.

Offline WarnerConstCo.

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #17 on: January 30, 2011, 06:24 PM »
Nobody ever said anything about 3".  What's so bad about it being let's say an inch off the ground.  What pet do you know that hangs out in the yard that'll get under that, unless you're letting your snake out for exercise?  Critters are going to go where they want, fence or no fence.  I just wouldn't do a fence with direct ground contact.  The idea behind the work I do is making it last as long as possible, even if what the customer is willing to pay warrants the use of less expensive materials.  The building practises should still reflect quality workmanship and decent longevity.  I guess that's my $2 again or 1.47 Euros. [smile]

No one said 3"   1 1/2"  still seems low to me. End grain is like vacuum of water absorption.

It should last 20 years no matter what but, I don't give this new treated SYP that much of a lifespan anyways.

Now when it was loaded up full of arsenic that stuff was great!!

Offline jmbfestool

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #18 on: January 30, 2011, 06:29 PM »
At least he showed up to try and fix it, albeit on a Sunday.

The strip of ply works as a good smooth guide on the ground to ride the saw on.
I think the offset on most sidewinders is an 1 1/2". Poor ryobi saw.

It is a lot of work to keep a consistent gap when the ground pitches and rolls alot.

Ply is not flexible enough unless its flexi ply. That's y I said hard board as it's flexible enough but also very smooth on 1 side so the saw will easily glide along the smooth surface.

Jmb
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Offline Kodi Crescent

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #19 on: January 30, 2011, 06:43 PM »
The 1 1/2" came from the saw offset.  At first I thought 2", but he thought that would look silly.

I was riding my bike this afternoon, and most picket-type fences were in contact with the ground.  But most of them weren't stained, and they were probably built using arsenic treated wood.

Offline Ken Nagrod

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #20 on: January 30, 2011, 07:12 PM »
Who told you to go riding your bike?  You should be in your garage using your Festools. [poke]

Offline Brice Burrell

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #21 on: January 30, 2011, 07:29 PM »
I was riding my bike this afternoon, and most picket-type fences were in contact with the ground.  But most of them weren't stained, and they were probably built using arsenic treated wood.

That's because it's easier to just set the fence panel on the ground to install it. You'll get that with the low bid every time.  Glad to see that it seems to be worked out.
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Offline WarnerConstCo.

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2011, 07:46 PM »
At least he showed up to try and fix it, albeit on a Sunday.

The strip of ply works as a good smooth guide on the ground to ride the saw on.
I think the offset on most sidewinders is an 1 1/2". Poor ryobi saw.

It is a lot of work to keep a consistent gap when the ground pitches and rolls alot.

Ply is not flexible enough unless its flexi ply. That's y I said hard board as it's flexible enough but also very smooth on 1 side so the saw will easily glide along the smooth surface.

Jmb

Maybe I meant 1/4" ply. [poke]  Masonite would work the best like you said.

Offline WarnerConstCo.

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #23 on: January 30, 2011, 07:50 PM »
I was riding my bike this afternoon, and most picket-type fences were in contact with the ground.  But most of them weren't stained, and they were probably built using arsenic treated wood.

That's because it's easier to just set the fence panel on the ground to install it. You'll get that with the low bid every time.  Glad to see that it seems to be worked out.

Most everyone I know that had a fence installed wanted to hit the ground.

75% of them are cedar around here though.  Treated SYP has a mind of its own around here, which is why I really don't like treated decking.  No matter how good it looks when I leave, I am always disappointed how it looks after my one year check.

 As long as the treated boards are rated for ground contact, I don't see much of an issue.  Although ground rated is getting hard to find and it is 33% more.

Offline Jon Hilgenberg

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #24 on: January 30, 2011, 08:02 PM »
I had the same issue and had an old beater of a circular saw and used it to trim the bottom of the boards.  worked like a charm, granted the ground was more even than you described...


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Offline awdriven

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #25 on: January 30, 2011, 08:36 PM »
4 years within about 1.5 inches from the ground and my cedar fence is doing OK. PVC just seemed soulless and clinical. If you ever have to replace parts, you also have to sweat it out and hope you can find a source for compatible parts.

Offline WarnerConstCo.

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #26 on: January 30, 2011, 08:46 PM »
4 years within about 1.5 inches from the ground and my cedar fence is doing OK. PVC just seemed soulless and clinical. If you ever have to replace parts, you also have to sweat it out and hope you can find a source for compatible parts.

There are some really nice looking PVC/composite fencing options out there.
Some people don't want to be bothered with fence maitanence so it is a good option.
Plus they go up pretty quick.

There is something out there for every one.

Offline Kodi Crescent

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #27 on: January 31, 2011, 04:45 PM »
How about this for a crazy scribing idea?  Get a lawnmower wheel with the desired diameter from one of the box stores, stick a pencil through the hub, and roll that alongside the ground?  Maybe put down the Masonite first to even out some of the peaks and valleys.  Any thoughts on this?

Offline TJ Cornish

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #28 on: January 31, 2011, 05:03 PM »
How about getting a longer blade for the lawnmower?  [big grin]

Offline Ken Nagrod

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #29 on: January 31, 2011, 05:57 PM »
Kodi, I think you should pack up and move.  Leave the Festools in the garage for the new owner.  I'll be right over with a check.  Of course it won't be as much as you'd like, but I have to devaluate the property some for the fence.  I'll be ripping it out and putting up a really long volleyball net.

Offline Kodi Crescent

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #30 on: January 31, 2011, 06:03 PM »
I don't think my meth lab neighbors would like the volleyball net.

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Offline Ken Nagrod

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #31 on: January 31, 2011, 06:09 PM »
Who said I had to toss volleyballs?  [wink]

Offline jmbfestool

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #32 on: January 31, 2011, 07:20 PM »
How about this for a crazy scribing idea?  Get a lawnmower wheel with the desired diameter from one of the box stores, stick a pencil through the hub, and roll that alongside the ground?  Maybe put down the Masonite first to even out some of the peaks and valleys.  Any thoughts on this?

Well make sure the wheel is big enough to give your cicular saw enough clearance. Doing it this way you have to look and b on your knees to see the line. Appose to running along the ground with hardboard down would be quicker as you don't need to me crawling along on your knees bending down trying to fallow a pencil Mark you will hardly see.


Jmb
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Offline Kodi Crescent

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #33 on: February 06, 2011, 07:30 PM »
I wanted to follow up with what I did.  I tried the masonite and following the grade.  I ended up with a pretty wavy fence for the few sections that I used that.  The masonite did help keep the circular saw guard handle from digging in the mud.  As a guide for scribing, it didn't work well in my case because my property had too many deviations.

Instead, I used my longest level, pushed it against the ground and drew a line.  I then moved the level some distance and drew additional lines as the grade changed.  The level was fairly wide, so I tried to follow the line with some slight offset with the circular saw so I didn't cut too much off the bottom.

I think the results look okay.  I don't know if I would have been satisfied with anything other than the installers cutting the boards to fit the contour, so given my pickiness, I think it probably looks okay.  I can always put mulch down to cover any big gaps, or I could dig a small trench and install a kickboard to cover the gap.

Offline jmbfestool

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #34 on: February 06, 2011, 07:42 PM »
Ummm sounds like your not happy!   Should of made pictures for use so we could see what your situation was as its hard to imagine. I have used the hard board trick and it has worked fine but to what your saying the ground level wasnt as bad as what yours sounds like.  The problem I did notice when for example coming out of a dip up was not to over shoot as a circular saw wants to go straight so you could end up going up up up instead of curving back down.   Maybe take some pictures of it now?! So we can see and say it looks good m8 dont worrie about it  [poke] hopefully cheering you up. lol  sorry!   If you show some pictures of the fence maybe some one on fog has an idea or something?!?!?!?!?


JMB
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Offline Ken Nagrod

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #35 on: February 07, 2011, 12:59 AM »
Wallpaper hides everything.  [big grin]

Offline Jay Knoll

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #36 on: February 07, 2011, 07:23 AM »
Ummmmmmmmmmmmm you know the old saying,  "If all you've got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail?   I know this is a FT forum but it seems to me that a shovel would be the proper tool, dig a little under each slat to acheive the desired clearance.  And you don't have to worry about GFI failures.

Just a thought  :)
Jay

Offline jonny round boy

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #37 on: February 07, 2011, 07:47 AM »
Ummmmmmmmmmmmm you know the old saying,  "If all you've got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail?   I know this is a FT forum but it seems to me that a shovel would be the proper tool, dig a little under each slat to acheive the desired clearance.  And you don't have to worry about GFI failures.

Just a thought  :)
Jay

If you're going down that road, then surely it would be a spade, not a shovel? Or are the terms interchangeable over there?
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Offline Jay Knoll

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #38 on: February 07, 2011, 09:40 AM »
Jonny

I wasn't being exact, yes a spade would be correct, but I think one could move dirt with a shovel as well

http://www.gardeningsite.com/garden-tools/soil-work-tools/spades-showels-and-trowels/

Anyway, the point was to remove dirt rather than wood...................


Offline jmbfestool

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #39 on: February 07, 2011, 12:16 PM »
Wallpaper hides everything.  [big grin]


I knew you would come up with the perfect solution!


JMB
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Offline Kodi Crescent

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #40 on: February 07, 2011, 09:07 PM »
Thanks for the kind words.  It probably looks fine.  I'll let the grass grow longer this year and it will disguise any trouble spots.

Offline Tom Bellemare

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Re: Trimming fence bottoms on uneven ground
« Reply #41 on: February 07, 2011, 11:41 PM »
I'm glad you got it worked out, Kodi.

I was hesitant to jump into this because, though I occasionally get involved running everything from maintenance to whole builds, there are obviously much more experienced contractors here...

I live in a pretty hilly part of the Earth and in a really hilly part of that part of the Earth. When I build or have a picket fence built here, I insist on a simple way to follow the terrain and keep the pickets off the soil (what little soil we have). I cut a short piece of picket (usually actually a few), about a foot or so. For each picket that is stuck to the stringers, one of those short pieces gets put underneath, facing perpendicular, as a spacer. It sounds onerous but it really doesn't take very long at all to ensure that the pickets are properly spaced above the ground and follow the terrain gradually.

Using that technique, the biggest problem I've had was the guys tilting the pickets as they go. Even though I've insisted on having a quick look at a level every 3-5 pickets, I've still come out with crap that had to be redone because when I wasn't looking, they would ignore the level.


I feel for you. If I hire someone with pride to do something like that, I generally get a really good job. If I don't and I don't monitor constantly, it often costs more...


Tom
« Last Edit: February 07, 2011, 11:43 PM by Tom Bellemare »
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