Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fence Inspections (Part 1)

"This post illustrates major errors in fence building that many contractors and DIY builders make when erecting fences."

Hiring a contractor to build a wood fence anywhere in North America between April and June is fraught with financial risk.

Every single year in an area like Toronto, or LA, or Houston there are 500 new fence companies. Some work out of small cars or station wagons, some have big professional looking trucks. Nice business cards, sometimes company shirts and baseball caps, an eager and optimistic attitude, lots of energy---and most importantly, little or no experience, business training, marketing know how or even the slightest clue how to build a wood fence. They are all eager to do a few jobs and build a reputation.

Where do you learn to build great fences? There are very few books that teach anything worthwhile when it comes to fences. We sell plans on our website that contains plenty of good instructions, however most of the books in stores and in the library are either old, flawed or geared to the southern climates.

Every year I get calls this time of year, “Can I get you to come out and tell me if this fence is built properly”—I ask them if this was a low bid contractor—they typically tell me of course it was. I give them a price and I go out to have a look. "This is often the case--people assume that all fences are equal and that all fence builders know how to build well".

It is always interesting when I arrive with the contractor still on site and begin taking photos of their sins against the fence gods.

Inspections and the following report is firstly a negotiation tool for the client to decrease the contractor due to his shoddy workmanship. Secondly this is due diligence for a future court case. You see when I prepare a report it contains photos and plain English language explanations of the errors being showcased. It is what a judge needs in order to make a reasonable assessment if it does come to court.

Take Snoop Dog Square Pants here—(yes, that is a "Sponge Bob", Tee shirt on this young contractor), the poor guy couldn't’t build a fence straight or level, cheated on the footings, used ardox nails in ACQ materials, built gates backwards-even put the hardware on backwards.

When confronted by the client by asking how long the posts that he installed were—( because they were sticking out of the ground 8’)—this rookie builder told him 11’. Everyone knows you can’t buy 11’ posts. It added insult to injury in this case.

These guys didn't know how to remove the old corner posts--so they just added a piece to the existing fence beyond.

A fence with no corner posts will not last.

You can also see the fence boards touching the ground. Frost causes the ground to expand. It will lift up to 2" in this area. Without 2" of space between the ground and the fence... it will lift the posts out of the ground or damage the fence.

Both of these gates were built by the same contractor. Strange how the frames are different sizes. Gate braces work under compression, so one of these gates is backwards.

They missed with their gun exposing a tragic flaw. Non-ACQ Rated nails in ACQ materials.

Within 3 years there will not likely be a board left on this fence. Black streaks of corrosion will be the only evidence of nails ever existing.

Worse still--he used nails the wrong size--then clipped them off. Straight shank nails tend to pull straight out or work themselves loose due to expansion and contraction of the wood.

Always use spiral galvanized ACQ rated nails in ACQ Materials. If this rookie deck builder had bothered to use actual ACQ rated fasteners and clipped them off--they would rot in 3 years just like ardox.

When it comes to sturdying up fence posts there really is only one way. Replace the post with one that is installed in a proper footing.

Adding concrete will only make the post lift a little higher out of the ground every year.

I don't have anything against someone starting a new fence company--however--learn your craft before competing with real fence companies.

In this case I explained to this make believe fence builder that he should be ashamed of himself for wasting all these materials and then expecting the client to pay for it even though it would only last 3 years.

If he wasn't going to bother learning how to build fences properly, that he should go and do something that doesn't require any learning--like digging ditches, or sweeping floors.

The kindest thing I could do for this contractor is to give him a nudge to help him get out of business and help him towards doing something productive with his life.

I told the homeowner that he should offer the builder $500 to take the whole fence away... then he should have a proper fence built by a legitimate contractor. This fence will be an eyesore within months.

By The Way-- If you want to learn how to build a fence properly click the link. The step by step plans are fool proof.