Kevin Mark Klughart

PhD, PE, JD, MIP, LLM

Patent Attorney / Engineer

 

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Fence

 

I recently put up a new fence for my mother's residence.

Tips & Tricks

Some tips for those attempting this type of project are as follows:

No matter what you see in other fences, it is best to put fence posts every 4 feet. Eight foot is generally standard, but with the winds we get in Texas you are safer with posts every 4 feet.  I have regularly seen fences with 8ft spacing blown down (poles snapped off at the ground) with the storms we get here.  I put my posts every 5ft 4in (4 posts per 16-ft runner) and wish I had put them every 4 ft, because the fence could be a bit stiffer. I subsequently filled the posts with concrete to stiffen them up.

Use 16-ft 2x4 runners and stagger them so the ends do not line up on any given fence post.

Use 4 2x4 runners - this will minimize fence sag.

Use cedar pickets - pine or other material just won't last over time.

If you decide not to treat your pickets, you are just throwing your money away, as the Texas heat and weather will just ruin the wood over time.

TREAT YOUR PICKETS AND RUNNERS BEFORE ASSEMBLING THE FENCE.  If you treat the fence after it is installed, you will miss many portions of the wood and permit premature rotting.

I would suggest building a PAN to DIP your fence pickets rather than using a paint roller.  This is more efficient and does a better job than rolling or spraying the pickets.

Treat your pickets on top of a stack of pickets so the excess stain that is spilled treats picket material rather than falling on the ground.

Use a tarp under your picket treatment area - the stain will kill your grass!

Overlap the pickets - this will compensate for warped pickets as they are never completely straight and tend to shrink over time.

I chose 6-inch wide pickets, which is relatively efficient when using a 3.5-inch gap between pickets and a 1.25-inch overlap.

Post holes should be dug a minimum of 26-30 inches deep with 26-inches of pole below grade.  This gives the fence post a good foundation and prevents the pole from sagging over time.  Use a 6-inch auger bit for the hole.  This will take 1-1.5 bags of 80lb concrete mix per hole.  Mix the concrete BEFORE putting it into the hole to ensure a solid concrete plug.  Remember, the concrete will perform better in the long run if you don't make the mix too soupy!

DO NOT USE NAILS TO ATTACH THE PICKETS!  All pickets should be screwed in using treated deck screws.  For the inner boards I used 12 screws (4x3 count, 2-inch, Fastenal P/N 0184880) and for the outer pickets I used 16 screws (4x4 count, 2.5-inch, Fastenal P/N 0184882).  I recommend the Fastenal TORX head fasteners for several reasons.  First, they have a modified screw thread that permits drilling into knotty wood.  Second, the use of TORX driving lessens the potential for damaging the screw plating (and thus minimizes the chance of rust stains).

DO NOT USE LAG BOLTS TO ATTACH THE RUNNERS.  All runners should be attached using hot dipped galvanized carriage bolts (1/4 x 2-inch) and matching nuts/washers.

I found it useful to use wire as my string line to sight the top of the poles when placing them.  This can be used in conjunction with a couple of large springs and a pulley hook to get a very straight sight line over a long distance.

I found it useful to make templates for aligning the screws when setting the pickets.  This gives the pickets a uniform look.  This is especially true for blind fastening of the overlapped pickets.  Note that these templates will allow you to properly align the screws without having to be right in front of the picket, a useful feature in tight situations where the fence is obstructed.

The biggest problem with most fences isn't the pickets in general, but the GATES.  Gate deterioration and sag are the most common problems with a fence in the long run.  To fix this I double-posted each of the gate posts (on each side) and welded cross struts between these posts.  Additionally, the gates themselves comprise a H-frame welded from fence post material that is hinged directly to the gate posts.  Thus, the common problem of gate sag is eliminated, even if the wood on the gate completely deteriorates.

What I would have done differently

 

I would have placed my poles every 4 feet.  8-ft spacing is standard and won't hold up to many of the wind storms we get in Texas.  I thought that putting 4 poles every 16 feet would be sufficient (5ft 4-inch spacing), but the structure needs a bit of stiffening over long runs with 8ft height.  So, set your poles every 4 ft and you should be fine.

I would have substituted drill pipe every 16 ft.  To strengthen the fence from wind damage, I would have substituted drill pipe at 16ft intervals.  The normal fence pipe has approximately 0.095 wall thickness, which isn't that strong given an 8ft moment arm.  Using thicker walled 2-inch drill pipe (2-3/8 OD) solves this problem.  Alternatively, you can fill your posts with concrete, but this isn't as good a solution.

I had originally planned to put the pickets side-by-side, but later decided to overlap them with a 3.5-inch gap, even though this increased material costs by 1/3.  It was well worth the cost given the overall finish look.

I would have rigged up a stationary drill platform to drill the post holes in the hard Texas clay soil.

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Information:

Kevin Mark Klughart

Registered Patent Attorney, USPTO

3825 Leisure Lane, Denton, TX 76210-5589

tel: 800-353-1211 / 940-320-0580  -  fax 940-320-0581

Kevin@Klughart.com   email  -  web    www.Klughart.com

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