Monday, March 26, 2012

Chain-link fence installation - part 1

Wow folks, we had a pretty crazy weekend.

Is it sad that I was looking forward to Monday so I could "relax" a little. Haha, I guess sitting around in my office on my computer is my idea of relaxing.

Needless to say, we're a bunch of sore and tired dogs and cats over here. Before even going into the fence installation process, I have to say how immensely thankful Garry and I are for the folks that spent the vast majority of their weekend helping us out. We couldn't have gotten anywhere close to done without you folks and it is greatly appreciated. We owe you... big time.

Garry managed to bribe convince 10 people to come over and help install the fence and help us clean up our enormous brush pile (which is now an enormous pile of full contractor bags). It was amazing.

Okay, so first and foremost, Garry decided that instead of trying to dig the posts by hand, that he would rent an auger to do most of the work. This would help speed up the process of installation. Since we wanted to get it done in a weekend, it was necessary. You can rent two-person augers at most equipment rental companies.

But before that, here's the breakdown of steps.

Step one: Measure your yard
For our little yard, we needed to purchase a 100 ft. tape measure to get an accurate measurement. Even though we were installing chain link and could probably guesstimate (since they come in 50 ft. rolls) we still needed to know how many poles we needed to buy - so having an accurate measurement is important. You will also want to draw a diagram on some graph paper to take with you to where you're planning on purchasing your materials.

Step two: Shop around
I know this sounds like a silly step, but if you're not picky on the type of fence you want - you may be surprised at what ends up being the least expensive option. In our case, we wanted chain link for the durability it offered, but we probably would've spent a lot less on a wood picket fence. Check all your options, different stores and even places like craigslist. You might be able to find a really good deal.

Step three: Create a parts list
This is where the diagram becomes incredibly useful. With our chain link fence, we decided to put the posts every 8 ft (you can get away with putting them every 10 ft, but putting them a little closer provided more support). For our fence materials we needed:

  • 9 Corner posts
  • 20 Line posts
  • 19 Top rails 
  • 7 Corner post attachments
  • 2 End post attachments
  • 7 Line post kits (they came in packs of 3) 
  • 200 ft of chain link
  • 16 tension bars 
  • 25 bags of 60# concrete
On top of that we purchased/rented/borrowed: 
  • Maul 
  • Two-person auger (rental) 
  • Spray paint (to mark where holes needed to be dug)
  • Extra work gloves 
  • Come-along (borrowed) 
  • Fairly large ball of twine
  • Food/drinks for minions the kind folks who came to help you
  • Post level
  • Post-hole digger
  • Hack saw (with metal blade) 
  • Various shovels, rakes and pick axes
Let's just say... it wasn't cheap. Essentially, we ended up clearing out our savings. Not to worry though - we ended up being able to take back some items we ended up not needing after all (Garry always buys more than we need in case something happens) so we were able to put a few hundred back into savings when all was said and done. 

Step four: Prepping for installation

Before you do ANYTHING, make sure you contact your local utility provider and have them mark where the water/sewer/gas/electrical lines are so you can dig safely!

Get out your handy-dandy diagram, 100ft. tape measure, can of spray-paint, twine and another person or two to help. Start by finding your first end post. Usually this will be pretty close to the house, within 6 inches or so. Mark the ground with the spray paint. Measure to your next corner post and mark. Do this for all of your corner posts and end posts. 

Once you have marked where your corner posts will be, start at your first end post (again) and grab the tape measure and the ball of twine. Have person #2 run the tape measure and twine to the next corner post. Meanwhile, person #3 will mark every 8-10ft (no more than 10ft on center)  for all of the line posts. The twine helps to make sure that you're keeping the fence line straight - otherwise you'll have problems down the road with the fence being crooked and if you're doing chain link, it will eventually sag or become misshapen because the tension is uneven. (We learned this lesson the hard way, but thankfully before we installed the chain fabric) 

Also, make sure to measure your posts. Your corner/end posts should have the height of your chain fabric plus 2 inches sticking out above ground. The line posts should have 2 inches less than the height of the fabric sticking above ground. Mark these depths on the poles with a sharpie marker and place them next to your ground markings. 

Step five: Dig baby, dig!
Here is where the auger became super handy. 

That auger made drilling the holes a much quicker process. It ended up taking about 2 hours instead of 2 days. For $80 we rented this baby for the entire day. It was awesome.

You will want to dig a hole deep enough so the marks you made on your poles will be at ground level. We had a post hole digger as well in case we only needed a wee bit dug out since the auger was for the bulk of the hole digging.

Once you have all of your holes dug, your yard will probably look a little like this: 

Step six: Adding concrete
If you have some gorgeous sunny weather - go ahead and bring out the concrete. We used 60# mix (we wanted our fence to be really sturdy) and we didn't quite need an entire bag for each post. We actually had some concrete left over which we need for some other projects anyway, so it's a good thing. The easiest way to do it for us was to lay out a bag of concrete near every post like this: 

Start with your end post and stick your pole into the hole (okay, am I the only immature one laughing here? I'm not? Good.) and pour the concrete powder in. We learned that mixing the concrete powder with water in the hole was the easiest way to go. If you have a narrow shovel this will be pretty much cake. Add some water and kind of "fold" the mixture with your narrow shovel. You want the mixture to be only a slight bit thinner than butter cream frosting.

Fill the hole with concrete to about 2 inches shy of ground level. 

Once you have all of your concrete in, grab your post level (these things are SO handy) and move the post around until it reads level. Since the consistency of the cement is pretty thick, it will hold the post in place on a calm day. 

Go around and fill all the corner/end post holes with concrete in the same manner. 

Then, just like when you marked the holes, grab the twine and steak it off so the twine is touching your corner/end posts. This will help you line up all of your posts. Sometimes they won't read "level" in line with the twine, so make sure to try and level these out before adding concrete. Another lesson we learned the hard way. 

Fill in all your line posts in this manner. 

By this time, you and your minions helpers are probably tired. Now is a good time to take a break and throw some food on the grill. You did provide food and drinks for your helpers right? You better have. Otherwise they will probably leave the rest of the work for you to do and never come back to help with any future projects. Make sure to feed your help. Or, if that's out of your budget, provide one thing and ask everyone to bring an item to share. Potluck picnics are awesome. 

The concrete will take some time to set - anywhere from 4 hours to overnight depending on your weather. It was really damp and a little rainy even on Saturday, so once the poles were all happy with the concrete - we called it a night. 

However - you will want to check your posts after 2 hours to make sure they're still level. 4 hours is when the concrete really "sets" and after that it's working on curing. Checking one last time can't hurt anything. 

We had two other projects (other than the fence) that we did over the weekend too! Separate posts on those today and some more fence action tonight as we finish the fencing extravaganza!