My friend Geri lived a mile from me and I watched over her house when she vacationed. Often she’d schedule work while she was away, and this time she wanted to replace her fence.
Thanks to hurricanes and moisture, fences have short life spans in the Sunshine State. Fences were a concern for me too, so I researched ways to give fences extra years, a realm of excitement beyond words. The following are the fruits of my labor, otherwise called ‘best practices’:
- Embed posts in concrete.
- Shape the concrete into a dome to run off water away from the post rather than collect moisture around it.
- Don’t install panels at ground level, but elevate them an inch or so above.
- Don't use staples or ordinary nails. Use ring-shank nails to resist winds.
I typed a list of the above and sketched a diagram of setting posts in concrete. These I stapled to the sales proposal given Geri and agreed to the extra charges and signed off. The installer missed their start date, so on her way out of town, Geri asked a neighbor to phone me at work whenever construction commenced.
The First Hint
The neighbor gave me a heads-up at eight the next morning. By the time I arrived, workmen had already set several posts… without concrete. After I explained they were supposed to use cement, a worker with a garden trowel spread dry sandmix around posts.
No, I said, they’re supposed to be set in concrete shaped to aid water runoff. I returned to work leaving them to it.
I flew to Miami and returned the following afternoon. The job had been wrapped minutes before my arrival. Except…
The pickets (paling panels) rested directly on the ground. Grounded palings made wood rot more quickly, wicking moisture from the soil up through the grain.
The crew had removed and reset only the first post in concrete; they hadn’t bothered with the others. Many showed a sprinkling of dry concrete but nearly as many went without.
Now suspicious, I looked closer. On the plus side, they hadn’t used staples but, after pulling one nail, I discovered they’d used ordinary smooth box nails. They company had completed none of the requirements they’d agreed to.
I’d let Geri down. I was so ticked off, I missed the most obvious mistake of all.
“Uh,” said the neighbor. “Why did they install half the fence backwards?”
“Half of the fence is inside out.”
The workmen had installed the left side of the fence facing out and the right side facing inward. Stick with me if you can handle the excitement.