Today you get to take a break from hearing from me, and instead get to hear from my wonderful Fiancé, Kevin! Enjoy 🙂
If you follow Emma at all, and I mean at all, you’ve heard about our new Farmhouse project. The first undertaking, our Cabinet Refresh was a small but extremely effective effort. When we set out to complete the fence in our yard for the four-legged kids, I ambitiously hoped this would also be just a fun weekend project. As it turned out, it wasn’t – thanks mostly to the 3rd hottest July on record in Raleigh. Somewhere around 800 gallons of water and some sunburn later though, we had a finished product I can be very proud of. Since we made it custom, these are just tips I learned along the way – so feel free to adapt them to your own Farmhouse fence!
To begin with, I want to make it known that I can’t even remotely take credit for all of this. My dad, who I’ve spent my entire life working on cars with, spearheaded our efforts and taught me a few good lessons along the way. Plus, he endured the near heat exhaustion and sunburn too, so he deserves some credit.
Now on to the project.
Guys in general tend to dive into projects without a plan. (Ok, maybe it’s just me). However on this one, I knew we had a) limited resources b) limited time (my parents would be in town for just one weekend) and c) no prior experience to draw on. So I wanted to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s well in advance. Even with lots of sketches, legal pad math, and consultation with my dad back and forth, we made a few extra trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot. If I even complete a project without repeated trips to the store I might just retire.
Create your own dimensions. Since we had a wide open yard and were only constrained by our start and end points, we utilized the natural dimensions of lumber. Use 4, 6, 8, and 12 feet to your advantage. While I found that the smaller lumber is cheaper, there are times when you want to simply turn your 8 foot boards into 2 fours. Also, when designing your project, keep to these numbers. From the start, we began with knowing we wanted the fence roughly 4 feet tall, with 8 feet sections. The point being, don’t fight yourself on the math if possible. Less cutting makes for a simpler project.
Plan for your equipment. Having the right tool for the job is probably more than half the battle in any project. For a fence, we knew that simple word-working tools would suffice, but we also knew we’d need to tear up some terra firma. I priced around some excavation crews and a small project like this wasn’t worth their time, or the cost it would take for their time. We decided to utilize the Home Depot tool rental, and snagged a one-man auger for $75 for a full day (overnight rental). Had we not planned this out, we would still be out there…digging in the summer sun…
Get extra. The rule of thumb is to get roughly 10-20% extra of any material you need on a home project. However, sometimes that’s wasteful, especially if you’re on a budget. (Or if you’re Basic on a Budget – see what I did there?) I figured in an extra board or two here and there, and ended up having to grab a few more boards and screws. Depending on your time and resources, it’s a lot easier to keep working instead of having to make another trip to the store. Do as I say, not as I do.
Drill Baby Drill.
With auger in hand, we tore up a little dirt. Since we opted for the 6 foot 4×4’s as our fence posts, we wanted about 16″ in the ground, giving us 56″ above ground. Our farm wire was 50″ in height, with a 2×4 header and footer totaling 3 1/2″, giving us a total height of 53 1/2″. The remaining 2 1/2″ was divided between space for a header LED light on the post (an inch) and space between the ground and the footer 2×4 (the 1 1/2″).
I cannot begin to describe what a life saver the auger was. One tip I would pass along is to keep the auger for the whole project and do the holes one-by-one. Since we were limited on time and resources, we kept it for the short 24-hour rental of $75. This caused us to pre-drill all of the holes in advance, so when things needed minor adjustments, we had to do them by hand which caused some decent delays.
Since we were custom building everything, we just had to dive in and build the first section. It was theorized that each section would be quicker as we went, but that was only marginally true. When you’re working with human error and unpredictable natural elements such as terrain changes, you ultimately have to adapt. However, here’s what we did, in a nutshell. There was more sweat and curse words in the actual making of the Farmhouse fence.
For our “box” sections, we had a 2×4 for the top and bottom, with 1×2’s framing the farm wire panels to keep them in place. Since we used the natural dimension of the 8 foot boards and 50″ farm wire (didn’t want to cut it more than necessary), there were minimal cuts on each section. The 8 foot 1×2’s and 2×4’s were just screwed into place – with the vertical pieces just requiring a single hit with the compound mitre saw.
Pre-drill. The last thing you want is to splinter your lumber. Prevent this by pre-drilling all your holes. We tried to work efficiently through the project. For instance, Dad and I would measure and cut the pieces, Mom would pre-drill the holes, then by the time she was done we were ready to screw the pieces into place. Anywhere you can be more efficient will pay off when you’re running into things that take longer than expected.
Grind. The metal farm wire required a pretty solid wheel on the angle grinder. Dad was so good at it, we let him do all the grinding. It came complete with some hair loss on the legs and arms. I would recommend protective gear of at least goggles, if not some sleeves to save the singed hair.
Assemble. Once all the pieces were cut to their respective shapes, we chose to assemble it directly to the posts. First the 2×4 footer. Then we would put half of the 1×2 in, so there would be one side to put the wire against. Then the wire goes in. Top off with the header 2×4 and finish up the 1×2’s to secure in the wire. Easy enough, right?
Gates & Latches.
Sometimes you want to get in and out of fences. For us, we wanted to be able to access our backyard whether it be to drive a truckload of wood to our future fire pit, or god-forbid there’s a well pump issue. So we opted to turn a 12-foot section of the fence into a large gate. A roughly 8-foot section that will remain stationary most of the time, and a smaller 4-foot section to open and close as needed. We also added another gate near the existing privacy fence on the back portion of the yard. Much easier to do that now than tear down your fence one day.
The final step was to install the gates, and these days they make some really affordable, good-looking gate kits. For around $20 you get spring-loaded hinges and the locking mechanism. Since my parents had already headed home at this point, the talented Emma Kathryn was a huge help.
Pro-Tip: Wheels. These custom gates turned out being heavy. Really heavy. It hindsight we could’ve opted for some pre-made gates perhaps, but making everything consistent was more than worth the extra effort to me. That beings said, the weight was a bit of a problem, especially without doing super deep, concrete footers on the posts. To remedy this, I grabbed some cheap rubber casters from Northern Tool and bolted them under the outside portion of the gates. This provides support for the weight and ease of opening. Just glides across the ground.
I would hope that as you start this project you’ll learn from our mistakes, adapt the techniques to your needs, but also enjoy the way we did it. As you run into questions, share them here! I’m sure given more time we would’ve enjoyed a way to explore other ideas to make the best fence possible. As with all of our Farmhouse projects so far, crowdsourcing is an awesome resource.