This is my attempt at documenting our fence-pas and how we managed to fix it. The focus here is on putting up the boards. However, we also needed to strengthen our shaky posts, which was somewhat easily doable, thanks to E-Z Mender (a Simpson Strong-Tie product from Home Depot). There is plenty of information out there, including videos on how to use the E-Z Mender, so I will not be addressing how to fix/strengthen a post in this instructable.
While I was about it, I decided to change the style of fencing from feather edge to board on board, which I think not only looks neater but affords greater privacy.
Step 1: Create Your Own Storm:
Turn your back and let a Jack-and-the-Beanstalk Wisteria, a Chinese Privet a volunteer Silk Tree and an evil, evil morning glory take over part of your yard and fence. When the Silk tree is around 40 feet high, the Privet is all but pushing on the fence and the wisteria vines are about as thick as your wrist - and have grown right through the fence, let your bitter half start taking them down - along with defence!
Step 2: McGyver, Eat Your Heart Out!
McGyver the fallen boards of your fence with newly cut branches from the offending/culprit trees. When most of the tree and vines have been taken care of and the danger of your personal (self-inflicted) storm has passed, you can start on a more permanent fix.
Step 3: This Fool’s Tools:
1) Clawhammer to remove those infernal nails that barely hold fences together. It should be against the law to use nails on fences (JK)!
2) A pair of pliers for headless nails
3) Galvanized Screws (self-drilling): 1¼" to connect the posts to each other, and 2 ½" to attach every 4th or 5th post to the top rail
4) Screwdriver (preferably cordless). I used a Worx which is not the most powerful but it works well enough on softish wood like cedar. It sure made light work of this project - literally so, because the battery is much smaller and lighter. I barely had any arm/wrist fatigue worth speaking of.
Step 4: Prepare the Boards:
1) Separate the boards from each other by wedging them apart.
2) Using the claw hammer (and pliers when needed), remove ALL remnants of nails - arrrggghhh!!
3) Brush off cobwebs, decomposed leaves, and any loose debris that had found its way between the boards and become trapped there.
Step 5: Create Mini Panels:
I figured while I was going to be practically redoing the entire fence, I might as well change the style from that traditional feather edge (domino-like) style to what is known as board-on-board. Save for the bottom ends that had deteriorated on a couple of them, most of these over 20-year-old boards were still in great shape, so I decided to reuse them. Besides, all the shrinkage (take note, George Costanza) that is generally associated with fence boards had already taken place. At some point, this fence will have to be replaced and these boards should last just fine till then.
Due in part to that basal deterioration, they were all different lengths. I suspect they had not been the same length for quite a while, given how old the fence was and because even at the top - where many of them were still connected to each other - none of them were at the same height. With boards of different lengths, I could not use the standard method of board-on-board construction (which calls for attaching all the inside facing boards to a set of horizontal stringers AKA rails and then attaching the outward facing boards to the first set of boards). So I had to create mini panels of four or five boards - lining them up at the top. Some boards and the resulting panels were so much shorter than the original height that I had to shim under them before I could attach them to the preceding panel and to the top rail.
Another reason to go this route was the extent to which several of them had bowed/warped. It would have been near impossible to draw them in while simultaneously trying to screw them together since they were vertical and mainly unsupported. You might have noticed how two surfaces that you are trying to bring together, with a pre-existing space (however tiny) between them, get pushed even further apart by the screw tip. Unless you clamp them really well or apply pressure on the seam from opposing sides, you have absolutely no hopes of closing that gap. I’d need a clamp at least as wide as one board! And I was working alone for the most part, so getting someone else to push on the boards from the other side was not an option for the bulk of this project. I was, however, able to harness some such manpower when connecting the panels, and even then I could not close all the gaps as well as I would have liked to because I don’t possess sufficient personal mass to generate the required opposing force!!
The panels were constructed with about 1'' of overlap on both sides of each board. I eyeballed the overlap rather than bother with measuring as the boards were quite uneven, even in their width - both down the length of a single board as well as from board to board! I clamped the boards together at both ends before driving 1¼'' screws into them.
When working with one board sitting on top of the other at the end of a panel, be sure to place a scrap piece of the same thickness under it so that the adjacent boards do not become skewed at the joint. You could also just use another board for this purpose.- if you have one to spare. (See the last picture.)
Since the overlap is about 1'' and you want to screws to get the best possible grip on the boards, start inserting the screw a little over 1/2'' inch inside the edge of the top board and angle the tip towards the edge while driving it in. This way as it gets driven deeper into the lower board, it is also going away from the edge, resulting in a stronger hold.
The first of these panels was attached to the post with 1¼'' screws and to the top rail with 2½'' screws. Each successive panel was similarly attached to the previous panel as well as to the top rail. Our fence did not have a middle rail and I did not add one either. I don’t know whether having a rail midway down the fence would have made it easier to work with panels the way I did, or it would have been more of a hindrance. It definitely would not have been possible with the B-on-B method in which boards are placed on either side of the rails as can be seen in the fence building tutorial by America’s Fence Store. This is known as the shadow box style.
I continued the new B-on-B pattern all the way to the gate post, having to remove some boards that were still quite sturdy. That’s the price I had to pay for deciding to change the style but I think it was worth the added time and effort! It would probably have looked patchy even if I hadn’t changed to B-on-B, simply because the newly fixed boards would look more rigid since I had screwed them up (he he)!
Step 6: Clean Machine:
Ideally (and this was the original plan), I would have cleaned the boards prior to constructing the panels. But knowing my tendency towards perfectionism - which has an uncanny way of creeping in - I would have started noticing all sorts of irregularities on the boards (both real and imagined)... Translation, we would have had to live with our hole in the wall - I mean fence (in Trump land, what’s the difference?) for even longer than we already had! So once that 8’ section was complete, I scrubbed down the boards with a mixture of orange oil and Oxiclean, then power washed the fence. BTW, if you have plants other than roses, do not use Oxiclean. It contains sodium which would hurt most plants, so be sure to use a potassium-based cleaner instead. Roses can tolerate some amount of sodium but they don’t love it either...
Step 7: Trim and Tropper ;)
The last step involves attaching two 8’ pieces of cedar trim on the outside. I will be using a 1x2 at the top and at least a 1x4 at the bottom to hide all the ugly butts and as added support/reinforcement since many of the shorter boards were not really resting on the bottom rail! I’ll make sure each of those short boards is attached to the 1x4 trim with two 1¼'' screws. I might add one more rail about midway down the boards on the inside (non-street side), and I do plan on staining the fence but for now, I'm calling it done! I will update this post with pictures when the project is complete - eventually.