Good fence vs. bad ones

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, is not only the title of probably the greatest western movie ever made, but also describes the three types of wood fencing a homeowner has the choice of building.

With the market already saturated with a combination of bad and ugly fences, it’s my recommendation we look to differentiate ourselves by building a good, or even what would be considered a great, wooden fence.

Now, to be fair with the bad and ugly fence builders, their fences didn’t necessarily start out that way. As a matter of fact, bad and ugly fences could have very well been quite attractive in their early years, and simply declined into their present state of battered, grey crookedness over time.

So, our goal will be to build a fence that will look good, and keep looking good at least until the middle of the century, or until which time a Canadian-based team wins the Stanley Cup, whichever comes first.

As mentioned last week, fences fall under the building code, and therefore require permits. Not only are permits key to making sure you follow the basic rules pertaining to fence height and acceptable product mix, but the permit process will initiate the “locate” process. Locates are those little yellow flags you occasionally see darting across persons lawns, and are placed there by the cable, electric, and gas-line people, indicating where these service lines run across your property.

Essentially, there are two reasons why the service people don’t want you hitting, or cutting off their lines in your attempt to dig a post hole.

One, if you happen to break a line, you’ve automatically ruined their mood by adding another three hours of emergency service time into what is already a fully scheduled workday. And two, sometimes the coroner isn’t always immediately available, which in the case of a severing a gas or electrical cable, could have the service guy having to re-connect a line while your corpse lies rotting in the sun only metres away, which can totally ruin a fellow’s appetite come lunch hour.

For a wood fence to be great, all four components, them being the post holes, fence posts, fence panels, and fence maintenance program, all have to follow a program of procedural excellence.

Starting with the posts holes, drill them anywhere from 48 to 54 inches in depth. Any shallower and you risk the frost heaving the posts up every winter, which will disrupt the entire fence line, and look lousy.

Does frost heave, a scenario whereby the frozen soil pushes things up to the surface, really occur? Just ask any local farmer who has to pick rocks out of his fields every year.

As for fence posts? 4×4 lumber is good, but 6×6 timbers are much better. So, if there’s wiggle room in the budget for the extra costs of using 6×6 posts, go for it. Besides simply looking better, 6×6 timbers are significantly more solid (great for high-wind areas), and stay straighter over the long haul.

Fence panels? Avoid the standard and very much overused board-on-board, or what’s referred to as the “good neighbour” style of fence panel, for basically two reasons.

One, because the fence boards are installed in an offset manner on either side of what’s normally a couple of 2x4s running vertically from post to post, the element of privacy isn’t so private. In other words, when standing on an angle, you or your neighbour can easily see into each other’s property. So, if you’re looking forward to seeing what latest fashion in swimwear your neighbour will be sporting this year, then choose what’s essentially a good viewing of the neighbour fence design.

Two, the good neighbour fence design is an atrocity to paint or stain, which will inevitably make continued maintenance a virtual impossibility.

Therefore, with privacy and easy maintenance being two important elements to our fence’s long term viability, next week we’ll look into building a “friendly neighbour” design.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Surveys make ‘fence’ between neighbours

An October 2008 file photo of Ron Denis of land survey firm Farley Smith and Denis, with his survey equipment. JULIE OLIVER/OTTAWA CITIZEN/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Today, we put to paper a plan to fortify our home’s perimeter, initiating a strategy that’ll forever protect our backyard property from those undesirables set on disturbing our goal of privacy and tranquility.

In other words, we’re building a fence.

Two things to consider before planting a post hole-drilling auger into the soil.

One, fences require permits, so be sure to get one.

And two, know the exact location of your property line.

Unfortunately, fencing is like any other home renovation, in that its manner of construction is guided by rules. So, if you were planning on topping your fence with a department of corrections-approved razor wire, and installing electrical power around all possible points of entry with a shock surge capable of incapacitating a 200-pound man, then the city officials may ask you to modify your drawings.

Where you build your fence isn’t such a concern for the city, unless of course you end up placing some of your fencing, or parts thereof, on city property.

Other entities that may show concern for your haphazard drilling of holes along perceived property lines are your neighbors. So, if a fence is in the plans, have your property surveyed.

If, on the other hand, good ol’ Mr. MacTavish, your friendly neighbour of 15 years, has you thinking you can save yourself $500 on the cost of procuring a survey by settling on a designated property line together, relying on your good relationship to keep things cordial, give your head a shake.

Guaranteed, the moment you finish your fence line, ol’ Mr. MacTavish drops dead like a sack of potatoes after choking on his haggis. The new owner of the property, a Mr. Chauncey MacDonald, moves in a week later, and while being not so happy to discover your ancestors might have participated in the death of his forefathers at the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692, decides to test the integrity of this fence line by having the property surveyed.

Guaranteed, just like the time you decided to forgo the information search and invest in steam-engine auto technology, your best-guess fence location strategy is going to end up biting you on the ass.

Often, neighbours will choose a mid-point between two homes or properties in order to establish the likelihood of the property line. This can be faulty reasoning, because most homes see some type of renovation over the years, whereby extra garage, deck, or living space is added to the width of the home, often encroaching upon the home’s property line.

When this happens, the dividing line between properties becomes far from the centre point, which will only be an issue years later when new, unassuming owners move in, and start making undocumented land decisions.

So, to avoid the awkwardness of having a new neighbour, a neighbour who essentially has pre-judged you as descendants of brutal thugs who had stolen land from his family only 300 years before, presenting you with a document indicating your fence has been constructed three feet onto his property, we get a survey.

With the perimeter lines of your property clearly established by the survey, you can begin to plan out the post placement.

If the fence is to be yours, then the posts should be wholly placed on your side of the line. This strategy will cost you a little of your backyard square footage, but will at least ensure the decisions regarding the look and status of the fence to be entirely yours.

What about shared fencing?

As with anything shared between neighbours, whether it be a fence or a snow scraper, this type of scenario is probably best avoided.

Next, what about fence height and fence building materials?

Both will fall under the scrutiny of your city permit, whereby your idea to raise emus and other exotic birds by building a 12-foot perimeter wall with used sheets of galvanized steel roofing, will most likely be discouraged.

Next week, the best fence.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Not your usual floating floor

Case no. 822, titled “don’t float me,” examines the flooring issues experienced by a Mr. Gerard Boyance, aka “Flottant” (the Floater), due to the pronunciation of Gerard’s last name sounding much like the term buoyancy, and Flottant’s propensity to wear soft-soled loafers.

Besides liking comfort, Gerard is also a big fan of those products that are easy to maintain, which led him to choose a vinyl “click” flooring for his kitchen and living room renovation.

The past 12 years had Gerard enjoying a 12-millimeter laminate, or composite type of floating floor, which over time had lost some of its sheen due to regular wear and tear.

Choosing a PVC vinyl click floor for this renovation was an easy choice for the Floater due to the toughness of the PVC finish, it’s very realistic wood colouring, and the fact PVC products are extremely resistant to moisture. Those features make it the perfect floor for Gerard, who enjoys cooking, and his four cats, who sometimes create their own mess during episodes of territorial marking.

Being handy in the ways of general finishing, and having installed his laminate/composite drop-click flooring years before, Gerard felt comfortable installing this new PVC click flooring himself.

Following the basic rules of click or tongue-in-groove type floorings, Flottant began installing the PVC flooring in the usual manner, with the tongue edge facing the wall, while using shims around the perimeter of the room to provide the necessary half-inch expansion and contraction spacing required between wall and flooring product.

Gerard’s expertise and proficiency in handling the click flooring allowed him to finish laying the product within a few hours, with a shoe molding installed afterwards to cover the required perimeter spacing.

With the job completed, Gerard proudly floated over his newly laid floor, touring back and forth from living room to kitchen with his Bona spray mop, making sure things looked just perfect for his hosting of an upcoming meeting of the bridge bunnies, a local group of card-playing seniors, that afternoon. After a successfully hosting of the bunnies, where Gerard only had to deal with some mild dramatics due to Thelma’s questionable card counting and Ernie’s habit of littering the table with cookie crumbs, the floater was once again manning the Bona mop.

This time around, the Bona wasn’t sliding so freely over the floor, and upon closer examination, Gerard was blown out of his loafers to discover the planks of flooring had begun to separate. A call to the flooring manufacturer had a company representative on site a few days later. Two steps onto the floor, the sales rep paused, momentarily shifted his weight from side to side, then, proceeded forward once again.

“I think I know what the problem is,” the rep stated matter-of-factly.

In an attempt to transfer the cushioning action of his existing floating laminate floor to that of his new PVC vinyl floor, Gerard chose not to remove the existing foam underlay. That was a mistake. Perhaps it was the term float that confused Gerard.

Unfortunately, regular laminate foams are too thick, and soft, for the thinner PVC floorings, and will cause the PVC joints to work excessively. PVC vinyl clicks and LVT butt-edge floorings don’t need to be glued down, so they do indeed float.

However, they must be laid directly on a solid substrate such as concrete or plywood.

Is there an underlay foam suitable for PVC vinyl click and LVT vinyl floors, offering some comfort and sound deadening value? Yes— look for a thin, high-density, rubberized matting made especially for vinyl flooring.

Solution to Gerard’s dilemma?

The PVC flooring will need to be carefully un-clicked and set aside, the old foam tossed out, with the vinyl click re-installed over the plywood substrate, or the aforementioned rubber matting.

Certainly a pain in the butt for our Gerard “Flottant” Boyance, but unlike most flooring cases, far from a total loss.

Case no. 822 closed.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard