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Rebuild 17 year old fence

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  • Rebuild 17 year old fence

    I have a fence that is suffering from the ravages of time. Posts are 4 1/8” X 4 1/8” pressure treated. The balance is Canadian red cedar except for 2” X 6”;PT fir I think. The fence looked awesome in it’s prime.

    the 2” X 6” kickerboard was on edge between the posts, then a 2X 4 laid flat nailed to the kickerboard. (A “T” configuration) Another 2X4 was fitted about 12” below the top, laid flat between the posts.

    Then 4 ea 1” X 2” cedar strips were fastened to the 2x4’s spaced to allow the nominal 1” X 6” fence boards in place before nailing in the last lower 1X2 strip.

    Then another 2 X 4 at the top to hold lattice. It really looked great.

    To to make a long story longer, all was well for about 15 years then some of the fence boards fell out - the design had a flaw in that water would collect - along with leaves and needles, etc between the fence boards and there was no real way to drain it out. The fence boards rotted away at the bottom and were eventually too short for the space between the two 2x4 and the 1x2 retaining boards. I managed to get them back in place with a 2x4 and a bunch of galvanized screws

    Being a thrifty (cheap) Norwegian from Ballard (Seattle) I plan to rebuild the fence using the existing posts, kickerboards, perhaps some of the 2x4’s and finally the fence boards. I have about 60 ea 8’ and 10’ pressure treated 2X 4’s removed from a deck after I replace the decking with tight knot cedar. The PT wood just looked crappy once there was a solid stain (really paint) by the original owner and any re-coating I did only lasted a couple of years. The 60 2x4 PT boards should almost be enough to rebuild the entire fence using three 2x4 for each section.

    now for the main reason for this post. I don’t plan on sandwiching the fence boards between 1x2 strips and start the water collection again with subsequent fence board shortening cause by rot. I plan to nail the fence boards with slight separation with nothing under the fence boards. I have a bad shoulder- rotator cuff surgically repaired but I have some limitations with lifting and repetitive stress (hammering nails, etc.) so I am thinking about a nailer - larger than my brad nailer.

    My question: would a finish nailer with galv nails be suitable for this job? Or would a stapler with galvanized staples be better? I have a brad nailer and a narrow crown stapler, both are 18 gage which I think is not very substantial.

  • #2
    I use a regular nailer, It’s a Porter Cable, probably shoots 3”, maybe 3 1/2 clip headed nails. For fences I use a 2 1/2” double galvanized ribbed nails. Fences have a way of pulling out the nails so go as long as you can without breaking through the back of the board. Staples And brads just won’t cut it!


    • #3
      I used a coil roofing nailer with 1 3/4" roofing nails. Then sold the house so I don't know how well it lasts in the wind. But here is a man who uses ring shank siding/fence nails in a Harbor Freight coil nailer. It might work for you.


      • #4
        I'm learning something from you guys! Great ideas!
        Hank Lee

        Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted!


        • #5
          I just repaired (last fall) a wood picket fence for the Dr. next door to me. His fence is six ft tall, consisting of 4 x 4 posts with 2 x 3 laterals upon which the fence pickets are fastened.

          He hired a young guy in his mid-20's to do the rebuild, but the end result was pretty poor, especially on my side of he fence. It looked terrible and the Doc said he'd gladly pay for new pickets on my side, if I'd do the work. Fair enough I thought. So I put up new pickets along about thirty feet of the fence area that the guy had done. I thought the nailer would be great, but frankly I couldn't find anyplace around here that I could buy anything less than a thousand or more nails, and I wasn't sure that galvanized nails wouldn't pull out or corrode, given the treatment such boards receive.

          So, I used screws instead. Took a little more time, but once you get into a rhythm, it goes pretty fast. I cut a couple of thin blocks to act as spacers and used an F-clamp to register/hang each board in position and then drive the screw with my drill. (I like to use Torx head screws for this purpose.). The job went quickly.

          Last edited by cwsmith; 04-08-2018, 07:11 PM.
          Think it Through Before You Do!


          • #6
            CWS, you are correct, screws are the best fastener for this application. A lot slower, and a lot more expensive. I’m glad someone finally got around to pointing out using screws.
            . ballard770, the poster asked “ My question: would a finish nailer with galv nails be suitable for this job? Or would a stapler with galvanized staples be better? I have a brad nailer and a narrow crown stapler, both are 18 gage which I think is not very substantial.”

            I’ve found that galvanized ring shank nails will still pull out and screws do hold the pickets better than nails, but a warping picket will sometimes split and pull the head of the screw through the crack. I have over 400 feet of a neighbors fence along one side of my yard that has the “pretty”side facing my yard. 4 or 5 times year I go down the fence and drive all the nails back in and try to trick a lot of pockets back in place with screws. Some of the boards will be cupped so bad I have to use 3 inch screws to br able to pull them in place. I know there could be an inch of screw sticking out the back side of the supports but the they have Leyland Cypress and all kind of large shrubs planted against their side of the fence. Probably the best screw for fencing with pickets that might be prone to warp would be some of the new style screws with a round head and a built in washer rather than a flat head “countersunk” type.


            • cwsmith
              cwsmith commented
              Editing a comment
              I used Deckmate #8 x 1-1/4 in "star drive" (actually they're #20 Torx) screws which have a lifetime guarantee against corrosion. They were about $8.50 for a one pound box (about 170 screws)... certainly more expensive than the nails would have been. But stainless nails were only available in mass quantities, and I couldn't see buying a carton for the sake of future generations. I tried to buy some from a fencing contractor, but he'd have none of it, I got the feeling he thought I was stealing his livelihood.

              Problem with this fence was that the Doctor had had a few people over the years work on it, and it appeared to me like none of them took the job seriously. What a hodge-podge of wasted effort. The laterals were toe-nailed into the 4 x 4, which weren't set properly to begin with, and many were leaning and wobbled. The "kid" (actually in his late 20's) just seemed interested in getting the job done so he would be paid quickly. I think it was second day he was there, I went out to offer him a hand (and the use of some of my tools). While I've never done a fence before, the guy didn't seem like he knew what he was doing, even trying to skirt a couple of old stumps that were in the path. The original builder, did the same, just cutting the pickets around them and stretching the length between posts to avoid them. On the Doc's side it looked bad and on my side it was a real mess.

              So, I told he kid that we ought to take the stumps out as they were quite rotted anyway. He didn't want to get into that, so I told him to just work on the lower part, while I removed the stumps. So here we got this young buck of guy playing around and 73 year old Charlie pulling these two 30" plus diameter old maple stumps. My wife gave me he!!, but within a couple of hours I got them both out and we laid the fence straight. I left the guy to his work.

              Another week went by and the kid decided he didn't like working in the hot sun, so he just walked off the job, leaving the Doc's receptionist with a bill. The Doc finished the fence with my help, but he wasn't at all happy with how it looked on my side of the property. I ended up replacing about eight of the lateral pieces and reinforcing several of the jointed areas to make the fence stable. It looks okay, but I'm concerned that in a couple of years, he's going to be faced with replacing a few of those posts that look like they're not properly set in the ground. (Another reason to use screws, it's easier to pull the pickets in case you need to repair structure.


          • #7
            Thanks guys for the info. I had been thinking about this project and I had almost decided to fasten the fence boards to the rails with screws for a few reasons:

            1) I would probably buy a nailer and only use it for this project
            2 renting would be very expensive as the old fart I am, two or three sections every day or two with a couple of days off would mean renting the nailer several times or for at least thee weeks
            3) I figure that the 20 sections 7’ to 8’ long would require 360 boards with about 1440 nails or screws so I would probably have to buy 2000 nail, perhaps they come in multiples of 5000? I think I can buy suitable screws by the pound at our local lumber store - not at homedepot or Lowe’s. It’ll probably be comparable to buy screws to power nailing when I don’t have tp buy it rent a nailer.
            4) finally screws have better holding power. I just need to ensure that I don’t go cheap and get screws that will not hold up fastening to pressure treated rails. Additionally we are about 150’ from salt water and the wind comes thru here past whidbey island and the straits of Juan de Fuca laden with salt air.



            • #8
              Screws are a great choice, and the building supply box stores have a large selection of lengths and coating type for different woods and applications. I doubt that lumber supply stores that sell screws by the lb would have the good coated types. ( at least none of them I’ve visited have.) I’m partial to square drive screws because that’s what I use most of the time in the shop. They don’t jump and pop around like the fix it up shows on tv does, that’s just eating up the Phillips head and your driver bit.


              • #9
                I like square head and torx head. Phillips are ok unless using a Phillips bit from HF. I have two sets from HF in my car to take back the next time I go that way. Those blasted bits jumped and chattered and a couple of them actually shattered. I was removing some tight and sawdust filled screws like I have done many times with good bits and the #2 bit didn’t stay put, Then I thought perhaps it should take a #1 bit but that did the same and fractured on the points (splines?}. The bit sets came with a 6” extension but the first one fell apart after a little use and the second one bent (perhaps operator inflicted as I dropped the driver. HF IS JUST OK sometimes - my el cheapo compressor is still working but the first one had to be returned.