08 March 2011

Going Post-al

Part of our landscaping plans include replacing our short, old chain-link fence with a taller wooden privacy fence with horizontal slats, and we're leaning toward doing it ourselves. But before we can put up a new fence, we have to deal with the one that's already there. We had tried to dig up a wayward post last year, but they're in the ground really, really well. We thought about reusing the posts by cementing larger, square metal posts over the existing round posts, but several of them are bent or crooked, and their 8.5' spacing won't work with typical 8' boards. We also considered cutting off the existing posts at the ground and simply putting the new ones in different locations, but that seemed like cheating.

When Steve couldn't sleep the other night, he went online to look for more options, and he found a (pretty pricey) tool designed to remove fence posts. (This was great for me, as I'm usually the online-research-in-the-middle-of-the-night specialist in the house. Insomnia is good for our productivity.) Further research brought us to the (not-so-pricey) farm jack, which happened to be on sale this week at Harbor Freight. And although we had other plans for the day, the 30-day return policy pushed us to try out the jack right away on that one wayward post (which used to hold the old house's gate).

We cut down some thick cedar lumber left over from construction and propped the jack up on it, wrapping five feet of chain around the post and connecting it to the jack to ease the post right up out of the ground. I was doubtful that the chain would actually grip the post or that the post would budge, but Steve worked it like a farmer and proved me wrong:

I don't really understand how the jack works, but within minutes, the post had come completely out.

I wouldn't exactly call it "effortless," but the jack made the impossible possible. (I'm sure that really pricey specialty tool Steve found on the internet would work better, as it was made to have multiple contact points with the ground versus just one for the farm jack. Early on in the process, the torque broke the bolt that holds the stem onto the base, but we got by with an allen wrench loosely holding the pieces together until we could take a quick trip to Lowe's for a stronger replacement bolt.)

After filling in the (surprisingly deep) hole with dirt, we noticed that the side fence is made up of two separate parts, and that the front portion ends just outside of our neighbor's wooden fence, so we decided to go ahead and remove the front half that same afternoon.

Once we got going, we were able to pull out one post every 15 minutes or so, including the time it took to take the fence apart. The hardest part was toward the end (isn't that how it always happens?). Trees had started growing right into the fence, so we had to get out the reciprocating saw to liberate that section of chain link.

The whole area looks so much more open without the fence...although the placement of our neighbor's roses looks pretty arbitrary without a fence anchoring them.

The new fence, which is still a long way off, won't come quite as far forward as the old one, but it'll be close. (And taller, and solid wood, which will really make the area feel closed in.) For now, I like the openness of the area.

After ten years of interior DIY projects, it was weird to think that this was our first real yard project. It seemed like, of course we've done this kind of thing before...but this is the first time we've had a yard, so no, we hadn't. It was fun to try out a bunch of new tools (including a rock bar and a fancy new shovel, after Steve broke the one I picked up at a garage sale for $2 last fall).

Hopefully this evidence of our efforts will bring some hope to the neighbors who are so eager to see progress in our yard.

(I don't know what we're going to do with all of that debris. I'll call Habitat for Humanity to see if they want the fence and maybe the horizontal bars, but as for the posts and the rebar left over from the foundation -- which I finally dragged up from the back of the lot -- I'm kind of hoping a passerby will take it to sell the metal for scrap.)


  1. Makes great sense. Found your blog through Young House Love. I've got a bit of reading to backtrack your green projects.I've put your blog on my favorite blog list.
    - Joy

  2. Welcome, Joy! Happy to have you.