Posted in Life, Los Angeles

Passing the time in lockdown: fence repair

Like you, we are in lockdown. We are in Pasadena, California (part of LA County) and we feel especially lucky that we have a garden and that the weather is (finally) good.

For the last few days, I have been in the yard repairing our termite-ridden, falling-apart fence, and learning the process. I use the word ‘repair’ loosely as I realize that it is not a long-term solution to put fresh wood pickets against wood that is being chewed by termites. However, this is a patch job and the pickets are cheap.

In the photo below you can see the fence I was working on. There is one missing picket, and, on either side of the gap, there are two fairly rotten pickets. I originally planned to do all three, but in the end, I just did two. To make the job extra challenging, the fence is helpfully behind a fairly delicate Jade plant, which drops its leaves at the slightest touch. My goal was to repair the fence without destroying the plant.

Fence2

Tools: After working on the fence for a few days, I’d got the tool situation down to the minimum. To get the fence pickets the right length I needed the tape measure, the triangle, the pencil, and the hand saw. To get the old picket and nails/screws etc out I needed the hammer and the flat head screwdriver. To fix the picket to the rail I needed the drill, the drill bit, the countersink bit, the drill bit with the phillips head on it, the phillips screwdriver and some screws. And gloves, of course.

Fence3

The first job was to remove the old picket and the rusty nails that, once upon a time, were holding it on – without pulling down the whole fence or destroying the rail. Easier said than done especially when the whole fence has been chewed through by termites.

Fence4Fence5

Because the pickets come in only approximate sizes, and because I was only repairing the fence, not building a whole new one, I made sure to check that the pickets were actually going to fit in the gap. I found that they often didn’t. Ideally one would take out both the old pickets to check the new ones both fitted… however, next door has a dog, and it would easily have got through the hole if I’d taken both out at once!

Fence6

Then I cut my pickets to length.

Fence7Fence8

Because I couldn’t take out both pickets at the same time (because of the dog), the next process took a little longer – on the other parts of the fence I was able to do multiple panels at each of the steps below.

The next step was to drill some holes for the screws. I got a drill bit that was slightly smaller than the screw, balanced the picket in its place, and drilled four holes – two at the top and two at the bottom, level with the nails/screws on the other panels. The drill went through the picket into the rail.

Fence9Fence10

Then I switched to the countersink bit so that I could make a dent for the screw heads.

Fence11Fence12

Then the final step was to get the picket screwed into place. I found that getting the screws started in the holes with the screwdriver was helpful.

Fence13Fence14Fence15

Then it was time to look at the second picket (to the left of the one I just put up). I pulled it off and it pretty much disintegrated in a shower of termite droppings. Unfortunately, I then found the new picket I had selected was a hair too wide to fit in the gap. None of my remaining stash were any thinner, so there was nothing for it but to trim it longways. It was a little tedious to saw by hand but not impossible.

Fence16

I repeated the procedure above, to get the finished result below. The next job (for another time) will be painting it.

Fence17

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Travel, photography, blogging, being an expat. And that's just in my spare time. https://amandakocz.wordpress.com/

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