At the end of March or early April (I don’t recall exactly), two of the posts holding up the fence on the north side of my garage failed during a windstorm. They just rotted through at ground level until a nice, stiff breeze blew the fence over. By “stiff breeze”, I really mean sustained winds exceeding 40mph with gusts over 50mph. I see we had four days like that between 3/22 and 4/5.
When I did my last fence repair (a section on the south side of the house), I just set the posts in some angular pea-sized gravel rather than concrete. The original builder didn’t use concrete and it wasn’t the posts that failed, so I didn’t see the need to set the posts in concrete. Once you tamp the gravel in, the edges lock together making it quite strong. It has been nine or ten years and none of those posts move.
Here, though, the existing fence was set in concrete. I was disappointed, but not surprised. The post next to the garage wall was your standard 4×4 post. The other post, on which a gate hangs, was a 4×6. I searched the internet but didn’t find anybody who had 4×6 lumber in stock. During my daily walks I checked out a number of fences with RV gates and they all used 4×4 posts. My fence and gate are only 4′ tall, and all the ones I looked at were 6′ fences. The moment exerted on my post by a 4′ tall gate should be considerably less than that of a 6′ tall gate so I figured the 4×4 should be plenty strong.
My plan was to try to dig as small of a hole as necessary to allow me to bust up the old concrete with a sledgehammer. Even so, any such hole would be far too big for me to fill with concrete, so I picked up a couple of those cardboard tubes and use them as forms.
The issue with the one next to the garage was I’d be limited to working from three sides, as the fourth side is right up against the foundation. The gate post wouldn’t be much easier: clearly, the concrete for the post pre-dated the concrete slab. In neither case would it be a straightforward sledgehammer job. One took me an hour and a half, the other just an hour.
I placed the tube forms and backfilled the holes with dirt. For concrete, I used a couple of sacks of the pre-mixed concrete: pour the dry mix into the hole and just add water. I let the concrete set for a day before putting the fence section back into place. Maybe I should have replaced the section, but it’s still in pretty good shape, except for a bit of rot where the slats touched the ground.
I managed to have the foresight to cut the post to the correct height on the gate side, but had the section up before I noticed I neglected to cut the garage side one. I never seem to do things the easy way.
The next trick was hanging the gate. The gate has never operated freely. It has always sagged a bit. To open it, you had to lift the end of it to get it to open. I had the feeling that the sag had increased over time. I decided part of the problem is that there’s insufficient structure to keep it square. I decided to add a couple of sheets of scrap and screw them to the slats to stiffen it.
And, finally, was the issue of the carriage bolts. They go through the 4×4 and a 2×4 and a slat. So they’re pretty long. Longer, in fact, than are available at Home Depot, Lowes, or Ace Hardware. So I had to re-use the old bolts. They bent a bit when I took them out, so I straightened them with the vice. And I didn’t have a drill bit long enough to go through all that material, so I had to measure very carefully and drill the hole from each end.
The side of the gate I rehung on the new post works beautifully. It swings freely. So I did the stiffening thing with the small sheets on the other half of the gate. This had no effect at all. I still cannot open the gate fully and have to struggle to open it halfway. I haven’t verified, but I’m guessing this post is no longer plumb. But I’m not willing to replace this post just to get the gate to work better. The two posts, tubes, concrete, and fasteners for the repairs I did amounted to about $130 and involved several hours of hard labor. Maybe next summer I’ll tackle the other side.
Finally, there was a small gravel patch next to the garage where a sort of utility shed stood. The previous owner of the house did woodworking in the garage and this shed housed, I believe, a shop vac (to evacuate the sawdust) and maybe an air compressor. There was a sizeable hole through the wall. I had the hole fixed when the garage was resided as part of my giant house painting project last year.
This gravel patch is a bit of an eyesore, so I dug a trench to extend an existing sprinkler line so I can add another head to the irrigation system. With the new head covering that area, I added a bit of topsoil and spread some grass seed. We’ll see how well this works as the area is in shade almost all the time.