If good fences make good neighbors…

June 24, 2009

….what does that say about bad fences?

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a bad fence. It actually looks fine in these photos. In real life, unfortunately, it’s not quite the construction quality I was hoping for…somewhat Home Depot-esque, with staples instead of nails, really rough wood, etc. Which would be fine if it had come with a Home Depot-esque price tag, but sadly it didn’t. (In fairness, a lot of the cost was probably for the demolition of the failing concrete retaining wall and construction of a new wooden wall to support the fence, and not for the fence itself. But still, I’m a little grouchy about it.) On the upside, the posts themselves seem pretty solid, so even if the boards do fall down ten years from now, it shouldn’t be as big a deal to replace it as it was this time around. (We learned that the vast majority of fence builders don’t do retaining walls, and the vast majority of retaining wall builders don’t do fences. After calling over two dozen people, we ended up with about six who were interested in bidding on this project, and one never even sent the estimate after checking it out. So much for the down economy…)

However, the fence is DONE, which is a very, very exciting thing!

New fence

New fence (ignore the dog crate, which needs to be moved!)

Another view

Another view

Also, it’s very, very pink. I know it will weather to something more normal looking, but I was caught a bit off guard by this. I can’t tell if it’s been treated with something or what. Lesson learned. If we do this again, the specs will specify the grade of wood to be used. (We just said “redwood” for this one, but it looks nothing like the grades of redwood that I’ve worked with on our other garden projects, so I presume it must be some cheaper variety.) Of course, if worse comes to worst and it weathers oddly, we can always just paint it to match the rest of the fencing, which is currently painted with a pale green milk paint of some sort. (The idea was that over time we’ll replace the other fences too and eventually the yard will be all natural redwood, but who knows!)

We still have a few decisions to make. For starters, we share the fence on that side with two different parcels; the new fence was just for the section that borders the apartment building behind us, where the old retaining wall was collapsing. We still have two panels of fence that seem pretty stable, though they also drop down significantly into our other neighbors’ backyard. To complicate matters, they have a second fence and a shed behind ours, so replacing it is likely to be complex and costly. Initially I thought maybe we could have the guys who did this fence take off the boards of the other fence and match them, but now I’m iffy on that plan. Alternatively, we can just put a lattice top on it to make it look vaguely similar—but then there’s the weird redwood-green color conflict.

Fence transition line

Fence transition line

You can see the height difference pretty clearly in this photo—the old fence was around four-and-a-half feet tall, while the new one is theoretically six plus the lattice (I haven’t actually measured it). It would be nice for them to look a bit more consistent, but maybe not $2K nice. My current thought is that maybe we should just mount a large redwood trellis to the green fence, grow some vines, and be done with it. The other factor is that the space in front of the green fence is slated for some bamboo, since that’s the view out of our bedroom window where we pretty much look right into the glaring security lights of the apartment building behind us. So maybe it doesn’t really matter what the fence looks like behind the bamboo, as long as it’s functional.

Anyway. The good news is that this project is now officially off the list, which means we’re done with all of the big ticket items that were on the to-do list when we moved in (rewiring, earthquake retrofit, and retaining wall) and can finally start saving up for the kitchen—woohoo!



  1. We too have many different fence styles in our yard. At first is annoyed me but now I just shrug and think about everything else I have to fix before I get to that. I think some vines – jasmine? – would look great in front of the green fence.

  2. That’s a good thought—we actually have some (probably dying!) pink jasmine on our garage roof that I’d been trying to coax into a screen for our bedroom. I’m thinking maybe it’s time to take it down and try planting it here, assuming I can find some good trellis over the weekend. We also have lots of mismatched fences—five styles in total now!—but oddly the green paint tied them all together beautifully. I realized it’s really grown on me!

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