Austin Fence Installation: What to Avoid
Somebody collected a check for the work done in the picture attached to this post. Well, let's back up one step - someone actually asked for payment for the work done in the picture above! That's the part that boggles our minds, but we see it all over Austin: Fences installed with terrible material and sloppy technique.
We want everyone in our city to avoid paying for a fence that doesn't only look bad...it's unsafe. Here are some of the things to avoid at all cost when considering materials and/or installation methods for your fence:
The combination of blistering heat, humidity, and extensive exposure to direct sunlight here in Austin makes your pickets vulnerable to ugly warping. The pickets used on most wood fences are sold as "1x6" pickets, but they aren't anywhere near 1" thick.
If a company quotes you a 1x4 or 1x6 cedar picket, request the actual "dimensional" measurement. There are three common dimensions that get that 1 inch thick designation: 1/2", 5/8", and 3/4". We recommend going with the 5/8" or 3/4" option to avoid everything we mentioned above. Any company quoting an unbeatable price is likely selling you the thinnest pickets possible.
The frame of every fence is made up of the posts and the rails (also called cross beams, cross supports, runners). If the products used for the frame are low quality, or if they're attached in the wrong way, your fence won't serve its purpose for long, if at all. Austin Brothers Fence Co uses only the safest product for our frames and we construct them in a way that'll last. If wood posts are used on your fence, all rails should be attached with long, exterior coated screws, not nails. Cedar rails are also problematic, even though they look the best, because moisture becomes trapped in all the holes created by fastening fence pickets to them. We recommend Treated Pine rails to avoid this.
We're not sure how they sleep at night, but most builders and some fence companies build their fences on landscaping timbers (they look like posts, but they have round edges). This particular lumber is meant to be used as a garden liner, or ground cover barrier, set horizontally on the ground. Landscaping timbers should NEVER be used to support the weight of a fence! Real fence posts should never be smaller than 4x4, and Austin Brothers Fence Company will never offer anything less.
Wood posts, in general, are prone to natural phenomena, like warping, cracking, twisting, etc. In most cases, these things will not reduce the functionality or reliability of a fence, but some clients struggle with the look. If you think you'd be bothered by any of the above, we recommend steel posts. However, a fence constructed fully of wood materials remains the most sustainable option, so we start all pricing there.
Another framing product to avoid is any support rail smaller than 2x4. Many companies use 2x3's as their support rails (which are actually 1.5x2.5 inches), including the big hardware stores.
No matter what type of fence you get (wood, iron, composite, etc.), if the spacing between posts is excessive you're going to see warping very early on; even the strongest rails can't handle the weight of a fence if they're not supported by frequent posts. That's why Austin Brothers Fence Co always keeps our sections at, or below, 8 feet long, even if that requires extra labor on our part. In fact, we recommend shorter sections for the fence styles we know demand more support even though it may cost more up front. We want your fence to look good for as long as possible, and we'll always avoid the shortcuts taken by other companies who just want to collect a check before your fence starts to fall apart.
LOW QUALITY LUMBER
There are many types of wood that can be used for a wood fence project, but there are certain types and qualities that surpass the others in Austin's climate and make all the difference when it comes to the resilience of your fence. The best softwood (though it's one of the hardest of the softwoods) is Western Red Cedar, and we only recommend #2 grade. Some companies sell and install #3 grade; this grade has a multitude of knots and many large knot holes. It's also less dense, since it typically comes from the exterior portion of the tree it was milled from. Because of this, it'll rot faster than #2 grade lumber.
SHALLOW POST HOLES
Digging in Austin is rough work. Our community is built on a few inches of top soil...and then ROCK. Lots of rock. If a fence contractor doesn't have the right tools for digging through that rock you'll end up with shallow holes, and that spells disaster for you and your family. Entire sections of your fence can collapse during minor wind storms, or even from normal use.
Austin Brothers Fence company has all the tools necessary to hammer our way through the rock and guarantee holes 18 - 24 inches in depth (or deeper for taller fences), and we promise we'll always do so.