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Resource Conservation (The Fence, Continued)

June 22, 2011

After two years I am looking back at my fence restoration. There is no evidence of the mess and vacancy of construction. Except for paired nail holes in most of the pickets, the fence looks brand new. In other recycled products, those nail holes are status symbols. I don’t mind them—they are status markers.

I reviewed the original fence restoration article and realized it is unfinished. I was going to add the costs as a comment, but realize there is much more involved than a few numbers. One thing is ego: The proof is in the pudding.

So, we see the rest of the story….

2009 Fence Restoration Cost

Posts: 24 total, including 2 gates, two corners and three end posts. Concrete was used for backfill. Washed pea gravel is an alternate that will extend post life.

4x4x8’ pressure treated fir post = $10.00

One 60lb bag of premix concrete (use the cheapest) for every two posts at: $3.50 per bag.

Rails: 2x4x8’ pressure treated rails were $4.00 each. I needed 4, to finish my fence. To use new rails, I would have needed 84 pieces (3 per 8’ section). I saved $320.

Panel boards (pickets): At $1.50 each (1x4x6’) and 23 per 8-feet of fence section, the fencing is a huge chunk of the overall cost ($4.30 per linear foot). I salvaged all of mine, and 30 feet of a neighbor’s. I saved $860.

Much of the old fence line was on slope, and the panels were somewhat level at the tops. Fence boards ranged from 48-inches to over 6-feet in length. The new fence had 3 sections in the side yard reserved for shorter fence boards. It was a lucky “guestimate”, because I trimmed about six longer boards to finish a short panel section.

Hardware: Included in this cost is all nails, new hinges for gates (use at least 6” hinges), any treatment, and post brackets. Everything is galvanized. Each section of fence has 4 brackets, at $0.40 each. I think I paid around $60 for hardware, and have several pounds of nails remaining. Gates need to be priced individually. Simpson sells short framing nails for hangers. They work great for attaching the brackets to posts, but I used small 6-penny for the rails. The cap-rails had a 12-penny common toe-nailed at each post, which really improved rigidity of the panels. Simpson includes space for this on their post brackets.

Paint: One gallon of latex covered all wood surfaces in 20 linear feet. One face of the fence was previously painted so required much less paint. Estimate one gallon per 15 linear feet of unpainted or previously stained fence (150 sf). Buy good brushes and care for them, as well as the cheap rollers.

Paint at 10 gallons = $23 per gallon.

Concrete precast curbing: Standard HCMU caps at 4x8x16” = $1.25 each. Bricks (2x4x8”) for fill-in = $0.35 each. Since I used old pier blocks from a sunning deck, curbing cost me about $100. If building new, with post spacing at 8-feet, 6 caps plus fill bricks will go post-to-post (one cap aligned at 90-degrees). Concrete post backfill will mess up the estimates.

My posts were at 7-foot spacing, to use salvaged rails, and miss all, but one, of the old buried posts.

Ok, so all this estimating is intended to taut the effectiveness of conserving resources by extending the useable life of a renewable resource that is not sustainable under existing standard repair and maintenance practices. We compare costs of a “new” new fence and one using recovered materials.

We cannot include labor costs in this comparison. Restoration and salvage require an investment of time and labor that exceeds the cost of new material and the labor to construct a new fence. Salvage not only includes the same construction costs, but also, the deconstruction costs and the very labor intensive cost of cleaning salvaged material.

While I was building and wolfing down aspirin, I figured that the $1300, or so, saved in material was costing me two to three times as much in labor and equipment wear.

The comparison:

Restored Fence- $750 for 200 linear feet. Or, $3.75 per foot for a very well-built and long lasting fence.WashingtonStatesales tax is shy of 10%. I paid the tax, so it is wrapped in the material costs.

New Fence-

  1. New pickets- (+) $860
  2. New rails- (+) $320
  3. Gate hardware (closure spring, latch) (+) $45
  4. Disposal of old fencing (est.) – (+) $200
  5. Curbing (28 piers at 12” recycled)- 21 concrete caps at (+) $26
  6. Extra paint- 4 gallons at (+) $92
  7. PLUS (!!!) the costs in the restored fence, which includes only new material- $750?

New Fence Grand Total- $2293 for 200 linear feet. Or, $11.50 per foot for the same fence.

(Note, no labor costs are included. I am a slave to myself.)

The final line, above, says a great deal about human nature and social attitudes. History is rife with cycles of excess and conservation. The Greek civilization actually disappeared for several hundred years and then recovered “glory” (or, opulence). Global economics has always fluctuated.

When demand exceeds supply and turns into need, society will initiate conservation by necessity.  The past few years have witnessed several phrases, and terms for resource thrift, but those terms represent the same thing that has moved civilizations and people and human history for its entire social existence.

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