When the world as we knew it came to a screeching halt in March, I fully braced for what I assumed would be a cessation of all construction related activity. I was really surprised to see many large box stores remaining open and even more surprised that the pandemic has largely increased the demand for construction projects. Initially this was a good problem to have but as increased demand outpaced suppliers ability to supply materials, a new problem has emerged. In our region, a significant lumber shortage has been ongoing, making sourcing material very difficult while driving up prices for wood products.
The last installation I completed required multiple calls a day to suppliers for over a week until I was finally able to find enough pickets to complete the installation. With this difficulty, I am looking to focus on smaller projects over this summer. I am able to store a smaller quantity of materials at my home to build gates and make small fence repairs out of my inventory that I can replenish as I am able to source the material.
If you have a leaning fence, need fence post replaced or would like to replace or repair a gate, I hope you will consider contacting me today!
The Peace of Wild Things
By Wendell Berry
"When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."
The past couple of months have felt as a blur. Winter has proven to be a slow and challenging time of year to do any outdoor work, particularly relating to digging and pouring concrete. I originally had plans to work my two part time EMS jobs over the winter and resume fence work once the weather improved. However, I found that I would receive a slow but steady stream of requests for both installs and repairs that I mangled to support ourselves over the winter with little supplemental employment. With each client that contacted me about work during this time of year, I made sure to be forthright about my scheduling being at the mercy of the weather, particularly when concrete is involved. I found that every customer I did work for this winter was both very understanding and appreciative which has made this slow season a joy. Pictured below is a collection of photos highlighting the fence projects I completed this winter.
The slower winter season has brought with it more time with my family and time to pursue other activities that are of value to us. Though we lived on a tight budget, we stayed with in our means. Some of the personal projects I decided to tackle this winter included building our boys loft beds, a wood shed, removed a textured ceiling and painting the boys room, built bird feeders and a "Little Free Library" (still in progress) and helped with a neighborhood project that involved local children painting plywood signs with messages to help remind drivers to slow down. In addition to the projects, I also visited a Trappist monastery with a good friend, found time to both journal and write more as well as reading books by C.S Lewis and Thomas Merton as well as getting our oldest son hooked on the Harry Potter series. My wife Kaitlyn and I celebrated our 9 year anniversary in December and found out with much excitement that we are expecting a girl, baby #3 to be due on August 5th! Needless to say, winter this year has been busy but the busyness has centered largely around those I love and hold close. For the first time in my life, I feel that I have finally placed work and life into balance, my only hope is that I can maintain this balance as work increases this spring and summer. Pictured below is a series of pictures of life at home this winter.
As the ground thaws and daffodils bloom, I have noticed a sharp increase in calls for estimates. Currently, I have work scheduled till the middle of April which is both intimidating and exciting. Intimidating as I do not want to stretch myself to far, I only want be busy insomuch as I can provide for our needs and perform quality work while taking the time to know my customers. As I grow as a business owner, I am learning. Often by struggle, how to juggle the constant flow of calls and emails.
My goals for 2018 are to fill my schedule with a mix of new installation and repairs. Currently, I schedule a group of repairs between my installations so that I can focus all my attention on the install until its completed. I plan to take about a week off in May for a family vacation and then schedule full month of work in June. For July I plan to only take on small projects and repairs as I will need flexibility with Kaitlyn's due date of August 5th. I then plan to take most of August off and resume with a full schedule (I hope) in September through the remainder of the year.
If you're interested in hiring me, I hope you will send me an email or call. I am currently only working with wood and have limitations as to the size of the project (I have no employees so it must be something I can do in a reasonable time without help). I will make every effort to be transparent about my scheduling, costs and details of the project. Even if you're not interested in hiring me, I would value any feedback as to the website, blog and business.
Thanks for reading!
The process of repairing a fence starts first with assessing the damage to determine the cause of failure. Oftentimes the failure started out with human factors, such as a vehicle or other large object striking the fence causing it to be pushed out of level. The gravitational pull placed on a post is increased for every degree the post is out of level (plumb), combined with changing seasons with the freeze/thaw cycles, this process of leaning or sagging accelerates rapidly. Once a single post is sagging, the force of the fence stresses the surrounding posts causing an entire fence to start leaning.
Fences also fail, unfortunately, due to human error during installation. Inadequate post depth, improper pouring of concrete, to little concrete and placement of post in obvious places of drainage all contribute to premature failure of fence posts.
Fence posts need a minimum depth of 28-30" for a 6' tall privacy fence and 24" for 4' tall fences. The post hole needs to be round and consistent diameter surrounding the post and ideally contain a "bell" shape at the bottom of the post hole. Common mistakes while digging post holes include inadequate depth and a "carrot" shaped hole thats wider at the top than the bottom which creates a weaker post thats more prone to leaning.
The process of replacing posts is straight forward, requiring only attention to detail and manual labor. The first step is to always call 811 to have any underground utilities located. It never ceases to amaze me how many wires and cables are ran mere inches from the fence. Cutting a buried utility carries hefty fines that can be avoided by simply exercising due diligence by using the free 811 service.
My process is then to brace any leaning panels to prevent them from falling before carefully detaching the panels from the damaged post. I typically use a metal blade on a reciprocating saw to cut the nails or screws to avoid having to use prying tools that can damage the 2x4 supports. Once the panels are detached, I dig a hole beside the exiting post until I reach the bottom of the post, I then carefully pry the concrete plug out of the ground. If the concrete plug will not move, I will then break it by using a sledge hammer and remove the individual chunks of concrete.
Once the damaged post is removed, I run a string that is attached to the remaining good post. I then place a new post, set to the proper depth and have it lined up to the string while using a level to ensure its completely plumb on all sides. Concrete is then poured, filling the entire hole and surrounding the post. Once the concrete has cured (2-3 days for regular concrete, 4 hours for "Fast setting" concrete), a string is ran along the top of the fence and the panels attached with the tops following the top of the string to ensure consistent flow of the top pickets.
Replacing fence post constitutes the greatest percentage of repairs that we make. The process as outlined in this blog post is very straight forward and can be accomplished by the willing homeowner with the most basic of tools and a willingness to get dirty. If you would like a quote from the 'Fence Medic', we would love to look at your project and provide a free quote. We take pride in maintaining a clean job-site, we want the only sign of our presence being a strong, straight fence!
The amount of waste in our society is both staggering and shockingly unnecessary. Everything from the packaging that the products we as consumers buy to the design of vehicles, phones and computers all centers around a set service life before needing to be replaced and tossed into the trash. The only persons benefiting from this "system" are the corporations profiting, those who pay the price are we the consumers and those whom will ultimately be responsible for dealing with the aftermath of this system will be our children.
Pictured here is a project I am really proud of, a railing made from old climbing rope and scrap 4x4 posts. This loft area is in a shed I built over the winter, the loft will be a play area for our children and I wanted something to clearly define the edge but still allow me to slide boxes, toys and scrap lumber into the loft as needed. I notched the old 4x4 post to sit securely on the floor and then bolted them with carriage bolts. I drilled holes at measured intervals to run the rope through and then tightened the rope. It does not budge when I put all my body weight onto it. I also have my hangboard mounted on the edge of the loft for a quick climbing workout.
While I am a sucker for anything I can repurpose, I always use new material for my fence installations and repairs. I want the fences I build and repair to last and not be disposed of a few years down the road. With this mindset, I work hard to take extra steps to prevent my gates from sagging (see blog post below about strong gates!) and maintain a picky attitude when sorting through lumber for a new installation. While its not likely that I am going to change the world anytime soon with my dumpster diving tendencies, I do hope I can inspire at least one person to think twice about what they put into the landfill and have a little fun creating something artistic and functional along the way. Pictured below is a gable window I bought from the Habitat for Humanity Restore here in Lexington. It was a $20 square window that I installed on its diagonal edge, creating a unique window that fit perfectly with the 45 degree pitch of the roof and faces east, allowing the morning sun to shine into my workshop.
I will finally conclude this rather lengthly update with that which truly matters. Life with those we love. As I learn and grow as an individual, I slowly learn, most often from my mistakes, that its the seemingly little and insignificant elements of life that we will one day reflect upon and esteem as the most precious. I have found a lot of happiness in working hard, learning a craft that I can apply my own artistic style to while running my own business. Ultimately, these fences will one day fall down, someone will come back and build atop of what I constructed and haul it away to the dump. So also will our children grow, our parents age as this present day fades away. What truly matters, I do believe, is not what we do with our careers insomuch as what we do with our hearts, our time, our love. The most important career objective I have is to stay small enough to never detract from what truly matters!
Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains."
The vehicle graphics were finished at the perfect time on Friday. I am working my last full time shift at the hospital on Saturday before going to part time status and becoming 'The Fence Medic' full time. I have a small job planned for Monday and Tuesday of next week and plan to work with Mike Watkins, owner of 'The Fence Guy of Louisville' later next week to help him get caught up on a few jobs. If you have any fence or gate projects that you would like help with, please consider contacting me. I am licensed and insured, I offer a generous warranty for new installation and will do whatever it takes to build a reputation for doing quality and honest work!
If I said I was not afraid, I would be totally lying. Fact is, its 1:30 AM and I am sitting at my messy desk entering receipts and numbers for the month of June. The house sleeps, even Cami, our chocolate lab gave up waiting on me and retired to her bed. Why am I doing this if I am so afraid? I have asked myself these questions nearly everyday of my life. I recall climbing a rock wall for the first time when I was 8 years old at Kings Island. It looked incredible, until I was 20 feet up and nearly went catatonic with fear and begged to be lowered. That rock wall stayed on my mind and I wanted so badly to try it again. Though I have always been terrified of heights, I kept climbing every chance I could find and found that the majority of my fears were not based on actuality but rather imagination.
A few weeks ago I was climbing a classic Red River Gorge climb called “Bed Time for Bonzo” with my good friend Tim. About 100 feet up, the route made a turn onto a ledge before following a crack to the summit. Once on the ledge, I stopped and looked down and I froze with fear. My hands started trembling, I wedged a piece of protection into the crack and then I shoved another cam behind it. I stayed on the ledge too long, the longer I stood the more rampant my imagination ran about the trajectory my falling body would take if all my anchors failed or my rope broke. I imagined myself breaking my neck, shattering my spine, puncturing a lung before going unconscious. The mental imagery became really awful as I thought about how my wife and children would react in my fictional mental situation. I then stopped my destructive train of thought and looked at the incredible sunset to my back that I was neglecting. I took a deep breath and reflected on the reality that my probability of having an accident would be greatly increased by attempting to retreat downward. In the words of Robert Frost, “The only way out is through”, so I took the gear I had left, I leaned back and climbed upward off the ledge and 5 minutes later I was at the top. I put Tim on belay and a few moments later we watched as the sun disappeared in a sea of orange clouds as the valley floor below us slowly covered with fog.
Climbing has afforded me this moment and so many more like it that I simply won’t ever forget. So why am I doing this? Why am I walking away from a reliable paycheck, job security, retirement and everything that just makes sense? Because life is precious, its short and I want to live to see the view from the top, even if I am terrified. I want the freedom to have just a few more minutes with my kids. I want to work hard with my hands, I want to build our own reality, our own dreams. What if it all crashes down? What if the phone does not ring and jobs don’t come? What if I make mistakes and fail? What happens if I mess up our taxes? What about the things that I know I should be worried about but I don’t know what they are yet? These are all thoughts that I have at 1:30 am and maybe I am wrong, crazy or delusional but I feel strangely confident that Frost is right, the only way out is to simply push through this.