damage control

Superstorm Sandy brought mostly wind to our area a few weeks ago, and blew the gate of our aging back yard fence off its hinges. Like many other things at our rented bungalow, this fence was badly designed and poorly built to begin with. The gates were constructed to just rest against the outside of the house, with no way to latch shut. They sag and swing and bang in the wind, damaging the siding in the process. I’d been wanting to make this repair for a long time, but put it off knowing it was not going to be a simple or quick one. The storm damage made it impossible to ignore anymore.
One of the damaged gates

The repair involved removing the old gate and salvaging all of the pickets. They were mostly unbroken and I am cheap environmentally conscious enough to spend the time pulling nails out rather than spending $15 on new ones. There were somehow two 4×4 posts still managing to inadequately support the old gate. Both of those had to be taken out. I worked my way along the span of fence that the gate attaches to, reinforcing it and bringing it back to square. That made a big difference in the stability of the new gate. I replaced the 4×4 gate post and built a new, lighter frame for the gate itself, sized to keep it from hitting the house. I splurged on some beefy galvanized (rust-proof) hinges, a big step up from the old interior door hinges. I bolted some pressure treated lumber to the foundation of the house to give the gate something to latch onto and added a handle to the gate which was conspicuously missing from the old one.

New gate, quality test performed by Elvis

This was not a project I was looking forward to, and the longer I put it off the more it nagged at me. It woke me at night, slapping against the bedroom wall. It made me cringe with embarassment when we’d have people over for a fire in the yard. I’ve never built or repaired a fence so this challenged my confidence in my self-taught abilities, but not as much as the idea of hiring someone for a repair like this challenged my pride. A little research, common sense, grunt work and the right tools and materials made things go well enough. It turned out to be as cold and time-consuming but not as difficult as I expected. And in the end, when the work was done and the tools picked up, I had not only a fixed gate but also a more peaceful back yard and a big pile of scraps for our next fire.

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