When my partner, Matt, and I moved to The Heights last July, we intentionally bought a house that didn't need a lot of renovation. We knew we didn't have the patience for such an endeavor (but kudos to all of you who do!).
However, our house did need a fence to close off the backyard. Simple enough, right? Somehow it's taken us 14 months to undertake and complete one measly fence.
Even though we had every intention of prioritizing the fence for our beloved bloodhound, life seemed to get in the way. First, Hurricane Ike gave us some other problems to deal with. Then, our cars were stolen and we had to scrounge together some money to cover our deductibles and purchase new ones.
Plus, we just had some general indecision about it. Initially, we thought we wanted a wood and wire fence. Do you know the ones I'm talking about? The wood frames the hog paneling. We got two quotes for the type of fence we wanted, but we were skeptical about how stable that type of fence would be for the ten-foot gate that needed to stretch across our driveway. Additionally, I worried that our bloodhound--who happens to be obsessed with little dogs who pass by our house--would annoy the entire neighborhood with his deep baying. It seemed better to block his view. We were back to square one.
We did what we always do when we want to change or add something to our house: We drove around the neighborhood with a camera to get some ideas from other bungalow owners. That's how we got the idea that we might like a horizontal fence (see above photos).
We got two quotes on horizontal fencing and quickly learned that it's not recommended by official fence builders. They argue that it's just not as effective as a vertical fence, especially in the case of a gate. We decided to prioritize aesthetics over function in this case, since we don't need to open our gate very often.
We asked AZTEC Castings to build an iron frame for us. After they finished the iron frame, we lived with a gate that looked more like a sculpture for several months (classic dragging-our-feet-on-this-project). Finally, we found a carpenter to add the wood slats. The slats are a quarter of an inch apart, so there is a good balance between privacy and openness.
In the end, we are very happy with our fence.
It prompted me to share this List of Advice for Undertaking Home Improvement Projects (which includes things we did and did not do):
- Ride around the neighborhood with a camera to get ideas. Sure, it looks sketchy, but it's worth it. There are a lot of design-savvy homeowners in our neighborhood. Borrow their ideas and apply them to your own house! If necessary, knock on the door to ask clarifying questions or leave a note. Our neighbors are overwhelmingly friendly, welcoming, and helpful.
- Ask neighbors for recommendations. A lot of neighbors helped us think through this decision. Some of them had thought through similar decisions, so they were able to provide the pros and cons of different options. Other neighbors had worked with different companies and were able to give us specific recommendations. That's how we found a carpenter to put on the wood slats for only $270 bucks!
- Turn a big project into smaller action steps. If I just write "get a fence" on my action plan, I'm likely to ignore it because it's too daunting. Instead, I have to break it down into smaller action steps: 1) drive around the neighborhood to get ideas 2) call three companies for estimates, etc. Also, it helps to assign specific deadlines for each action step. Our fence would have been finished a lot earlier if I had done just that...
- Keep a prioritized list of home-improvement projects. The number of projects that we should and want to do to our house can be overwhelming. It helps to keep a centralized list of our ideas and to constantly prioritize and reprioritize the list as new ideas get added.