This weekend, we took on our first major home project since moving in to our home in 2010. We have about 350ft. of fence on our property that was old, rotten and falling over. For the past two years, I have been putting up patch boards to keep the fence up so our dog would stop visiting the neighbors without us. We had planned on rebuilding the fence our first summer that we moved in, but decided we needed to get settled first and save some money up. The next spring, we starting planning for the fence replacement again only to find out we were pregnant and needed to NOT SPEND MONEY until we figured out our financial plan moving forward. This year, we were finally ready.
As Always, Start With a Plan
If there’s one major theme to any project or activity you decide to do, it’s that you must start with a plan. Your project will go 1000x smoother if you break it down and plan out each phase. You will also save yourself TIME AND MONEY! For our fence, we started by plotting out our current fence on paper, counting how many sections we had and writing down a rough estimate measurement of each side. We then discussed what we wanted our new fence to look like. We actually started by looking at fences on Pinterest.com. This has been a great resource for us planning many of our projects! We were able to see what fence we liked and my wife would pin those to her board. We could then compare them side-by-side to see which one we liked best. We decided instead of 1×4 boards we wanted 1×6 boards. And we wanted to have a 2×4 on the top of the boards for protection and style. Once we had our pattern selected, it was time to put together a list of materials.
Build a List of Materials and Tools
We took our new pattern and broke it down into 8ft. sections to start our materials list. We figured out how many boards and posts we needed and then multiplied that by how many 8ft. sections we were going to need. We then added in the gate hardware to finish off our materials list.
Hint: Always over-order the amount of materials you will need for a project, especially building a fence. Make sure to check with your lumber supplier, but you should be able to return any extra pieces that you didn’t use or that were bad. I suggest ordering 10-15% more than you need and returning what you do not use. This will ensure you have enough GOOD MATERIALS to finish and you can still get your money back for the extras.
Once you have a materials list, you also need to come up with a list of tools for the project. Having the right tools will make the difference between accomplishing your project on time or giving up in frustration and having your project drag on for months. We got most of our list by watching a “how-to” build a fence video from Home Depot. They started by showing all of the suggested tools need to complete the job. We copied this down and then started to ask people who had built fences if there was anything else we needed. This was a HUGE help because it came straight from people with experience doing exactly what we were about to do. Not only did they help us complete our tools list, but they also had time-saving tips and tricks to help us complete our project with less hassles!
Hint: I suggest watching a few “how-to” videos online to train yourself for your upcoming project. We went through about 5 of them and gleaned what we needed to feel confident in our skills to complete this project. Also, make sure to TALK TO PEOPLE who have done this to gain from their experience. The most valuable information we received was ‘what not to do” and “what to watch out for” when building a fence.
Set a Budget For Your Project
Of course I had to bring it back to budgets! You need to do this BEFORE YOU BUY ANYTHING for your project. If you start gather tools and materials only to find that you don’t have enough money to complete the project, you will either end up in debt or live in a construction zone indefinitely. AND NOBODY WANTS THAT! Trust me, setting up your budget ahead of time will keep your stress level to a minumum and help guide all of your buying decisions for your project. We had eyeball’d prices on lumber and put together an estimate for ourselves in the past. Based on our new pattern, we knew it was pretty close to our past estimates we had gathered. We took that number and added about 15% to make sure we had a little wiggle room. We already had savings for this project, so we set aside the amount we needed and started to purchase the materials.
I suggest pricing it out at a few different places to get an average price for your materials. We used Home Depot and Lowes for base prices, and then my dad got a quote from a lumber company he used to work at who got us better pricing for most of the fence materials, except the cedar boards. We ended up buying everything but the cedar boards from my dad’s old company and purchasing the cedar from Home Depot. We also rented the post-hole auger and nail guns from Home Depot as well. I recommend shopping all prices by Home Depot to make sure you’re not overpaying for any part of the project.
Plan Out Labor and Time
My suggestion for getting something like our fence project done in one weekend is as follows:
- Be born into a family with big dudes who can carry stuff
- Marry into a family that also has big dudes who can carry stuff
- Pizza and beer
We were fortunate enough to have family and friends who were ready to help and had some construction know-how. They also happened to be big, strong dudes. This is great when hauling heavy wood posts and 60lb. bags of concrete all over the yard. To ensure they were available, I sent out invites over Facebook about a month in advance of the project. I then verbally confirmed several times with each of them to make sure they were still on board. We ended up having 6 people each day to help get this project done. I suggest that you find some good friends/family that are willing to do anything for pizza and beer and that love you enough to just want to help.
You should also plan our your activities on a realistic timeline. We had planned to have our old fence down and posts set the first day, then to nail up the boards on the second day. We ended up having our old fence down in 50 minutes and then set posts the rest of the day. Setting posts took a lot longer than I anticipated, so I was glad we had almost all day to get it done. We also got a late start the next day, but it was less labor-intensive so we were able to finish nailing up the boards by evening.
Hint: Make sure you plan time for contingencies in your original timeline. Nailing up the boards we much slower than expected due to uneven ground and not being able to find the right nails for a while. Luckily I had the whole day open just for nailing boards. If I had planned the trim work and hanging gates as well, we would have not reached our goal and would have been stressed out the entire time. Make sure to leave room for adjustments to your schedule.
You’re now ready to take our your next home project. I hope my experience has helped some of you see how planning a project properly can save your time, your wallet and your sanity! Here’s some before/after pictures of our fence adventure!
Comments: Does anyone have any fun upcoming home projects? Anyone just finish a home project? Anyone still living in a construction zone due to poor planning? Let me know your experiences and how you saved money on YOUR project!
Disclosure: There is an affiliate link in here for Home Depot. We had great success with them for fence boards, hardware and tool rental, I definitely recommend them. I do receive a commission if you purchase through my link, as always, I appreciate the support 🙂