'Good fences...'

maureenbeeMay 19, 2006

I live in town and my backyard neighbor is building a new shop in his yard to better facilitate his welding/mechanic work. I suspect he described it as a garage in order to get approval from the Code officer. Anyhow, I'm happy for him, but I feel it's time to amend my friendly little picket fence with something taller and denser. As things now stand, I'm in a 'fishbowl' since neighbor removed the natural vegatative screen on his property to build his shop. I don't think I have it in me to replace the current 4' posts on my picket fence with the 6'ers needed to hang taller, stockade type panels; I know I don't. What I'm considering doing is attaching panels of bamboo/reed mat to the current fence structure. Somehow.

My questions are: Can anyone envision my idea? Anyone willing to comment on the aesthetics of this idea? The best method of attaching screen panels to the picket fence (I would want to hang them on the inner side of the fence, the post side of the fence)? Does anyone know of a Maine location that sells bamboo/reed type screens? The one garden center close to me (Plants Unlimited) that carries them is $$$.

I would greatly appreciate any input. I've been mulling this over for the past couple of weeks, and negotiations are stalled. Oh, and I've also thought of planting a lilac hedge--or something--on the inside of the fence, but I think I might need an even denser screen; and, my yard is a postage stamp; I'm not prepared to give up my wee real estate to a wall of shrubbery.

Thanks in advance--


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maineman(z5a ME)


Does your neighbor have any kind of fence on his property? Also, does your present picket fence afford any kind of privacy as far as it goes? I have seen picket fences with enough space between pickets that they weren't really privacy fences, even if they were 6 or 8 feet tall.

I'm personally not enthusiastic about the idea of attaching bamboo or reed mat to your current picket fence. It probably will look "tacky" on your neighbor's side, and it may not be very durable for you.

If your current posts are 4x4s, there are metal brackets for extending 4x4 posts. That would get your posts higher without the expense of setting new posts. Are your present posts in reasonably good condition?

I would forget about planting a hedge. It would take awhile for it to grow and it would waste a lot of space in your yard.

Have you considered getting your neighbor to share the expense of a jointly owned fence? After all, his questionably legal project is responsible for your current privacy predicament.

Do you suspect your neighbor will be operating a welding/mechanic business from his back yard? If so, what is that going to do for your quality of life? A machine shop can generate noise, and welding can generate fumes. Do you suspect that your neighbor is going to violate, or already is violating, your residential zoning code? It's a good idea to have good relations with your neighbors, but at what price? You may have to stand up for your rights.

If a backyard business is a potential problem, have you discussed this with other nearby neighbors? You may not be the only household that is harmed by your neighbor's activities.

With respect to fencing suggestions, do you have a picture of your present fence and property line that you could post?

You might be interested in this article on Extending A Privacy Fence With Wood Lattice Panels.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 2:04AM
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Thanks for the link to the above average article. Of course there are extension brackets available; obviously, I haven't begun to do my homework on this. Sistering a new four foot section would be my choice over the brackets. The current 4' tall posts are set 4' in the ground. They are solid enough to withstand being yarned on by me; however, a few have heaved slightly over the past couple of years, and this is a major concern. Begin to hear that I'm whining about the obvious work ahead of me?

Thank you for offering the much needed opine on the reed/bamboo panel idea. I knew it was silly, but needed to hear it from someone else.

The one thing I wish I had--a digital camera.

Welder neighbor might consider helping panel the section our properties meet. I should consider asking him. As for his grinding and banging, and the putrid stench of burning flux, bottom paint, and occasionally, polyester resin on the air, the bottom line is: I hate conflict; I am the only one in the 'hood who is ever bothered by anything (everyone else has air conditioners in the summer and TV's in the winter). I am where I am, and I need to create a microcosm on the inside of a fence. And not a bamboo/reed fence.

Thank you. I'll keep you posted, if you will.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 8:11AM
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maineman(z5a ME)


"...I'll keep you posted, if you will."

No pun intended???

"The current 4' tall posts are set 4' in the ground."

This is Maine, but that sounds pretty deep. Are they set in concrete, or just buried that deep in a posthole?

There are "free standing" framed fence panels that you could attach to your existing 4-foot posts. You could probably go up to 6 feet high that way.

Incidentally, you mentioned your neighbor getting approval from the Code Officer. You probably will need to get some sort of permit for your fence project as well.

A good many years ago in Fort Worth, I put in a concrete retaining wall with an embedded 6-foot steel chain link fence, and I needed to submit detailed plans to the City Engineer for a building permit. I thought my plans were pretty well thought out but, in fact, he disapproved my original plans. They used ¼" rebars, and I had to upgrade them to ½" rebars. That quadrupled the amount of steel I had to buy. Fortunately, back then, rebars were pretty cheap.

"The one thing I wish I had--a digital camera."

They've got some pretty decent ones now for under a hundred bucks.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 2:56PM
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The posts are set in 4' deep hand dug holes, which were then back filled and packed tightly as possible with the clay and large rocks they had displaced. I followed an old timer's suggestion on the depth. It was an unforgettable life experience; the latest chapter is shaping up to be yet another.

Good point regarding the permit for the new fence work. In fact, the current fence was built sans permit. I shamefully applied for one after the fence was completed; all was fine as the property pins were in good order, and I had come inboard of my line by one foot. However, I will make a visit to the Code guru before I do whatever it is I am going to do this time.

Which brings me to another topic: trees. Trees, when considered in the context of in-town spaces, should be considered, in my mind, (at least potentially) architectural structures. Backyard welder neighbor aside, east side neighbor has a clump of untended Maples that have achieved heavenly proportions. They stand/lean about five feet inboard of neihbor's stockade, and top out at roof height with my two-story house. They are growing into the side of my house, and their limbs are resting on my roof. Their greatest achievement is that they have sought out my woodstove pipe and grown to within five feet of it. I'm looking at having to hire a bucket truck pruning crew to come tame these rascals. Any idea what the hourly rate for this will be? Please, don't tell me... Why is it folks can plant (or in this case, allow to grow in a tangled clump as they choose, where they choose) trees so durn close to a property line--when it is inevitable that they will sooner or later affect their neighbor's space/structure/safety? Am I suggesting tree permits???

Sounds more and more like I need to own my own horizon, eh?

Thanks for the links to the digital cameras. When I'm back in the black, I'll definitely be making a purchase.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 6:56AM
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maineman(z5a ME)


Your town may have ordinances governing your tree situation. Limbs resting on your roof can rub on it enough to cause leaks. The limbs also provide easy access to your roof by squirrels, which can also do damage.

But before you invest money for the services of an arborist crew (which probably will amount to hundreds of dollars or even more), determine whether your neighbor is legally responsible for the damages caused by his trees and determine whatever restrictions those ordinances might place on you.

I would expect that you would have the right to remove any limbs that overhang your property, but local laws can have some funny quirks. Maybe your neighbor is responsible for removing those limbs.

We haven't had to deal yet with the legalities of trees and property boundaries because the lots in our semirural area are rather large, even though we are within the town boundaries. This property is about 3.95 acres and all of its boundaries with neighboring lots (some of which are very much larger) are in unused wooded areas.

I don't know how your town's ordinances will read, but hopefully your neighbor bears some responsibility for the damage his trees are causing to your property. It doesn't seem right that you should pay a big expense to fix his trees.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 11:53AM
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