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Old 10-08-2013, 11:07 AM   #1
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Need help with shady fence installers!


Hi there,

I'm currently having a new fence installed in the backyard and having issues with the quality.

I was referred to them by a client of mine who had them work on their new fence, and was very satisfied with their work.

On one side of the fence we wanted 6x6 PT posts, 7' above ground (as my neighbors have a 1' high deck right on the other side of the fence. The rest of the fence was to be 6' high, 4x4 posts.

The price quoted for the job was around $6200. Once we agreed to the price, they came to start the job by removing the old fence. When the materials were delivered (posts, fence boards), they wanted $3400 deposit. When doing my research, this seemed to be in line with industry standard 50-55%.

Next day, they came with their auger and started to dig the holes. Once dug, they put the posts in. I noticed that many posts were higher than others, and that very few were in fact even close to 4' deep.

Next time they came, they did the concrete. Their method was to pour bags of concrete into the hole, then pour water in afterwards.

A couple of days later, I go to inspect some of the posts and it seemed that a few of them were shaky. A 6x6 corner post was one of the worst. One 4x4 post was so bad that after I shook it, it took 4 seconds to stop shaking. I'm no pro, but I don't think that should happen.

My neighbor approached me that day and told me that he didn't think there was enough concrete in the holes. He showed me one hole that had the concrete 10" below grade. This 12' post was 8.5' out of the ground, so given that this post was 3.5' underground, there was only about 2.5" of cement down there.

When I approached the fence guy all he told me was that that was the way he was taught to do it and over 6 years none have ever failed.

I was at work one day, and my wife calls me up and said they were over doing some work. They weren't scheduled to come that day, so I assumed that the neighbor was trying to remedy. Turns out the neighbor dug the dirt out of the hole and poured his own concrete up to grade!

Now my conundrum is that they're asking for more $. $1000 more. I don't know what to do. Is it normal for a fencing contractor to require 70% when not one fence board has been put up (only posts) ? He claims it is for the rest of the materials.... but I don't know what other materials he needs as everything was delivered on day one and it is still sitting in my driveway 20 days into the job.

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Old 10-08-2013, 12:11 PM   #2
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Need help with shady fence installers!


What does the contract say?

Mine has specific percentages based on the scope of the job.

What you have paid and asked to pay at this stage seems excessive to me.

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Old 10-08-2013, 12:28 PM   #3
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Sorry to hear about your situation. I'm not sure what to tell you about the money. Putting the boards up is, believe it or not, the least difficult part of a fence job. They go up rather quickly. So, I wouldn't use that as a gauge of progress.

I wouldn't expect them to go down 4' for fence footings. Structure footings definitely need to bear below the frost line, but a fence can typically go with the flow when it comes to frost heave. 2-3' depth is pretty standard for a 6-7' fence.

Now, the concrete should come up to grade, but that's mostly because you want to avoid the posts having long term contact with wet soil. The only reason they would stop short is to save on concrete and labor.

Shaky posts. Some level of shakiness is OK. It will remedy itself when the soil compacts around the concrete footing over time. Hard to say how much shakiness at install time is acceptable, but it should not shake for four seconds after pushing it. If they're going short on the concrete (see above), then having them resolve that should take care of the shakiness.
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Old 10-09-2013, 11:01 PM   #4
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Need help with shady fence installers!


The height of the posts varying isn't a problem either. That's a very normal in fence work. The posts are cut to the correct height later on.
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Old 10-10-2013, 10:11 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by jbfan View Post
What does the contract say?

Mine has specific percentages based on the scope of the job.

What you have paid and asked to pay at this stage seems excessive to me.
The only contract was in the form of email conversation. There was no mention of 2nd deposit, only 55% up front. Now he wants more $ because he needs to buy more materials.
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Old 10-10-2013, 10:17 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Msradell View Post
The height of the posts varying isn't a problem either. That's a very normal in fence work. The posts are cut to the correct height later on.

I understand that, but we're not talking a few inches here and there - more like feet (I've attempted to attach a picture - hope it works). Just goes to show the randomness of how deep the posts actually are. I'm in Canada and the frost line is closer to grade than what it might be in many states.
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Old 10-10-2013, 10:28 AM   #7
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Sorry to hear about your situation. I'm not sure what to tell you about the money. Putting the boards up is, believe it or not, the least difficult part of a fence job. They go up rather quickly. So, I wouldn't use that as a gauge of progress.

I wouldn't expect them to go down 4' for fence footings. Structure footings definitely need to bear below the frost line, but a fence can typically go with the flow when it comes to frost heave. 2-3' depth is pretty standard for a 6-7' fence.

Now, the concrete should come up to grade, but that's mostly because you want to avoid the posts having long term contact with wet soil. The only reason they would stop short is to save on concrete and labor.

Shaky posts. Some level of shakiness is OK. It will remedy itself when the soil compacts around the concrete footing over time. Hard to say how much shakiness at install time is acceptable, but it should not shake for four seconds after pushing it. If they're going short on the concrete (see above), then having them resolve that should take care of the shakiness.
Hi there: thanks very much for your detailed response. I understand that the posts are the most laborious part of the job. The issue is that they've already made so many mistakes/shortcuts so I don't feel comfortable giving them more money fearing the final results. Plus it was never mentioned previously that there would be additional installments prior to completion.

Regarding post depth - we're in Ontario Canada so I think the frost line might be higher than many of the states (not sure where you're located). It's recommended up here to be around 3.5'.

When I told the contractor that my neighbor dug the dirt out and put another batch of concrete on top of the original, they said that the frost would get in between the two layers of concrete and cause heave. Is this BS or somewhat true?

The put up 1/4 of the fence yesterday. Not the style I had asked for but that's another thing altogether - I can live with that (barely). It's extremely shaky. More shaky than the previous 20+ year old fence that was previously there.

An extremely bad experience all around. I'm a sad, sad homeowner
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Old 10-10-2013, 10:56 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by paddles View Post

Hi there: thanks very much for your detailed response. [...snip..] (
I think you mean your frost line is lower than most.

As I mentioned, frost line is typically not a concern for fence footings. Movement in the fence due to frost heave is mostly inconsequential.

It certainly is possible, and even likely, that water will seep into the cold joint (boundary of old and new concrete), freeze and cause some heaving. But think about it. The expanding ice in that joint will push down on a footer resting in the ground (that's not going anywhere). It will also push upward on the layer of concrete above the joint, and it probably will heave it up a tiny bit and separate the two sections. So what? IMO, he's giving you grief about a non-issue.

All that said, the difference in posts depths is a bit concerning. It makes it more likely the fence will experience differential movement. This will put stress on the fasteners. Whether that will cause failures or not...time will tell. Fortunately, it is only a fence and that is easily repairable. Just a pain to have that additional maintenance.

Overall, it does sound like these guys are cutting corners. They're probably sensing tension from you and are getting concerned you may withhold final payments. This may explain why they're suddenly asking for more money. I don't know. I do know things can get very challenging when there is tension between a contractor and his customer. Just remember, you have the ability to affect their future business by posting your experience on yelp and other similar sites. If you're not happy with them, let others know. Just be careful and stick to the truth and opinions.
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Old 10-10-2013, 11:04 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by cortell View Post
I think you mean your frost line is lower than most.

As I mentioned, frost line is typically not a concern for fence footings. Movement in the fence due to frost heave is mostly inconsequential.

It certainly is possible, and even likely, that water will seep into the cold joint (boundary of old and new concrete), freeze and cause some heaving. But think about it. The expanding ice in that joint will push down on a footer resting in the ground (that's not going anywhere). It will also push upward on the layer of concrete above the joint, and it probably will heave it up a tiny bit and separate the two sections. So what? IMO, he's giving you grief about a non-issue.

All that said, the difference in posts depths is a bit concerning. It makes it more likely the fence will experience differential movement. This will put stress on the fasteners. Whether that will cause failures or not...time will tell. Fortunately, it is only a fence and that is easily repairable. Just a pain to have that additional maintenance.

Overall, it does sound like these guys are cutting corners. They're probably sensing tension from you and are getting concerned you may withhold final payments. This may explain why they're suddenly asking for more money. I don't know. I do know things can get very challenging when there is tension between a contractor and his customer. Just remember, you have the ability to affect their future business by posting your experience on yelp and other similar sites. If you're not happy with them, let others know. Just be careful and stick to the truth and opinions.
The problem is they don't actually have a business per se. My client recommended the guy to me. He and his worker bee do this in their spare time so even if I did post bad reviews, there's no company/business to name.

I hate to say this because I feel bad about it, but we're selling the house next year so the problems that might arise generally won't be MY problems, but I still feel responsible to build a reasonably good quality of fence for my neighbors and the next owners.
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Old 10-10-2013, 11:13 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by paddles View Post
The problem is they don't actually have a business per se. My client recommended the guy to me. He and his worker bee do this in their spare time so even if I did post bad reviews, there's no company/business to name.

I hate to say this because I feel bad about it, but we're selling the house next year so the problems that might arise generally won't be MY problems, but I still feel responsible to build a reasonably good quality of fence for my neighbors and the next owners.
Well, I'm sorry to point out the obvious, but take this as a lesson learned. Never use a contractor or business based solely on recommendations. Thousands of people get screwed that way every year. Just watch the HGTV and DIY networks. Use companies that are registered with the BBB and have little to no complaints (disregard the rating, though). Avoid companies that have numerous bad online reviews and take the good reviews with a grain of salt. If a contractor/company has no trackable history, beware.

Fortunately, your mistake here is not horrible. At the end of the day, it's a fence. It may not be built to high standards, but it's not the end of the world. People get themselves into much bigger trouble with home renovations.

Best of luck!
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Old 10-10-2013, 11:39 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by cortell View Post
Well, I'm sorry to point out the obvious, but take this as a lesson learned. Never use a contractor or business based solely on recommendations. Thousands of people get screwed that way every year. Just watch the HGTV and DIY networks. Use companies that are registered with the BBB and have little to no complaints (disregard the rating, though). Avoid companies that have numerous bad online reviews and take the good reviews with a grain of salt. If a contractor/company has no trackable history, beware.

Fortunately, your mistake here is not horrible. At the end of the day, it's a fence. It may not be built to high standards, but it's not the end of the world. People get themselves into much bigger trouble with home renovations.

Best of luck!

Cortell, I really appreciate your input here. It's nice to have the reassurance from an outside source that perhaps I am overreacting just a little bit, and it is in fact, not the end of the world. All the best.

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