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Fence With Dancing Pickets

We wanted a new fence that blends traditional elements with a bit of contemporary.
Also: pickets close enough to discourage the many neighborhood cats so our older cat (18 years!) didn't have to defend her territory all the time.
Our initial inspiration -- getting rid of the old fence.
Out with the old! Really easy because all the posts were rotten, even though they were cedar.
Our neighbor Gary helped find locations for new posts. What a great neighbor! We avoided the concrete from the old posts to save on digging. That bushy thing is the remains of a giant pampas grass—we pulled it out with a truck.
Sometimes nature doesn't cooperate with post hole locations. Most established plants can take cutting a few roots, but we carefully evaluated before severing major roots. I'd rather move the hole location a bit if possible.
All the posts are in — very exciting stage of fence building! We used pressure-treated 4x4s rated for ground contact.
We fooled around with lots of designs. Traditional designs and repeating patterns just seemed too ordinary. So we hit on the idea of randomly varying the picket heights.
We used 2x2 cedar for pickets and a solid stain. I toyed with the idea of two rails to carry the pickets, but then went with three -- a 2x2 out in the open is sure to move around, and a third rail adds a lot of stiffness. I ripped the middle rail down to 2 1/2 inches wide so it wouldn't look too bulky.
We beveled the tops of the pickets to shed water. Here's a close look at the random design. We made 3 lengths and I installed them about 1 inch apart. Gotta love nail guns! Passersby say it looks like musical notes.
A very traditional round-top gate makes a good balance with the random pickets. Rails always go on the owner's side—that's good fence etiquette. More good fence etiquette tips: http://goo.gl/9YQB04
Not done yet! My brother-in-law Phil said we needed a copper roof for our gate, so he took measurements and from 2,000 miles away sent us a copper-topper that he'd made. Fits great! Thanks Phil! It was shiny copper, so we gave it a patina with a vinegar, salt, and water solution.
The gate arch was designed to mimic the entry of our house.
One more touch—a string of solar-powered lights hung under the gate arch adds a bit of sparkle at night.
  • Deirdre Sullivan
    Deirdre Sullivan
    on Mar 10, 2015

    Beautiful fence!

  • Lisa Kaplan Gordon
    Lisa Kaplan Gordon Mc Lean, VA
    on Mar 10, 2015

    John, it's gorgeous. What a great idea to vary the heights. What do the neighbors think?

    • John Riha
      John Riha Ashland, OR
      on Mar 10, 2015

      @Lisa Kaplan Gordon They all seem to like it, of course they're all too polite to diss it if they don't -- but lots of positives!

  • Libby Walker
    Libby Walker Chicago, IL
    on Mar 10, 2015

    Love the gate arch!

  • Barrett etc
    Barrett etc Grafton, WI
    on Mar 10, 2015


  • Barb Rosen
    Barb Rosen Wilmington, DE
    on Mar 10, 2015

    That is a wonderful, inviting entrance as well as creating a safer place for your sweet kitty!

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