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Pallet zig zag fence with multiple yields

 
master steward
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
2017
hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
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We built a multi purpose fence last year and it's time for an update.  We wanted a fence that would:
  • Block the view into the neighbor's back yard
  • Replicate the wind blocking that the pine trees are doing (they are thinning out down by the ground)
  • Keep deer, rabbits and dogs out
  • Create sun scoops for warmer microclimates
  • Be very cheap
  • Look prettyish

  • We can get loads of pallets from a local company that are 6' long by 32" wide.  I traded some labor for a bunch of cedar posts.  So for the cost of a hundred exterior screws and some chicken wire, we built a fence.  I could go into construction details if needed.

    By filling in the gaps in the pallets with other pallet wood, the deer can't see through it.  So even though it's only 6' high, they don't jump it.  It also really blocks the wind.  Now that the snow is receding, the sun scoop effect is really apparent.  The fence runs E/W.

    I'm going to plant some arborvitae on the north side of the fence in the zigs.  That way they can grow up and further block wind.  Also, the pines are on my neighbor's side of the line so if he cuts them down, I'd still have higher wind protection.
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    master pollinator
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    Mike Jay wrote: I could go into construction details if needed.



    By all means.  

    I really like this build.
     
    Mike Haasl
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    hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
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    I wish I took pictures as I went...  Hopefully this one photo from a distance will help make it a bit more clear.  I started by laying out the property line with string.  Then I jumped 1' over onto my side of the line and laid out where the North posts would go.  I post hole dug through the turf and then used a post hole auger to go down 3'.  I dropped the cedar posts in the holes and I backfilled them as close to vertical as I could.  Due to the taper of the posts, the South side is intentionally more plumb than the North side.

    I then set a pair of pallets in place for the zig and zag from the north posts to find the position for the south post.  That told me about where the south post should go so I moved the pallets away a bit and dug that hole oversized and dropped the post in.  Then I attached the two lower pallets to the three posts.  After that I backfilled and tamped the south posts.  I figured it was much easier to let the pallets dictate the position of the post than it would be to put the post in place and hope the pallets meet up nicely to the post.  A chainsaw was needed to knock knobs and stubs off of the cedar posts to get a better connection between the pallet and the post.

    Since the fence is going up a slight grade, I made sure the uphill end of each pallet was at least 2" off the ground.  The pallets are screwed on with 3.5" deck screws, 2-3 on each end of the pallet.

    By doing the zig zag this way, the posts don't have to be exceedingly well anchored to hold the fence very well in place.  I'm pretty sure a car could nose up to the fence and gun it without pushing the fence over.

    After getting the lower pallets all installed, it was short work to put the upper pallets on them and attach them.  Other than their 120+ lb weight.

    Since we didn't want to piss off the neighbor, we put the pretty side towards them.  So the missus then took some pallet wood that she had harvested in the past and patched up the gaps in the pallets so it's nearly solid wood on both sides.

    Lastly, we dug out a small trench under the south edge of the fence.  I cut a strip of chicken wire about a foot wide and stapled it to the south face of the pallets and stuffed it underground a bit to keep the bunnies out.
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    Trace Oswald
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    Thanks for the details.  It really is a great fence.  Clearly, I need a ready source of pallets.
     
    Mike Haasl
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    Yes, pallets are a great resource.  These are odd ball ones that a local factory receives goods on.  Then they put them in a pile for the community to use.  None of us know why they don't just ship them back to be reused.  They're very heavy duty but an odd size.  I've met at least three people who heat their houses all winter with them.
     
    Trace Oswald
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    My brother has an A-frame cabin and he covered the entire ceiling (walls?) with them, and then did the floor.  It turned out beautifully.  I love pallet projects.
     
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    Location: Nashville, TN
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    Great work Mike, I really love it! and I'm sure that It would look more beautiful with arborvitae!
     
    Mike Haasl
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    Thanks!  I extended the fence this summer about 120 more feet.  But since the space was more limited, I kept the fence straight for that section.  Getting round tapered posts of varying diameters to end up giving you a fence that is straight and vertical is a bit tricky.  My solution was to run a string line where the face of the pallets was going to be.  Then I could guesstimate the location/size of the hole based on the post that was going in without touching the string.  Then when it was sitting in the hole, measure from the line while it was held vertical to get the bottom of the post in the right spot.  The backfill a bit and tamp that dirt to lock the base of the post in place.  Then backfill and tamp as you verify the front face of the post is plumb (vertical).  If you build with the posts touching the string, you tend to push the string away from its path as you work down the line.

    I could've fit all the rocks from the 18 holes I dug into an ice cream pail.  I love my sandy rockless soil at times like this.  

    No deer have jumped it yet (fingers crossed).  I really think that unless they can see through the fence, they won't jump it.  I'm really testing them on another fence section that is 1.5 pallets high (50").  
     
    pollinator
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    Looks great! How durable are the pallets though? I always assumed pallets would rot pretty easily; where I live they’d probably get eaten by termites.
     
    Mike Haasl
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    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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    Great question.  Luckily we don't have termites here.  These pallets have runners made of pine and slats made of 1" hardwood.  They weigh about 100 lbs ea.  If I were to bet, I'd think the runners will fail first.  I'm guessing they'll last about 8 years.  I can get 50 pallets a day from the factory that generates them as scrap.  So for me it's not too bad to replace them if needed.

    When I can find some cedar slab wood (from cutting cedar logs into square billets), I'll get them and set them on top as rain caps.  That should give me a few more years.
     
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