Summer 2019: Fence Redaction

The terrible fence erected by the gas station hurt my brain every single time I looked at it. Through the winter, strong winds pushed it around. Since the 4 x 4 posts ARE NOT EVEN SET INTO ANYTHING the winds loosened up the weakest points. It was built at the end of August 2018. By Feb. 2019, the fence looked like this:


Only the unused vintage light post stopped it from falling over completely:


The guy who built the fence was bullied into making some kind of repairs, none of which could fix the lack of structural integrity.

Suddenly in June, part of the fence was disassembled. I had some hope that a properly constructed fence would be put up in its place.


The same guy who built the fence took the fence apart. I gave him the name of the posthole place I had previously used, and said the fence needed properly set posts. A gap was left in the fence, which exposed part of my backyard, which made me nervous. I screwed up part of a sheet of plywood to at least make access more difficult. After 10 days or so, work on the fence resumed.

Gas station’s solution: have the guy who made the terrible fence reassemble it in exactly the same way, but with gigantic 3″ screws this time. And a couple of extra boards. And a little more duct strapping to secure it to the 4′ former chain link posts, now augmented with another piece of post inside that one:

badfence repair.jpeg

No concept of the “good neighbour side” here.

London, unlike other civilized municipalities, makes no mention in the fence or property standards bylaw that the structure of the fence must be stable ! This is what the City of Ottawa’s Property Standards document says, for example:

“Section 10 – Fences and other enclosures

(1) Fences, retaining walls and other enclosures around or on a residential property shall be kept,

(a) in good repair;

(b) free from accident hazards;

(c) protected by paint, preservatives, or other weather resistant material, except for wooden fences made of cedar, redwood or treated wood;

(d) so as not to present an unsightly appearance;

(e) stable;

(f) vertical, unless specifically designed to be other than vertical as in the case of retaining walls; and

(g) free of barbed wire ”

The City of London is not Ottawa, though.

The 3″ screws poked through the boards in my direction, in a most alarming fashion.

I contacted the same posthole place I previously used, to inquire about how close to the retaining wall posts could be set on my side. The guy who came to quote was baffled by the fence the gas station built.

It was possible for the station to have posts professionally set into the asphalt surface on the gas station’s side, so I wasn’t just imagining an unworkable solution. It would also be possible for posts to be set very close to the retaining wall, on my side. HOWEVER – due to the difference in elevation (close to 48″), I would be breaking the fence bylaw to erect my own fence as tall as the gas station’s mediocre one. To build my own law-breaking-fence would easily cost close to $ 3000.00 including materials and labour. The city could force me to modify or remove the non-conforming potential fence.

I couldn’t look out my dining room, kitchen or back porch windows without seething at their fence atrocity. Walking out the front door was a little less bad, but it still wasn’t a neutral sight.

I pondered what could be done. The fence was so unstable it made no sense to attach some sort of covering like a trellis. I planted Smoke Bushes in the front, in 2017, but they will take 8 – 10 years to be tall and full enough to obscure the fence.

Painting my side seemed like an exercise in futility. There would be no way to control the drips onto their side. This was a labour intensive solution, and even the blackest paint could not obscure the fence’s obvious deficits.

I pursued information on the fastest growing hedge, vines and trees. For anything to grow 10 feet tall, to reach to the top of the fence, to densely obscure the offensive construction would take years to grow. Quick “solutions” like planting tall cedars were fairly expensive, and unreliable. I stared hard at all the local hedges I encountered, then looked backwards via Streetview to see how long they took to attain their height.

I wondered about hanging up some sort of privacy cloth. Proper canvas for exterior applications – like awnings – is made from acrylic, which has decent UV protection against fading and rot. This lasts for about 5 years until it starts to deteriorate. I priced various cloth options. The 6′ fence height meant that cloth would need to be horizontally pieced to make it wide enough. This volume of cloth, soaking wet from rain or snow, also gets heavy. I calculated that I would need 30 yards to cover their fence.

I noticed an ad for recycled billboard tarps. They were HUGE – 14 x 48′. They were printed on one side, and opaque black on the reverse. The vinyl was UV resistant and reinforced with fibers to strengthen it. This made me think. I went and looked at it once, then went back a second time to buy one. Each tarp weighs 40 lbs, and they are unwieldy. Even black plastic would be better to look at than the ghastly fence. This was the least expensive ( $ 80.00) and least labour intensive option.

It was nerve wracking marking and cutting the tarp. I didn’t have a space large enough to lay out the entire thing (ie trees and bushes in my yard) so I unrolled smaller sections and measured twice. I stitched the edges and installed grommets.

It was impossible to make the tarp sections lay flat due to the bizarre construction. I did what I could to make it presentable:


The backyard had the worst, most seasick fence construction. I didn’t love installing the tarp, or the lack of smoothness, but my brain felt so much quieter not seeing the awful fence:



The tarp is screwed to the fence, so it is completely removable. To install the sections meant standing on an extension ladder, with my weight leaning on the fence. To say this felt precarious is an understatement.

One small unexpected bonus of the tarps was the amount of lught they blocked. I was surprised to see how much light infiltrated between the fence boards. This is with the section to to the left covered, with two sections left to go:


The redaction is a far from perfect solution but it is an improvement.

Now if only there was some kind of code or bylaw about commercial neighbours adjacent to a residence, light pollution, privacy, sound control and basic building code ???




Let’s Look At That Fence Some More

It is true that this fence is taller than the 42″ chain link fence (6′ fence boards on top of that cement retaining wall’s ledge on their side), and it is much more opaque than canvas plus chainlink. That was an improvement…



The brackets were not attached properly or even securely. They are supposed to be attached to the post AND the concrete.


A halfhearted attempt was made to magically secure the brackets to the fence posts, using a spare fence board (above).


The end was finished like this for no reason I can understand. The fence boards all had stickers on them stating they were not meant for ground contact.


Do you have faith in this construction method ? I do not have faith in this construction method.


The fence continues then it abruptly stops by their gas meter. That skinny area became a dumping ground for whatever, like surplus boards, a spare pallet and some advertising flags. I see this from my kitchen window. It’s very ugly. What am I supposed to do to lessen this visual horror ?

One section of the fence next to the driveway started to flap and flutter in the winter wind. As of Feb. 4, 2019, that section looks like this. It wrenched itself away from the SINGLE piece of duct strapping which secured it to the 4′ metal post:


Will it fall into my yard and damage/kill the Smoke Bushes I have been trying to grow, which are still little runts ? Who is going to fix this and how ?

During the shouting time with the gas station manager, he claimed materials cost $1800.00. The guy who built the fence said he was getting paid $ 800.00 or so, which I guess he had to split with his friend. $ 2600.00.

Now the length from the back post of the original chain link, to the front post of the chain link is about 60 feet. The fence does not go all the way to sidewalk due to the visibility triangle needed for drivers. 60 feet, divided by a fence post set every 8 feet is 7.5. Let’s say 8 fence posts are needed*. As of today, Feb.6. 2019, 4 x 4 x 8 pressure treated posts are $ 11.28/each.(= $ 90.24 plus tax) 12 foot posts would be more properly used so they won’t heave with frost. They are $ 17.43/ea ($ 139.44 plus tax). The posthole place I dealt with had a minimum charge of about $ 350.00, for a maximum of 8 posts.

Home Depot Canada charges $ 116.00 per 6’tall x 8′ wide PT wood fence panel. ($ 928.99 plus tax).

$ 139.44 (posts) +

$ 350.00 (post hole setting) +

$ 928.99 (premade fence panels)


Total cost before tax: $ 1417.44

13% tax : $ 184.27 + $ 1417.44 = $ 1601.71

An experienced carpenter ( $ 30.00/hr) with a helper ($ 15.00/hr) could get this installed in 8 hours or less ( $ 30.00 x 8 = $ 240.00, $ 15.00 x 8 = $ 120.00 = $ 360.00 labour), including the removal of the chain link fence and posts.

$ 1601.71 + $ 360.00 = $ 1961.71

This doesn’t include screws, or drill bits or reciprocating saw blades, but you get the idea.

  • Fence posts could have been set in the asphalt directly in front of the existing cement curb, from the retaining wall, on their side.




Now About That Fence (July/August 2018)

One day in late July someone rang my doorbell, insistently. It was a worker from the gas station.

I observed the gas station, out my bedroom window, since it opened. I saw this guy doing stuff at the station, with inexplicable goings on like an oil barrel sized drum used as a garbage can being drug to the dumpster with another guy, at 4:00 a.m.. It took both of them to lift it to empty it into the dumpster. The heavy scraping sound woke me up.

I couldn’t imagine why there wasn’t a) a garbage bag inside the drum, that was emptied when it was full and b) anyone who has ever done housework or menial jobs knows that a heavy garbage can is miserable to wrangle which is why you have small garbage cans for heavier trash and they are emptied frequently. This guy also caught my attention as he would stand around in the empty parking lot, chain smoking, having long conversations on his cel phone between 1:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.. The talking woke me up many times. I was unimpressed.

The gas station man was QUITE indignant after I answered the door. He seemed very angry that I had contacted Mobil/Esso to inquire about fencing, etc. He felt that I should have spoken to them first. I told him that I had spoken to the renovation crew, and gave them my number for the owner to contact me to discuss a fence, and that no one ever contacted me. I told him that anyone who parked nose in had headlights that shone through the canvas that I put up, directly into my kitchen and dining room windows, and this was unacceptable. I took him into my backyard to show him that the back of their building had no eavestroughing, and the water from their rooftop AC unit was running down the wall. I told him this was their property – but that water could and would undermine their building. It was already growing algae or moss, on the newly repaired wall. I showed him the blind spot by the gas mater and told him they should put a gate up, so it wouldn’t be used as a urinal or worse.

I also told him that all the other gas stations in the area had privacy fences next to a residential neighbour. He asked if I would be willing to pay for 1/2 the fence, say                $2500.00?($ 2500.00 ?!)I said that I did not think it was my responsibility, and that this (a privacy fence) was the cost of doing business. I also asked him if they would build an enclosure around the dumpster, which he dismissed as being too much trouble. Somewhere in this was a conversation about the gas station. I had found a document online that suggested the finished station had been sold for $ 1.5M. When I mentioned this, the dude scoffed, and said it was $ 5M ! Also that the owner had 27 gas stations ! Well, I thought, if they paid $5M for this gas station, they could certainly afford to put up a fence.  I pointed out how anyone at the tire compressor could see into my entire back yard, and into my house if my curtains were open.

While I had gotten a quote for the extended chain link fence, it seemed pointless to share it, as I would still need to purchase, create and install opaque privacy cloth, which had a short lifespan.  They were a business, and all the other similar businesses in the area had opaque fences. They were on a higher land elevation, so the fence should be their problem to solve.

During this period of time(July/August), one of the renovator dudes showed up with the device that paints lines on pavement. These were oriented towards the gas station building. This helped to minimize the headlight issue at least.

The gas station guy told me his name, which was long, and the short name he was called, Abi. He did not seem to remember my name, so he called me ma’am, a lot. A Note to you youngsters out there: this is typically insulting unless used in a formal context and/or the woman is over 80 years old.

Somewhere in August, the factory started to tidy up their lot. I got nervous when the trees and vines next to the parking lot were trimmed, as they created some welcome privacy. I spoke with the guy trimming the trees, and spoke to the factory owner/manager/something just to make sure they weren’t planning to remove the fence or trees.

Let me make this clear: at no time did the gas station manager (I guess he was the manager ?) or owner or anyone else affiliated with the station ever approach me to discuss a fence, or ask for suggestions or recommendations for a fence builder. I had my back fence, with the antique doors, built by an experienced carpenter. I had the posts set for that fence and the picket fence done by a company that sets posts and builds fences. My experience with both entities had been good, and I had no qualms about the quality of their work, or pricing. I would have recommended either or both, if I had been asked.

Now – if you want to build a fence, and expect your neighbour to share the costs, this is what is typically done : you discuss what kind of fence is agreeable to both parties, you get several quotes with references, and you mutually agree to put up that fence. If you are extra careful you have a survey done. If your neighbour is not agreeable, then you have the option to put up your own fence, on your own property, and pay for it yourself.

I had spoken with the tree trimming guy several times. He was a neighbourhood guy, whose aunt lived across the street. He did odd jobs in the area. He told me he was going to build the privacy fence for the gas station.

I didn’t know anything about him, except that he had been pleasant to me. It didn’t seem like rocket science to build a fence.

The morning glories planted next to the chain link fence had been doing very well. They scrambled over the fence with many blooms adjacent to the dumpster. They would have to come down. I could plant them again next year. I told him to do whatever he had to do, showed him the Smoke Bushes and asked him to not damage those.


I asked him if they were going to get posts set or how the fence was going to get built ? He told me the manager wanted him to use steel post brackets, bolted to the concrete retaining wall.


The concrete retaining wall was at least 50 years old, and I had my concerns about whether it might be crumbly or unsound when drilled into ? I was also concerned that even 6″ bolts might not be strong or deep enough to support the weight of a fence, in a windy place like London. He told me they were going to saw off the posts for the chainlink fence. Despite the age of the posts, they were still very solid.

A bunch of building materials showed up next door.

They took down the fence in the back first. I looked out from time to time as they struggled to get any of the brackets set. The retaining wall was full of pebbles and rebar. This went on all afternoon, past supper time until after dark, with a hammer drill.

Somewhere in this the manager dude came out. He told me that I would have to pay them $ 1000.00 towards this fence.

All the decisions about the fence, including who would build it, had been made UNILATERALLY. I had never been shown any quotes, or asked for my input at all, except that I had been emphatic that there needed to be a tall privacy fence.

I refused to pay $ 1000.00 for this fence, then in progress. More discussion, which digressed into shouting ensued.

I told him that having an opaque privacy fence, next to a residence was a VERY LOW BAR for a business, and the fence was their responsibility to build and pay for. He disagreed. I asked him if he was aware that the location of their vents had filled my house with gasoline fumes ? He said the vents were perfectly safe, and that he would even climb to the top of them and smoke a cigarette to prove it. I said he didn’t want to do that during a refuelling as they would be spewing gasoline vapours. I said that as a residence next a business that I am entitled to privacy, as well as safety. This was not safe. I asked him where the fire extinguishers were on the pumps, and why they didn’t even have no smoking signs on the pumps – as required by law ? He did some texting and within 5 minutes the other station employee appeared and placed fire extinguishers by the pumps ! What good were they doing in their storeroom or wherever they had been ?

And so on.

Now let’s take a moment to look at the fences I have built:


The doors were close in height and width but not identical. John did his best to make them look uniform by lining up the center panels, and trimming the doors accordingly. They were set on sturdy 6 x 6 posts to withstand the force of the many winds, and to support the weight of the doors. My photo is bad but they are certainly level and straight.


The picket fence had 6 foot posts, professionally set. I attached all the pickets myself and tried to be careful with the spacing to make it appear uniform. I had worked drafting patterns and sewing for over twenty years, and was very aware of how discrepancies of a couple of millimetres times several pattern pieces or grading can negatively affect the outcome. I am very neurotic about measurements and consistency as a result of doing this kind of work.

The first fence section in the back was assembled and put up:


I was shocked and appalled. Not only were the brackets not even properly set, the fence looked like this ! The neighbourhood dude had a helper and they both had measuring tapes, too. This is what I see when I look out my kitchen window. How could a fence be this terrible ?

The front fence section was consistent at least. They realized that setting the brackets into the concrete was nearly impossible. I had looked online and there were ways to attach a wood fence to metal posts, using brackets, like this:



I even printed out a couple of photos and gave it to the guy building the fence.

This is how the front section looked:


It’s a little hard to tell due to the tall Cosmos flowers, but nothing is straight. The 4 x 4 posts were used as part of the construction – BUT ARE NOT SET INTO ANYTHING. This section of the fence is attached to the 4′ steel posts, which are still firmly set into the concrete. However the planning and construction is very inconsistent and unconsidered. Some of the posts are attached with brackets, other parts are with the steel strapping used for ducts…

This is how it looked from their side, though.


Here’s that section in the front again. The snow highlights the way nothing is level or square: