Ask The Expert


Hi Robert,
I will be installing a wooden fence around my property. I’m basically repairing and rebuilding what is already there. About half of the posts are bad, and I will be replacing those and some of the planks. The posts are 4”x4”. I remember you said when you install posts; they should be put on a “stand-off bracket” that is set in concrete so the bottom of the post will be off of the ground. Does that apply with fences?

Thank you,
Alan R.

Hi Alan,
You want to use stand-offs if you are replacing load bearing posts. If you have posts that are supporting a carport or soffited structure, for example, then you don’t want the post sitting at ground level or sunk below ground because it will rot from water saturation.
If you just want to replace like for like, remove the posts and demo out the concrete footings. I would replace with pressure treated or redwood or cedar 4”x4”s. Dig your hole and put 6” of gravel at the bottom. Stand the post on top of the gravel and then pour your concrete. The gravel will act as a leech bed so the water will drain down and away from the posts.
A beefier option would be to go with 2” round galvanized steel posts instead of the wooden 4”x4”s. They would be used with transition brackets that go from the galvanized post to the wooden rails. This came out about 8–10 years ago. If you do it right, a plank will land in front of the metal post so it’s hidden.
The best option, in my opinion, would be to go with vinyl fencing. It is a bit more expensive than wood but, aesthetically, it looks good. And once you put it in, you’re done. You move on. There’s no paint, there’s no maintenance. No rot, no termites, no problems. It basically lasts forever. As far as I’m concerned, vinyl is the only way to go.

Mr. Lamoureux,
We are replacing our windows and I hear you can install some type of styrofoam that simulates wood. Could you provide more information on this? Thank you.

Lena V.

Hi Lena,
It’s called planton and it is available at stucco product and supply companies. Generally you buy the material pre-fab with an existing style but it is possible to buy in bulk and customize. For custom work, make a template and use a utility knife to make the cuts. Or, there are cutting irons that get hot–it’s a wire that you pull through and it shapes the styrofoam. For most applications though, the pre-fab is fine.
For the installation, you would apply the planton to the lath with an adhesive. Most of the time, the planton comes with a fiberglass cloth covering to which you apply the finish base 100 or 200 with whatever color dye you choose. Typically, you would offset the color to accentuate the trim. It looks like wood but it’s cheaper with no maintenance.
Since it is styrofoam, it’s not as strong as wood so it may get scraped or damaged. The repair is as easy as applying stucco mix and molding into the right shape.

Submit your questions to Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction (Valencia, CA) has 30 years experience as a commercial general, electrical and plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in “Ask the Expert” are not to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been made.

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