Ask The Expert


Hi Robert,

I remember you once had written about a way to install vinyl fencing to make it stronger. I’ve got a fence going up on my own private property so I’m not aware of any restrictions. I am in a stiff breeze area and will be putting in solid panels, and I don’t want it blowing over. Thank you,

Benny D.

Hi Benny,

The first step, before you break any ground, is to make sure you notify Dig Alert. By law, anyone that plans to dig even one inch deep, anytime earth is moved, must notify Dig Alert two working days in advance. Failure to do so could result in a $50,000 fine.

It’s your responsibility as a homeowner before you put a shovel to the ground that the utilities are notified. The various utility companies will then send out locators that will mark the approximate location of their lines but not the depth. Especially along the perimeter of a property, you do not want to sever any gas, water, cable, or telephone lines. I’ve seen some of these as shallow as one foot deep.

You would spray paint “USA” in white paint on the ground beforehand with arrows indicating where the fence will be located. Remember the utility guys will mark only an approximate location of the lines. You are responsible for 18” on either side of the mark, so you have to be very cautious. For example, if you have a yellow delineation running close to one of your post hole locations, indicating a gas line, be careful and slowly dig it out by hand. Sometimes just scraping a gas line with a shovel is enough to weaken and cause it to leak in the future.

Once the utilities have been marked, then you can dig the post holes. Depending on the length of the fence, you might want to rent a power auger for this step.

One thing you can do to really strengthen the fence would be to add a couple of pieces of steel in each of the post holes. Drive rebar into the ground about two or three feet with a mallet. Then come up 1/3 of the way with concrete and set your posts around the rebar. It’s going to take more than a stiff breeze to bring this fence down.

Hi Robert,

First time question, long time reader: I’ve got a block wall that is cracking out the concrete in between the blocks. It looks like stairs. The crack goes over, down, over, down, etc. This wall was just put in less than one year ago. What is this indicative of?

Marley E.

Hi Marley,

This is either a footing or compaction problem. The stair effect is movement caused by undermining below grade. Typically, when you see this type of damage to the mortar lines, it’s due to a cracked footing that is no longer supporting the weight of the wall. Or, it was poorly compacted when the wall was built.

There’s no way of knowing what will happen as time goes on. It may have finished settling or the damage could worsen. If the wall is less than a year old, I would have the contractor come back out and make it right.

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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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