This is the fence that never ends

The work on the fence has been going on for almost a week, which means that even Licorice is pretty much over it, not even bothering to bark at the guys anymore. That’s fine, because Otto has pretty much taken over on the barking, inbetween small head explosions as we traverse this particularly delightful path of home renovation.

When we signed the contract, by the way, we were told “one full day, or maybe one full day and half a day.” That’s all it was supposed to take. And this is not our first rodeo; we figured that meant maybe three days. Heck, I even said it to the fence guy, laughing, and he insisted NO NO, really, it’s pretty much a one day job.


But, hey, look. There is some GOOD news. I am pretty sure that by the time this is all over, they’re going to be paying us to take this #*%&+$ fence, so there’s your silver lining, right there.

Let’s review, shall we?

In the beginning: Otto and I carefully discussed our options and decided on what we thought we wanted. We got several estimates. We selected Fence Guy based on both the quote he gave us and the recommendation of the general contractor we often use. Hands were shaken. The contract was signed. We were told our fence materials would arrive in two weeks and he would call to schedule our installation.

The day before: The company calls to say the crew will be out the next day, which happens to be a Friday. I ask if they’re sure they want to start then; we don’t mind waiting until Monday, if they’re going to need more than a day, and we definitely don’t want to get into a situation where part of the pool area is left open while they’re mid-job. Oh no, I’m assured, they can probably do it all in a day, but regardless, they’ll take down the old fence in sections and be sure not to leave the pool open, not to worry. Okay, then.

Otto goes outside with a can of purple spray paint (the only color we have on hand; left over from a school project) and carefully marks all of the pool piping on the ground which the builders will need to avoid. (Note: this is called foreshadowing.)

Day 1: The crew arrives first thing in the morning. Hooray! Otto chats with them before heading off to work. They set about working on the chainlink dog-run portion of the project, and I am amazed at how fast they sink all of those posts and get to unrolling the fencing. Also, they knock down one wall (of three) of our existing wooden fence surrounding the pool, and begin putting up in the vinyl in its place. At 4:30 p.m. the crew packs up and vanishes without a word to us. Huh. There is still two-thirds of our existing fence untouched, so our dreams of this being a “one day, possibly one-and-a-half day job” are pretty much toast. And of course there’s half of one fence wall completely missing, but that’s okay, because it’s enclosed by chainlink… right?

Oh, hrm. WRONG. Although they erected all the chainlink, they neglected to PUT THE GATES ON. Which means our pool is completely open to entry two different ways on the side where we have neighbors with preschoolers. I may have said OH HELL NO. I guarantee you that Otto said something worse.

At 4:45 we call the fencing company and demand that they send someone back out to at least secure the area so that the pool isn’t open all weekend, and are told that the crew is coming back with our missing gates, not to worry. Also, the crew will be back Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. sharp to finish the project.

At 5:45 a guy shows up with two gates, which he then zip-ties to the openings in question. Otto discovers another opening between old and new fence that needs to be closed, and rigs something out of old fence pieces.

Day 2: Otto gets up at 6:45 so he can be ready for the crew when they arrive; he has a few questions. The crew arrives promptly at… 9:00. Otto is just as pleased as you might imagine.

They attach the chainlink gates. They continue working on the vinyl fencing. By the time they leave (shortly after lunch), we have… the chainlink enclosure and one vinyl wall.

Otto walks around the work done so far and discovers that:
1) The poles for the chainlink gates are set too wide, and consequently there are huge gaps—like, big enough for the dog to get out gaps—between the gates and the fencing.
2) The chainlink itself seems to have an enormous amount of “give,” as if it hasn’t been stretched tightly enough.
3) Several of the poles appear to have been sunken at varying heights even on level ground (?).
4) The litter around the work area suggests that they used a type of concrete about which Otto had specifically inquired and was told they would NOT be using.
5) They left our hose on (it has a spay nozzle thingie on the end) and… it burst.
And the CROWN JEWEL Saturday afternoon discovery:
6) The vinyl fencing erected so far is… badly damaged. Scratched all to hell. And covered in white dust. Which indicates that this crew took our brand new fencing and DRAGGED IT ACROSS THE POOL DECK CONCRETE during installation.

Otto sends a very strongly-worded email to our fence guy, who immediately sends his head foreman out to take a look at what’s gone on. Otto expresses dismay about this crew potentially returning on Monday, and the foreman affirms that this crew does indeed seem to be “facing some challenges.” He tells Otto he will discuss with the fence guy and they will figure out what to do.

Day 3: Sunday! Let’s have a nice relaxing day! The kids haven’t been able to swim while the guys have been here working on the fence, but today no one’s coming, so yes, absolutely, let’s have a family swim. Otto goes out and cleans the pool for us. He then switches the pump to backwash to clear it, and a small water feature appears along our new vinyl fencing.

Remember the purple spray paint? If you were here, you could follow it along the ground directly to the point where the crew not only dug through and broke our irrigation pipe, but then POURED CONCRETE AROUND IT for good measure. The good news is that it’s an outflow pipe, which is why it wasn’t discovered until Otto tried to backwash the filter (had it been a main filtration pipe, it might’ve drained the entire pool). The bad news is that I’m just not sure I’ve ever seen Otto quite so livid.

The kids and I have a nice swim while Otto spends two hours digging out and replacing the pipe. He then leaves a voicemail for the fence guy AND sent another email, this time letting him know that if that same crew shows up Monday they will be asked to leave immediately.

The fence guy calls and says he’s bringing up his very best crew from Florida, and he was so sorry for all the problems so far, and NOT TO WORRY, on Monday it would all be completed, fixed, perfect.

Day 4: Happy Monday! The new crew arrives at 7:00 sharp, and surveys the mess and explains that they would first finish installing the vinyl, then correct the issues with the pieces already erected (in addition to the damage, apparently one section was set too low, and the posts had to be redone), and also fix the chainlink, and NOT TO WORRY, THEY ARE EXPERTS!

These guys drove up from Florida and arrived at 3:00 in the morning and then came to work at 7:00. I liked them immediately. And they work really hard, all day, putting up vinyl and never once dragging it across the pavement. But it was slower going than they’d anticipated, because Georgia clay is hard and on one side they couldn’t use their auger because it was too close to our septic tank.

Around 2:30 or so the lead guy tells me he needed to talk to me. He’s very sorry, but apparently one of the two vinyl gates was missing. He’s making some calls, trying to determine if it had been delivered to distribution and just not sent to us, or if it hadn’t been delivered at all. They would get it, not to worry! But he wanted to let me know. Oooookay.

A few hours later, he comes back to talk to me again. The good news was that they found the gate! The bad news is that they weren’t going to be able to finish today. On account of… they were one section of fence short. And it had never been ordered. Someone counted wrong. (And in case you ever want to have your own vinyl fence, bear in mind that it’s ALL special order. So order enough the first time, kids!) He says he’s called the fence guy and he started yelling so much he’d just hung up. They would get the missing materials, but… he wasn’t sure when. They would be back tomorrow, though, to work on the chainlink, either way.

Day 5: The crew shows up around 8:30, but with bad news: The missing material wouldn’t be in until Wednesday. They’ll go ahead and do some work on fixing the chainlink section, but they were actually being called to another job and were going to have to leave in a few hours. And they’d be back on Wednesday, but listen, the main guy’s kid has an all-star baseball game back in Florida on Thursday, and he can’t miss that. If it doesn’t get done on Wednesday, it’s going to have to be another crew that finishes. Just letting you know, ma’am.

(That was a low blow. Like I’m supposed to argue for my fence over his kid? Even I cannot go there.)

They spend a few hours tightening up the chainlink and putting together the two vinyl fence gates. By the time they call me out to look, it’s to show me that they installed the second one backwards and to ask if it’s okay to just flip it around. I say yes, because what’s the alternative…? But of course they’ve already drilled eleventy holes in the wrong post, and that doesn’t go away when they flip the door. Also, oops, half the hardware for the doors is missing, so that piece that allows you to open the latch from the opposite side is MIA. One of the crewmen has helpfully tied some twine to the latch on the inside, then weighted it with a couple of washers and thrown it over the fence to the other side, so that outsiders can pull the string to undo the latch, Little-Rascals-clubhouse-style. Nice.

Also, um, sorry, but both gates are badly damaged—bearing scars from the too-tight twine lashings they were delivered in.

Otto comes home from work and his head explodes. He prepares to send the fence guy an email telling him to TAKE IT ALL DOWN, WE’LL HIRE SOMEONE ELSE, but I talk him off the ledge. Instead, the men begin the negotiation of exactly how much of a discount we’re now going to get and how many pieces need to be replaced.

Day 6: It’s Wednesday now, around 10:00. Theoretically the missing section of fence arrived at distribution via FedEx for 10:00 delivery, so the guys should be here in a little bit. Even once they finish the structure and then go back to digging up and moving incorrectly placed supports, there’s still the issue of all the damaged pieces. Otto spent an hour yesterday walking the periphery and marking all of the damage with painters tape; the pool is now enclosed with blue-polka-dotted fencing.

We don’t know when it will be done, or how much we’re paying for it.

But at least it’s all been a gigantic pain in the ass, in the meantime.


  1. Debbi

    OMG!! I would lose my mind! We are thinking of getting a fence next year…maybe we will wait…

  2. mar

    Oh, good gravy! I hope your old fence was in reeaaaaallly bad shape to warrant all this aggravation!

  3. MomCat

    Whenever I think I’ve heard it all with regards to contractors, something more heinous comes along.

  4. Frank

    Guessing that Holmes on Homes is not a staple in your TV viewing… just watch a few of his houses of fun would make you thankful for what you got…. LOL

    on the lighter side.. I can so see the conversation between you and Otto… that must have gone somethign like the wood flooring Brazilian / Jakarta (its the capitol of Indonesia!) conversation…. you are SO blogging this…. noone will believe it actually happened.

  5. Chuck

    Oh man. Talk about contractors from hell. Hope you end up getting the fence for free.

  6. Katherine

    Yikes!! I hope you get a reeeeaaaaalllllyyy big discount after all the aggravation.

  7. Christina

    I think you’re right on when you say they may end up paying YOU for the fence! That is all beyond ridiculous, and at the very least you should be looking at paying nothing but material cost because the labor was clearly a major screw-up on their part. And then I say materials, I mean original, not the extra stuff they have to order to replace things they screwed up.
    I am so sorry you are having to deal with this! I’m screaming in my head for you (out loud would scare my 3 yr old).

  8. Jean

    Wow, they should be doing this for free by now…I’m so sorry!

  9. RuthWells

    Holy crap.

  10. meghann

    This is the part where you pull out “The Money Pit” and watch it.

    “How long will that take?” “Two weeks.”

  11. Aimee

    Holy hell, lady! Wow, does that suck. For the record, I think your beginning negotiation point should be you’ll pay for original (not re-ordered due to their incompetence) materials ONLY. No labor. And then the fallback position can be that you pay for the labor for the Florida-based crew, or a portion of it.

    What a display of jackassery.

  12. birchsprite

    ‘workmen’ even. Although ‘workmean’ may be a good description of them!

  13. Jenn H.

    It’s almost like they knew you were a blogger and needed some fresh, new writing material!!

    So sorry for the headaches!!! Hope it all resolves quickly (and cheaply!)!!

  14. Susan

    Yikes! Sorry for the pain but, as usual, you tell it in such an amusing way I can’t help but laugh! Any chance you get figure out who licenses these yo-yos (BBB? state contractor’s licensing?) and report them? Nightmare.

    Keep us posted on how much you end up making to have this fence installed!

  15. Kristi

    You’d think these people weren’t in the fencing business fer christ sake! CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR THE REST.

  16. Mir

    Update: It’s 11:30, and they haven’t shown up yet. Perhaps they had to pick up the missing fence section in Florida…?

  17. MichaelB

    Ummm Wow?

    Ok so that beats our tankless water heater installation story from earlier this year…

  18. Lynn in Mass

    It definitely sounds like a case of Contractor Hell. Hope you do end of getting a good deal after all the negotiating. It will be worth it when it is finally complete.

  19. Cele

    I will not let my husband read this, I will not. He will use it as an example of why we must do all our own home renovation and construction projects.

    My prayers and margaritas to you both.

  20. Cele

    And uh duh dudes, even people in Oregon have heard of HARD RED GEORGIA CLAY.

  21. Scottsdale Girl

    These are the stories that make me snarl!!! *SNARL*

    And also make me tremble in fear about replacing my roof

  22. karen

    …. If it weren’t you telling the tale, I’d hardly believe it. You have got to be kidding me. WHO recommended this fence company to begin with ? Flog them.


  23. Jamie

    I have no words to express how truly craptastic this is! Blue polka dot fence – sexy!

  24. elz

    This is precisely why I want NOTHING to do with any major home renovation project EVER. That said, we really have to redo our backyard in the next year or so- the decking has become a health hazard. There will be tears and maybe blood.

  25. Otto

    Damn, I love Google Ads …

    Local Fence Installers
    Find Prescreened Fence Installation Install, Fix, Remodel. Free Quotes!

    Pool Guard Pool Fences
    Top rated pool fencing co. $25 off w/ ad. Free estimates.

    Protect-A-Child Fence
    Removable mesh fence, 30 yrs experience.

    Free Fence Estimates

    Post Your Project Free & Get Bids From From Fencing Pros Today!



  26. Megan

    Oh goody! Another Character Building Experience! I love those! I’ll bet Otto loves them as well – doesn’t he? Of course he does.

    BTW, I am now adding ‘contracting for a fence’ to my Ginormous List of Things That Will Cause the Apocalypse. So, hey, something good came of it!

  27. Joanne

    So glad that you gave Otto a better-medicated you for your anniversary… I can’t imagine if Both of You totally lost it over this fence fiasco.

  28. Kristine N

    OMG – what a living hell….. You should get that fence for free….. What a joke!

  29. suzie

    Wow – that does sound like it should be fiction! I hope they (a) make it absolutely perfect. No scratches, cement-dragging marks, etc., and (b) don’t charge you for anything except for the perfect materials! If that!

    (Suddenly so very grateful that I’m a renter ….)

  30. Mandy

    Did you or Otto happen to mention that you are a World Famous Blogger and you have chronicled their ineptitude for All to See? If it’s not free, their name goes public. In the interest of protecting others from ineptitude…. not blackmail at all.

  31. Jen

    Remind me to never take on any major home renovations. We’ll just move instead. I think it would be easier.

    I think you need to import the guys who did my neighbor’s fence from California. They estimated it would take 3 days to finish, but finished in 1 day, and had time and materials left over, so erected a fence along her driveway to to keep the neighbor kids from running their bikes into her car (an ongoing problem), for free. I swear, it really happened.

  32. AJ

    OMG…sounds similar to the hell that was having this house built and then moving in and fighting with the builder FOR A YEAR to finish it as it was promised. Dontcha just love the “someone” forgot to order it line…SOMEONE needs to be fired!! SOMEONE always forgets to call, or measure correctly, or whatever. Argh. I truly feel your pain.

  33. Ladybug Crossing

    I feel your pain… it’s Memorial Day weekend, our pool isn’t finished… #1 is graduating from high school on June 4… What are the chances it will be done for that?? Slim to none? Who knows… we can’t get them to answer the email. grrr…

  34. Ann from St. Peter MN

    So sorry! Your vinyl fence story is worse than mine – and that makes me feel better. I ordered mine through a friend who had the local dealership. She told me to just buy the materials and then host a party of our friends to install it. A week later she told me she and her husband (the only knowledgeable ones on installation) were much too busy to help. So – I paid her company to install it, came home after work to check it out, and lo and behold – my dog (same breed as Licorice) walked under the fence and strolled down the alley. My fence friend was there to witness it and sensed I was not happy. Happy? I told her I wanted the fence in order to keep the dog in the yard, spent twice as much as I expected since I had to pay for installation, and then to watch the dog saunter out of the yard was the final straw. Her company manufactured and installedlonger pickets for the fence to fix the problem at no cost to me, so at least in the long run, it worked out. I hope you get your satisfaction too! And – the fencing is great – no painting, no rotting – just needs a blast from the hose every once in a while. You WILL like it when it is done!

  35. aem2

    Maybe the kid’s little league game ran to extra innings?

    I can totally see Mike Holmes wandering around, shaking his head, and saying “That’s just not right.”

  36. ben

    I can’t even bear to read all of this. I stopped at Day 2.


  37. Jodie

    Sheesh! Do you guys have Yelp in your neck of the woods? Might be worth a review.

  38. joaaanna

    What a NIGHTMARE! At this point – it should be free. Sending happy fence thoughts your direction!

  39. Peggy Fry

    My sister calls these things Hey Lady’s… as in, “Hey Lady! Did you know that your air conditioning vents aren’t actually open all the way to the bedroom?” “Hey Lady, did you know that your disposal isn’t actually connected to anything and the food you have been grinding up and flushing down the line is all sitting in a big nasty lump under your front porch?” That sort of thing.


  40. Lynda M O

    Another reason to be grateful for marrying a man with a plethora of skills including fences, plumbing and working capably alone from the get-go to the final clean-up. Priceless.

  41. Heather

    I work in the construction business in Birmingham. YOU GUYS NEED TO CONTACT THE GEORGIA HOME BUILDERS ASSOCIATION ABOUT THIS IMMEDIATELY. In Alabama if the job was over 10,000 then he HAS to be a licensed contractor & I am betting the same for GA. You can also call the building inspector out to the site & have him look at everything to see if they did it right to code for your area, PLUS if they did not pull permits or licenses for your city they are in HUGE trouble. You SHOULD be able to get out of this with out spending a penny if he is a legit guy. Feel free to email me if you have any questions I will be glad to help you.

  42. My Kids Mom

    I’ve learned my lesson in hiring the lowest quote- I do get what I paid for. I’m surprised your contractor gave them his recommendation. Ugh.

  43. Tracy B

    I’m with Otto on this one. Pull it up and haul it off and hire someone on the Google Ads. I can not stand poor workmenship and bad service. As bad as the economy is today people should learn their trade and be experts at what they offer because word of mouth is how most small businesses survive today. So, are you going to recommend these guys? Exactly, my point. :)

  44. Heather

    Oh GOOD GRIEF! What a gong show. I hope it gets straightened out soon!!

  45. Tenessa

    Yowza. I have two words for you. Angie’s List. You should post a SCATHING review.

  46. Anna

    Remember yesterday when you said that you could write a book, but nobody would believe you? No kidding, right? That is truly unbelievable.

    Craziness, Mir.

  47. Little Bird

    What Tenessa @ 47 said. Don’t let this happen to anyone else. And check Angie’s List for a better fencing crew while you’re at it!

  48. pam

    Hey I think I hired that crew to do my renovation. Can’t be sure though because my head exploded and I haven’t been able to think clearly since.

  49. Julie

    Oh hell Mir – I agree with Otto…let them take it all down and hire someone else!!! That is absolutely ridiculous!!

  50. Amanda

    That’s amazing. Tragically horrifically amazing display of incompetence at every stage.

    And now I’m so grateful that our recent chainlink install went perfectly – could not have been happier with our fence guys. I guess I’m glad we didn’t go with vinyl?

  51. angie

    My bottom line would be FREE. Anything less, and they can take the time to pull it all out, fix everything back the way it was, and pay to haul off and dispose of it all, which will cost them more (and you, as you’ll have to hire someone new) then just fixing it and letting you have it free.

    Worth a shot anyway.

    I’ve dealt with contractors that did not seem to think I was serious until letters were written with hard deadlines alluding to the date I would file in small claims court, as well as report them to all the appropriate licensing authorities and trade groups, etc… Then things magically got better.

    Good luck.

  52. jwg

    I think it’s time for public flogging. How about your local TV station’s Consumer Affairs reporter? The visuals would be great!

  53. Cheryl

    Oh. Dear. Lord.

    The pain and suffering we go through to make our homes *nice*! If hubby and I were in your shoes, I’d be suing the company for support for myself and my family because hubby would be in jail for going all ninja on those people!

    Seriously…I don’t know what’s wrong with people. I was in the commercial sign industry for a large part of my LBK (Life Before Kids), and I was often called the “Sign Nazi” because I WOULD NOT TOLERATE BAD WORK. I was often the one called upon to train the new guys because they wanted my standards instilled in the new employees.

    Does no one take pride in their work anymore? Hope you get a HUGE check from them for putting up with the shenanigans! (If you don’t, tell them you’ll plaster a horrific review all over the internet!)

  54. Jen

    Wow. ‘Cause you had NOTHING ELSE going on, right? Sigh…
    Yeah, free is the best price I can think of. That’s just insane.

  55. Stimey

    Oh, that’s a nightmare. It is phenomenal how they could screw up EVERY step of the way. I mean, making a couple mistakes, whatever, but making mistakes on everything? Now that’s talent.

  56. Erin

    I’m not entirely sure how you did it, but you seem to have inherited my stepdad’s horrible luck with purchases. We call it the Fxxxx curse (where the xxxx = the other consonants and vowels that make up his last name)(but the xxxx could also = a handy curse word that might handily sum up your situation).

    My poor stepdad has the worst luck with just about any purchase. He bought a Saturn. It had to be taken back by the dealer under the Lemon Law. He bought me a camera. It started saying HI. Except it wasn’t HI, it was H1 and that was a deadly error. Someone gave him a parking assistant thing for the garage. It self destructed in several days. The list is truly endless. And horrific.

    I am horribly sorry to see that the Fxxxx curse has made its way to your house. If I knew how to eradicate it, I would share the solution. But so far, we haven’t found it. But maybe a voodoo doll of Fence Guy might help relieve some tension?

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