barbed wire is out of the question, unfortunately.

Our current dog-and-kid containment force field in the back yard consists of a simple plastic deer fence with a strand of PetGuard Invisible Fence run through the bottom of the plastic mesh.  The deer fence alone isn’t enough to keep the dogs from weaseling through underneath, and the invisible fence by itself isn’t enough to keep them in the yard when they’re excited enough to run right through the discomfort zone, but the combination is surprisingly effective–the deer fence keeps them from running through the wire, and the invisible fence keeps them from just slipping underneath the fence.

That said, I have been tasked by the Lady of the Castle with looking into a more sturdy and permanent solution.  I had professional fence builders out here, and they quoted me $6,000 and change for a 250-ft. mesh fence, mostly because the lay of the land and the granite slab underneath much of the yard requires a whole lot of drilling.  I have no experience with fence-building, but I’m not entirely ecstatic about the idea of writing yet another check for $LUDICROUS_AMOUNT to yet another contractor, so I’d like to get something in place by myself.

To those of you who know a thing or two about fences and the building thereof: Is the DIY route feasible in this case?  And if so, what kind of fence would you run around an uneven downhill slope with a big-ass granite slab sitting underneath most of it?  I have anywhere from a few feet to a few inches of dirt on top of the bedrock.  Or should I just save myself the agony, and stack up a six-foot wall of Goodyears all around the Castle?


44 thoughts on “barbed wire is out of the question, unfortunately.

  1. Marko, Marko, Marko. You work with what you got. You’re in New ENGLAND. What you got is granite. What you do is make a drystone wall. You put it ON the ledge instead of in the ledge. You use the stones from your field–or you can buy the things (you’re perilously in Coals to Newcastle territory, there) but there it is. I commend to you and
    and All of whom I found most useful. Now, I used recycled sidewalk slabs for the walls around my house, and just flopped ’em down on the ground–they were already dressed flat. But even the cost of buying materials will be much, much cheaper than hiring someone. And then you get exercise. Hell, with enough beer and pizza, I know some bloggers who would help you.

  2. I recommend sandbags or stacks of sand/grain ala Zulu. Way cooler than chain-link.

    How high is the fence going to be? 2 feet to the bedrock is probably fine, especially if you use concrete. Inches is a real problem.

    • Marko Kloos says:

      Fence doesn’t need to be more than 4 feet high. Unfortunately, it is indeed inches to the bedrock in some spots, and bare bedrock in a few.

      • That means you’ll need to cut into the bedrock to sink your posts. Doing it by hand is back breaking work and unlike my parents, your kids aren’t big enough to make them do it. The machinery to do it right is pretty hefty too. Honestly, it’s something I would pay professionals to do for me.

  3. Groundhog says:

    I can’t help but comment on this post mostly because explosive shaped charges were the first thing that came to mind 🙂
    Now, if you are rural, reeeeeealy rural, that could work and be lots of fun too! If not, maybe not so much. Kind of depends on who your neighbors are. What Jeff said regarding feet of soil is right. Inches? Short of finding a way to bolt the base to the granite some how, I’d go with the explosives.
    I did want to add a serious thought though, here in South Texas I have seen a number of fences where farmers of old had gone out and gathered all the rocks from their fields and stacked them into a nice wall. Looks good and it’s free if you don’t mind the back breaking labor. You can also do something similar with branches/small logs. Both look quite good and are effective, and free if you can find the materials.

    • Marko Kloos says:

      I thought about the rock wall thing, especially since the plots here in NH already use rock walls as demarcation lines, but there’s no way I could find enough rocks to make a 250ft. fence high enough to keep the kids and dogs from scaling/jumping it.

      Also, my back would probably give out for good after half a day or so.

      • perlhaqr says:

        Also, my back would probably give out for good after half a day or so.

        Well, (unless the lady of the house says otherwise) you don’t have to do the whole fence in one day. And think of how good of shape you’d be in afterwards!

        Check with local farmers for plowed up rocks. You guys probably get enough frost heave to get a new crop of rocks every year. Of course, they’ve been plowing and planting there for a couple hundred years, so they might have all the rocks harvested already.

        Do you guys have a pickup? That’ll help. Though I suppose you could transport rocks by minivan if it’s all you had.

      • Mark says:

        I know little of building rock walls, but from my experience collecting stones for borders around my wife’s flower beds I’ve learned the best way to calculate the materials required is to estimate the number of stones you think you’ll need, multiply that by four, and then add 10%.

    • Dixie says:

      I can’t help but comment on this post mostly because explosive shaped charges were the first thing that came to mind…

      Oddly enough, this was my first thought, too. (chuckle)

      Best bet would be to rent a small excavator with a “breaker” (jackhammer) attachment, drill holes for T-posts, then put rock around the corner posts and some in the middle of the run (say every 3rd or 4th post).

      Best of both worlds– you don’t have to haul a lot of rocks right now, and over time you can build up a rock fence for the beauty (if you want to).

  4. Lissa says:

    Log another vote for piles of sandbags. Plus, that would give you nests for machine guns!

  5. Tim Dougherty says:

    Marko, I have seen something that may work for you- out here in the scablands of eastern Washington.
    Much of the grazing land is shallow soil on top of basalt. Ranchers have strung wire (wahr) and wood fenceposts between cribbed rock-filled anchors. They used either wire mesh cylindrical cribs (with 2 wood posts to tie the wire to), or wooden rectangular cribs at key points and corners (see photo to get the idea – -way down the page past the hippies building yurts)

    The fencing is laid out so:

    H = cribbed anchor
    | = wood post

    The fenceposts are set as deep as possible in the shallow soil and are held up by the stretched wire fencing and a few rocks at the base. Sounds like less work than a solid stone wall (though less picturesque)

    You would probably still need your electro-grenze for die hunden.

  6. Charels says:

    How long are your thin-soiled spans? A well anchored fence will accept a good stretch. Depending on distance, not enough to climb, but enough to keep dogs and non-climbing kids contained.

    Another idea if it doesn’t have to be pretty: Cattle panels. 16ft by 4ft. If you’re trying to keep wiener dogs in you’ll have to add another layer of wire fencing.–3502077

    Can you rent the power equipment to auger/drill yourself?

    Red Brand fencing. Good fence. Good resource for questions:

  7. NYEMT says:

    When we bought our house (in eastern NY), I DIY-installed about a 40’x40′ dogyard made of 48″ chainlink fence. I didn’t have the rock problems you do – I had a friend with a skidsteer and auger attachment drill 12″ holes for the posts, and set them in Quik-crete. Three years later, all the dogs were gone, and it was a TON of work to remove it all.

    Another three or four years passed, and we got another dog. This time, I cheated: I found some more rolls of chainlink fence at the dump, went to Tractor Supply and got about 70 or 80 T-posts intended for wire stock fencing, pounded them in the ground, and stretched the chainlink fencing on the T-posts.

    In your situation, I’d probably go the T-post route again. Your fence company quoted you $6k, and for about $350-$400 you can get a hammer drill and a bit large enough to drill the holes for the T-posts in any rock you find that’s too hard to dig through. Drop the posts in the holes, pour Quik-crete around them, and string chainlink or wire fence on them. If you ever decide to take them down (as I did, when the most recent critter became unexpectedly deceased), the ones in dirt pull right out, and the ones in rock are easy to cut off at the ground with a grinder and metal wheel.

  8. Nat F says:

    I’ve put up fence in regular soil conditions, and drilled holes in granite, but never for fencing. Short of renting a large rock drill I think your best bet is a hybrid of standard fence where the soil depth allows it and some sort of rock wall or surface mounted posts for fencing. Perhaps you can use cement filled buckets to hold up your temporary fence over the surface and near surface granite while slowly building a rock wall over the years.

  9. Melody Byrne says:

    +1 on the T-post plus chainlink or woven wire. Plus you can add electrified agricultural fencing wire on the inside of the fence at about nose level of the dogs. There’s insulators available specifically for T-posts and we’ve found the visible electric wire to be very effective for our own dogs who used to scramble under the fence. It only takes one or two shocks for them to get the idea that they can’t bypass the odd yellow electric fencing. As a bonus, all the materials are available at Home Depot and very reasonable. It only cost us $150 to fence and charge our 1000 linear ft of fence.

  10. Stretch says:

    If mele bags and claymores are not an option:
    Try a “Powder Actuated Fastener” ala Hilti.

    You can fasten bases to the granite (check with dealer to make sure). Once that’s done up go the posts and you’re on your way.
    I’ve installed several fences/walls that way on pre-stressed concrete and asphalt.

  11. FarmDad says:

    Were I doing it , I likely would fabricate some T anchors that the fence post would socket onto and bolt through , Rent a masonry Hammer Drill and attach them to the rock with expansion bolts where the soil is thin .

  12. Don says:

    I installed mine with my dad, and it was about 220′ of chain link with two walking gates and a drive gate. But I had two things you don’t:

    1. My dad, who knows how to build anything.

    2. A prairie to build my fence upon. Flat dirt instead of tiltedy rockiness.

    I wouldn’t want to try it . . . but if you do, it sounds like the rock is the only real issue. The rest of a chain link fence–measuring, setting posts, running top and bottom rails, stretching the fencing and securing it to the posts and rails–is like putting together a big Erector set. Any German ought to be able to do all that with his eyes closed.

    Is there someone out there who would drill the holes for you if you measured and marked them? That’s still likely to be expensive, but once you have post holes the rest is nothing you can’t handle.

  13. og says:

    Chain link. Drill the holes. Drilling holes in granite is neither difficult nor time consuming if you have the correct tools. Presenting the correct tool:,default,pd.html?start=7&cgid=bosch-rotary-hammers

    You can rent these, in fact a 1/2 day rental will most likely cost a couple dollars and let you learn by doing. You don’t want to try to drill 2″ diameter holes, it will take forever and be impossible to get perfectly vertical. What you want to do is buy “Feet” to attach directly to the granite using small anchors, and then put the chainlink posts into the ‘Feet”.

    Presenting “Feet”.

    We do this all the time to put chain link safety enclosures on concrete floors.
    These are tough and work well, you might have to shim to get perfectly level (a lot of washers and stuff) or use the “jackhammer” function of the abovementioned tool to chisel each area flat where the ‘feet” will be installed. You’ll have to drill three or four 1/2″ holes for each post’s ‘Foot”, but it won’t be a problem. Nice part is you can do all this a bit at a time, say put in a “Foot’ each evening for a couple weeks, and then finish the fence in one fell swoop with the help of some friends on a weekend.

    A soldier course of paving stones on each side of the chain link will prevent dogs from digging/crawling under. Also make weedwhacking easier.

  14. Jeff says:


    One option would be to use concrete block (think square chimney block) cemented (mortared) to the granite to provide a mounting point for the wood posts needed for a fence. If desired, you could use some small holes drilled into the granite (go rent a hammer drill) and extending up into either the concrete block hollows or into the fence posts directly.

    Once you have a few blocks plumb and set on the granite surface (which should be quite impervious to frost) you would then install the wood posts and backfill the voids with concrete.

    You then have the carpentry work of building the fence between the posts.

    Good Luck!

  15. Jeff says:

    Previously stated:

    “If desired, you could use some small holes drilled into the granite (go rent a hammer drill) and extending up into either the concrete block hollows or into the fence posts directly.”

    missing something there… should have included the rebar in the holes and extending up into……..

  16. Gerry N. says:

    You might consider developing a relationship with your County Extension Agent. It is amazing what information he will have on almost all things rural. (And not so rural.)

    Gerry N.

  17. Matthew Carberry says:

    Building on what Jeff said, except that you might be able to use a two-stage epoxy to “mortar” the rebar into the granite, I presume it would require smaller holes than leaving room for mortar. We use that technique for retrofitting earthquake anchors into footings and foundations up here.

    For that matter, for that purpose we’re actually setting all-thread, not rebar. If there are only a few locations where the posts are on granite you might be able to bolt them with an L-bracket to all-thread epoxied into the rock.

    Hammer drill rentals aren’t that expensive.

  18. Liz Ditz says:

    How about a buck & pole fence (common in the rocky west where aspens are plentiful)

    augmented with wire & the aforementioned Pet Guard.

    Here’s a nice image:

    The cost may be pretty high, though, depending on local conditions.

  19. Heath J says:

    Why not just use concrete anchors and make bases out of angle iron? Hammer drill and a few 3/8 bits, Drill the hole, tap em in, and bolt the base right on.

    Or go with a fence you don’t have to do any digging at all for, Snake Rail!

  20. Heath J says:

    Also, I priced a smallish run of rail fence for my house, and one can get a 250′ run roughly 3′ high for about $1500. ( you install)

  21. libertyman says:

    Well, coincidentally , I am just starting to dismantle a chain link fence of I don’t know how many feet in length — I can measure it tomorrow, and I live not so far away. I would be happy to provide details and pictures (and help) as requested.

    • Marko Kloos says:

      That would be teh awesum.

      • libertyman says:

        I’ll take some pictures tomorrow afternoon and make some measurements, as it is still up. I , too , have a rocky yard, and I am not sure how the posts were installed. ( or how they will come out!) I have a trailer, and live near the Hollis/Amherst line. I would be happy to give it to you.

        • Kristopher says:

          Then rent or buy a large Hilti Drill-hammer, and several large carbide bits.

          Drill 1 foot deep holes, and use an epoxy Hilti sells to set posts in them.

          Use a bucket of water on a step ladder, and small diameter tubing to keep a stream of water on the bedrock while you drill it. Let the drill do the work, if you lean into it, you will eat carbide drills up like candy.

          ( I spent a month drilling inch diameter holes in streamside boulders for fish cover structures for the forest service … if they can teach a silly assed kid to do it in a half-hour, you should be able to handle it. )

        • libertyman says:

          Sent some pictures to the gmail account, let me know what you think.

  22. MaddMedic says:

    Rolls of razor wire.

    Need to modify a bit.

    Or start in the center of area being fenced with a bobcat and push what dirt there is down to the granite outwards and make a big berm around the area and put your chain link on top of berm. Yard of bare granite would be unique and no mowing!!!

  23. Al Terego says:

    Double coiled barbed wire; fast, cheap, and fairly permanent. Kids learn quick. Dogs quicker. And the point is more to keep critters out than in, yes? AT

  24. Al Terego says:

    Dang it MaddMedic: you beat me to the submit button. But I’d stay with the barbed stuff; that razor shit will hurt you.

  25. PhillipC says:

    My first thought was to use concrete anchors into the granite and use the 4×4 braces they have at the hardware store, or just a couple of good size L brackets. But the idea of putting rebar or allthread down in a small hole and cementing a concrete block to the granite with a post in it was good too.

    Frankly, there’s a dozen ways you can do it, although I’d tend to use woven wire with a top row of barb wire if you didn’t mind the looks of it. Woven wire looks like this:

    It also works with the T-posts.

    Hope that helps.

  26. Windy Wilson says:

    Three things
    1. I recall in Jackson Hole Wyoming all the fences are built like saw horses because the soil is just too full of big rocks to dig fence post holes quickly enough to finish a fence in the same century you started.
    2. How high is the existing fence? I recall reading that Deer can jump “flat-footed” over a 6 foot chainlink fence, but won’t jump over a fence they can’t see through.
    3. Another concern in addition to the post holes where the soil is thin is the dogs crawling under the fence. I have read where the fence needs to go down 6 inches to stop that.

  27. Joanna says:

    I vote for a line of standing stones with mysterious painted markings, and a few cryptic warnings posted at irregular intervals on weather-beaten signs. When the kids ask about it, go pale and mutter something about “keeping them out”.

  28. robnrun says:

    I wouldn’t even consider stone walls, not only can any kid or dog scale them, they are somewhat analogous to a 3-d jigsaw made of exceptionally heavy objects you want to move only once.
    However you anchor it, look around for diamond mesh wire (also called no-climb), with a top and sometimes bottom board it can look very good for years. Because it is stock fence it can be cheaper than chain-link.

  29. Homer says:

    Might a creative shape for the fence follow the 2 ft dirt line? I’d assume it doesn’t have to be a rectangle with 90 degree corners.

  30. Eric Hammer says:

    One thought, that might not work depending on how much random lumber you have available is a split rail fence:
    The pictures they have there require quite a bit of trees to make, but I have seen them with posts at the corners that the log quarters attach to with bolts, spacing out the logs. So instead of logs directly on to each other, you have say 3 logs bolted to a 5′ post 1′ apart. The zigzag shape means the posts don’t need to be in the ground to hold up as they work more like table legs. I have also seen these with stones pile up around the bottom rungs to keep things from scooting under it at ground level.
    Maybe not ideal, but it might be better than dropping a lot of cash trying to go into granite. Bonus if you had a few trees blow down this spring like my folks did.

  31. Außenseiter says:

    I think it ought to be a federal crime, keeping kids and dogs out of the woods….

  32. Vaarok says:

    My simple suggestions are along the lines of everybody else

    Either a steel socket on a plate, with anchor holes drilled into the bedrock and bolted down with concrete anchors. Requires steel socket-plates, anchors, and drilling lots of holes with a hammerdrill.

    Or, you could make a few big holes at the corners of your enclosure, put posts and concrete in them, and then string high-tension wire between them. You use fewer posts, but the posts have to be anchored more firmly. Probably requires a skidsteer and breaker rental, plus concrete. The actual tensioning isn’t that hard, since you use a ratchet and buffer springs.

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