Beautiful fence, a few suggestions
Though I have some reservations, overall, I'm very happy with the fence. I installed three panels over Memorial Day weekend and may order a 4th when they're back in stock. My wife and I teamed up Friday night to assemble each panel. We only finished one, mainly because we were literally working in the dark. Saturday morning, we were able to assemble the other 2 panels in a little over half an hour. Next, extending slightly beyond 19'-4" (allowing for the 4-inch width of each post), I pounded in
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temporary "batterboard" stakes and stretched a string along where I wanted the vertical face of the fence to be. I then attached a 50-cent line level to each end-stake to determine the total vertical drop of 16 inches. After asking my wife to adjust the start & end point to her liking (which ended up moving the entire setup nearly 3 feet uphill), I sunk the first 4x4x8 cedar post on the downhill end and sloped the concrete base away from the post to slow the decay process. Though I really wanted to get it done, I forced myself to allow the Quikrete at the first post base to cure. On Monday, based on the guide string, I determined that the first (downhill) panel would have a 10-inch gap at the bottom of that first post. That might seem too large a gap at the base in your situation, but in mine, it proved well worth it for the 78.5-inch visual barrier it left at the top. To set the 3 uphill posts, I used post spikes rather than setting them in concrete. I found those to be another great product. Went with "medium duty" which is a 30-inch spike and is a step up from "mailbox post" grade. We had to sand the bottom corners of each cedar 4x4 to get them into the post-spike sleeve and even then, the resulting fit was very tight. (Presumably because they're rough-cut instead of dimensional, the cedar posts I used are at least 1/4-inch beefier than 4x4x8 PT pine posts). To give me a starting point to easily mount the panels, I pre-cut six 1.5"x4" blocks from pine grade stakes I had on hand and used the guide string to screw each block to the inside face of each post so that the top of each block acted as a "rest-ledge" when guiding each 50-lb panel into a level-and-plumb position between the corresponding posts. It helps to then re-check the slope between each post. As noted, in my case, there was a rise of 10 inches under Panel 1, then 3 inches at the bottom of panels 2 & 3. The jerry-rigged pine ledger blocks proved to be such a time saver that it would be a nice touch if future kits included two cedar blocks per panel. If you prefer, you can discard the ledger blocks after the fence is complete. In a final step when preparing to mount each assembled panel, I pre-drilled 3 holes in each vertical frame using a 1/4" bit. When each panel was in place, I attached it between the posts with 2.5-inch, yellow-coated star-head screws. The choice of screws was accidental, but the no-strip mechanical (torque) advantage of the star-head proved to be another major time-saver, and the coating blends very well with the cedar. (If the manufacturer will provide those screws in lieu of brass Phillips-head screws in future kits, that will be another nice service.) When all three panels were attached, I used a tri-square to make a horizontal mark 4 inches above the top of each "uphill" panel on three sides, then got on a stepladder with my battery-powered reciprocating saw. I used PT pine post caps but you may prefer copper or black. My wife was highly skeptical of the stepped-down look but is pleasantly surprised at the beauty of the finished product. Though I admit being somewhat disappointed in the thickness (or lack thereof) of the vertical T&G panels within the 7 pre-assembled frames that come with each kit, this is a unique and visually-appealing product, and as another reviewer noted, I found myself enjoying assembling each panel. Aside from A) Including ledger blocks & B) Providing coated star-head screws, I suggest that the manufacturer should C) Pre-drill at least 4 screw holes in the bottom of the bottom tee, D) Revise your kit instructions to start with assembly of the bottom "tee" using construction adhesive, followed by screws, which will allow the construction adhesive to start doing its job while you're assembling the rest of the kit, and E) Add a tiny sticker to each of the 5 vertical panels to confirm the order in which they're supposed to be installed, which will save even your most mechanically-savvy customers 10-15 minutes of head-scratching / trial & error.