May 25, 2016 signature 0Comment


A rusty old fence on a property speaks volumes about its owners. Or, rather, it shouts really unfortunate things about them to the entire neighborhood, such as “We’re weird, and our devil dog might eat your children.” But you only have a cat!


1. First, snip the tie wires that hold the fabric of the chain link to the top rail and posts, then loosen the bolts on the tension bands, the connectors that hold the tension bar to the end posts. Do the same to the brace bands that hold the top rail to the other posts. Drop the chain link fabric and roll it up. Slide the top rail out and set It aside.

2. The end posts are usually set in concrete. Dig an oval shaped hole around the concrete footing and pry it out using a pinch point bar. The post itself also works as a lever if you pull the top toward you, then rotate the footing up and out of the hole. Alternatively, a large hydraulic fence post jack can pull a post out of the ground, footing and all. If you rent one of these, you’ll find it’s worth every penny.

3. If the concrete footing rests far enough underground, you can also use a reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade to cut the post flush with the ground, and pound the stub with a sledgehammer until it’s sufficiently deep to be safe. Sometimes when doing this, you’ll get lucky and the footing will break up. Then you can change tack and lift it out in chunks.


It was probably beautiful when it was trimmed in the shape of an Italian cypress. Now it looks like a 500 pound hamster.


1. Don’t start at the trunk. Snip off large branches with bypass loppers until you can get close enough to the trunk to saw it off with a chainsaw outfitted with a semi chisel chain, which is ideal for hard and dirty cutting conditions. Make sure to leave enough of the trunk to form a handgrip or even a lever to help you get the root ball out of the ground.

2. If you intend to plant in or near the same hole, the stump and roots have to come out. The more tree like the shrub, the more difficult this can be. Expose as much of the stump below the ground as possible by digging around it with a shovel, pickaxe, and chisel point pry bar. Cut the roots using the chainsaw if you can do so safely and without hitting a rock or burying the saw’s nose in the dirt. If you can’t, use a reciprocating saw and a bimetal blade designed for cutting wood with nails embedded in it. After the roots have been severed and all that’s left is an oddly shaped hunk of wood, pry it out with your pinch point bar. You can put your foot on this in a gesture of victory, if you like.


It’s like they move themselves to the worst possible place. You dig for a foundation. Rock. Plant a tree. Rock. Lay out a garden? Clear, loamy topsoil. Just kidding: A rock!


To deal with a big one, blast it to smithereens with an EzeBreak Micro blaster, a small scale blasting kit that you don’t need a license to own or use. To start, make a few holes in the rock with a rotary hammer. Thoroughly clean the holes to remove dust and chips, then insert the Micro blaster’s small smokeless powder charges into the holes.

These look somewhat like .410 shotgun shells. Insert firing pins on top of the charges, then activate the pins with compressed air. It’s safe and extremely effective. Rocks are fun.


A patio whose janky, cracked foundation trips you up while you’re holding a tray of freshly grilled steaks is no patio at all.


1. Busting up a concrete slab with a pavement breaker is hard, loud, dirty, and exhausting, so start with the right machine. Pavement breakers range from tools you can use with one hand to industrial monsters powered by four cylinder engines. You want the heaviest electric model you can get. These machines weigh sixty to seventy pounds and are available at tool rental stores.

2. Begin at one edge of the pavement and run the breaker’s bit straight down to break off pieces that are about four inches wide. In most cases the work goes reasonably quickly, but all bets are off if you run into reinforcing metal like rebar or welded wire mesh.

3. If you do hit metal, you’ll need to rent a power cutter, a gas engine circular saw equipped with a diamond impregnated blade that cuts concrete and the reinforcing metal in it.

4. After the pavement is broken (or broken and cut), shovel or lift it into a contractor’s wheelbarrow for transport to a dumpster with a swing out door. This will allow you to wheel the debris right in and then drag your exhausted body back out. Good Job. Go get a beer.

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