An 1880s Italianate Home in Albany, Oregon
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Table of Contents

August 2010: Metal fence

Each section of fence has 25 spear points that fit over 1/2-inch round steel rods. The spears are 4-1/8 inches tall. We currently are missing about 200 spear points.






October - December 2009: Driveway Pavers

The paver project began because Barb was tired of walking through the mud to get from the car to the house. She didn't like the stepping stone approach of avoiding dirt.

The first step was to order up a couple of truckloads of gravel.

Chris Reiter dropped by and used a Bobcat to push dirt around. He scooped out over 12-inches of dirt from the front of the garage to the street. This created a flat and wide hole.

 Next, he began leveling gravel into the hole. In short order, the first two truckloads of gravel had been placed ... so we ordered up another truckload of gravel and a truckload of sand.


Chris put most of the dirt in a huge pile in the front yard. Although we don't have any pictures showing it, we hired a dump truck to remove two more loads of dirt. This is in addition to the six loads of dirt that we had removed in the spring.

Finally, Chris removed dirt in a four-foot wide strip next to the sidewalks. This will let us begin building the fence from a firm footing.

While Chris does good work with his Bobcat, the final leveling and compaction was done with smaller tools. I (Dave Sullivan) use a shovel and wheelbarrow to move gravel. Then I used boards and pipes to screed off the gravel. Then I rented a plate compactor to pack down the gravel.

We ordered up a full truckload -- 17 pallets -- of pavers from Western Interlock. That wasn't enough, so we ordered another 6 pallets later to supplement the first load.

We also ordered two pallets of brick. While the brick is actually new, it looks used because it has been tumbled. Also, we are blending four different colors of brick to give it more character.

We ordered up over 200 feet of historic fence from a cemetery outside New Orleans. It had been damaged by hurricane Katrina.

After spreading, leveling, and packing the gravel, I would spread an 1-inch thick layer of sand. Next came the easiest part: actually placing pavers in the sand.

Pavers along the edge need to be cut to size. I bought a 14-inch diamond-egde blade for my chop saw. It cuts pavers like butter -- very nice -- but it makes clouds of dust.

Before cutting a paver, I would take several deep breaths ... then I'd cut the paver ... then I'd walk to clear air and gasp for breath.

Along the edge, we wanted to put stone piers to hold up the fence. I began by pouring a 2-by-2-foot concrete pad. Next, we would arrange concrete blocks -- four to each level of the pier. In the center, we put a 5/8-inch piece of rebar and mortar. On the outside, we glued blocks together to polyurethane construction adhesive.

Our initial plan was to use bricks to build the pier caps. 

Slowly ... the pavers began spreading from the garage to the street ... and then back toward the house.
This picture shows the driveway almost finished ... but the path to the house remains a muddy mess.

Finally we link up with the existing sidewalks.
Barb thought the piers should have large ball caps, so she searched on-line for an appropriate product. Then she suggested making the caps from scratch to match the historic balls at top of the porch Newell posts. This picture shows our first efforts to visualize how the pier caps might look.

August 2007: Landscaping

The garage project really tore up the yard and rearranged the logical arrangement of the driveway and picket fence. To help make sense of all the turmoil, we hired Hetty Versteege of Nova Garden Design to help us figure out what to do.

A large pile of dirt sits in the front yard ... a left-over present from the garage project.
This view shows our yard from the front of the garage. Obviously, we have some serious landscaping work to do. One of our first steps was to hire a dump truck to remove six loads of dirt from the pile in the front yard.

June 2007: Fencing standards

To prepare for building an improved fence around the property, I checked into Albany's Fencing Standards in Residential Zoning Districts. The more I learned about Albany's current Fencing Standards, the less sense they made for the city's historical district. So I took some pictures of existing fences, and I presented these images to a City Council Work Session on June 25, 2007.

Here are the four examples of fences that I presented to the City Council.

Carol Hilliard's home at 612 Baker Street
Carol has large dogs and needed to create a fenced area to contain them. Albany sent her a Stop Work order as this fence was being built ... and after she talked with her neighbors and the Development Staff, she was able to proceed with completion without encountering further enforcement action.

The fence is 48 inches tall and lies in the clear vision area next to her driveway. Personally, I think the pickets are a bit closer than I would recommend for a clear vision area. On the other hand, when her fence was built last year, the rules provided no guidance whatsoever about what sort of fence would "impede visibility" and what sort of fence would be considered acceptable.

316 6th Avenue
This fence is 48 inches tall and lies in the clear vision area of a corner lot. Personally, I think this sort of masonry post and wrought iron picket fence is a classic style that our Fencing Standards should encourage.
Allen Nelson's home at 832 Broadalbin Street

This fence is 48 inches tall and lies in the clear vision areas of a corner lot and two driveways. I doubt that you could find anyone who would want this historic-style fence removed -- but only are very creative reading of Albany's current Fencing Standards would suggest the fence is legal today.

Ray and Carol Jackson's home at 928 Ferry

This five-foot iron fence is set back far enough from the street to sidestep problems with clear vision areas. The Jacksons purchased these fence sections pre-built at Lowes.

Because this fence is in front of the home, it blatantly violates the city's current 4-foot height limit. Interestingly, last month Albany's mayor awarded the Jacksons an award for their historic preservation work on this property.


I’d like the city’s Fence Standards to include a new type of fence, a transparent fence. A transparent fence would be defined as a picket-style fence whose pickets and posts occupy no more than 50 percent of the fence’s width so people can easily see through the fence. This new category would let people build white wood picket fences or decorative iron fences taller than the current Fence Standards allow.

Here is how I would rewrite the current fence standards. (Note: the bold parts would be new; no existing language needs to be deleted.)

Definition: A transparent fence is a picket-style fence whose pickets and posts occupy no more than 50 percent of the fence’s length so people can easily see through the fence.

1.      Fences shall not exceed 6 feet in height in interior yards, 5 feet in height for transparent fences in front yards, 4 feet in height for non-transparent fences in front yards and 2 feet in the vision clearance areas (see Section 12.180).  …


Clear vision areas must be maintained at each access to a public street and on each corner of property at the intersection of two streets or a street and a railroad. No fence, wall, hedge, sign, or other planting or structure that would impede visibility between the heights of 2-8 feet shall be established in the clear vision area. Measurements shall be made from the top of the curb or, where no curb exists, from the established street center line grade.

1.      The preceding provisions do not apply to the following:

a.      a transparent fence,

b.      a public utility pole, ...

The changes I’ve proposed would let people build “see-through” fences to define their property – while preserving the current rules which prohibit dangerous fences along corners and driveways.

Because transparent fences are more friendly than opaque fences, our rules should encourage their use. It is particularly important to allow five-foot iron fences, because they often are taller than four feet. For example, all fence balusters available from King Architectural Metals come in 47-inch lengths. When these balusters are built into sections with top and bottom rails and finials, they naturally will be more than 4-feet tall.

Here are some examples of historical fence sections available on eBay:

This picture from an eBay auction shows one of thirteen sections of iron fence that measure 94 inches long and 58 inches high. The auction lists this fence as being 19th century.
 This picture from an eBay auction shows a 1900-vintage iron fence that is 55 inches tall.
This picture from an eBay auction shows a modern reproduction of an antique cast iron fence. Each section measures 82 inches wide and 50 inches tall.

Summer 2004: Picket fence

In July 2004, Dave decided to tear down the existing privacy fence and replace it with a picket fence. The rest of this page shows the process from start to finish.

The original privacy fence had two problems. First, it was imposing ... creating a barrier between the house and the street. Second, it was in such poor condition it made the yard seem run-down.

The first step was to tear down the original privacy fence. This opened up the yard.

Top: I left the corner posts from the privacy fence standing so I could run a string between them to help measure where the new posts should go.

Bottom: In the background, you can see the pile containing the old fence.

Digging new fence post holes was the hardest physical work of the project. To make sure the new fence wouldn't tilt, I dug each hole at least 24 inches and used a full bag of concrete around each new post. Many of the holes needed to be placed on top of existing holes, so I had to remove the concrete used to firm up the last fence. Fortunately, that fence only had half a bag of concrete per hole, so I was able to pry out the concrete plugs with a shovel.

I decided to build as much of the new fence as possible out of the old fence.

Top: slats made from the old fence, cut to length and sanded.

Bottom: a pile of scrap ready for the dump.

Dave Helton uses a table saw to cut fence boards into picket-sized widths.
Peggy Helton puts primer on the finished pickets.

Installing and painting the new fence.

Top: Putting fascia board on all sides of the fence posts to make them look beefier.

Middle: Dave Helton uses a 16-guage brad nailer to attach pickets.

Bottom: Barb touches up the paint job while grand-daughter Rebecca looks on.

While digging the fence holes, I noticed there used to be an entryway from the sidewalk which had been hidden by dirt and plants. Since this was an original feature of the house, I decided to put a gate at this location.

Barb wanted backyard benches, so she talked me into building two benches in the same style as the fence. This effectively used up scrap materials.


The Allen-House.Com,, and websites are maintained by Dave and Barbara Sullivan who live in the N. H. Allen House at 208 6th Avenue SE, Albany, Oregon. Our home phone is 541-924-5983.