Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome, or When the Digging Gets Tough, Drive Away...

  It doesn't take a Marine to install a fence, even if they usually know how to dig a hole.  The United States Marine Corps has a tradition of success based on a motto, “improvise, adapt, overcome”,  and when a fence installer is in the field, that mindset helps make a successful installation.

(We'd like to thank these Marines and all
who serve to keep us safe!)
  Many fence installers advertise that they set every post in concrete.  This requires that they first dig a hole.  Digging conditions will dictate how effective this strategy is.  There are many machines used in the fence industry to make holes.  Some of them are very efficient, even in mixed rocky soil, or bedrock.  Some of these machines are very pricey, and many smaller fence companies opt for augers that run off a skid loader or tractor.  Others rely on post hole diggers and elbow grease.
  All of these methods have a place, and in some areas of the country, setting in concrete works.  Where there is a lot of moisture, and in areas that experience frost in the ground, concrete may cause more problems than it solves.  Moisture transfer between wood and concrete can cause premature failure of the post due to wood rot.  Frost causes more complex problems.
  Frost penetration into the ground causes the dirt to close in around the concrete plug, and frost beneath the plug actually forces the plug and post up out of the ground.  Some contractors try to combat this by making the bottom of the hole larger than the top of the hole, making a cone or bell shaped hole, with the goal of having a bigger foundation to hold it all down.  It doesn't work as intended in most cases, because the larger surface area at the bottom of the hole offers the frost expansion a larger area  to press on, and the post moves up.  It also takes more concrete, (read: money), to fill the larger hole.
  In areas where frost or wet conditions are a challenge to traditional post setting, driving posts into the ground has been gaining in popularity.  By disturbing less ground, the installer lessens the need to haul off excess dirt, and minimizes the turf repair needed around each post.  Because the post has a smaller surface area for frost to “grip”, it is less likely to move, and more likely to go back to its original position once the frost heave subsides.
  Soft, wet soil is always a challenge, whether digging or driving.  There simply isn't enough resistance along the sides of the post under ground to prevent it from laying over.  For situations like this, and in stable soil where additional strength is called for to hang a gate or secure a corner, drive anchors can significantly strengthen the system.  Modern Fence Technologies, (and others), sells a bracket that assists in connecting these driven anchors to the post.  Some use angle iron “blades”, while the Modern Fence version uses 1 5/8” top rail cut offs for most smaller common post sizes as a “root”.
  Driving may not be the answer to every post setting challenge, but it ought to be in every installers arsenal.  Modern Fence Technologies can help you gear up for handling nearly every driving challenge.  Give us a call at (888) 456-6786.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Making Sure That Your Competitor Makes More Money Than You

Are you trying to price your product or service by asking your potential customer what your competitor's prices are? If you consistently charge less than your competitors, you will always make less than your competitors. You can't possibly do all the business in your area, so by pricing yourself in this way, you guarantee that you will have less profitability than your competitor, who will do all those jobs you are too busy losing money to do. And because you are so busy losing money, your competitor can charge more than he might have if there were real competition.

Competition isn't a game of “How Low Can You Go?”. It is a system of checks and balances that works only when the players understand their true cost of doing business and charge accordingly. A business ought to be able to sell a quality product, at a price that satisfies the customer that all is being done to safeguard his or her investment, while allowing the business to pay for materials, labor, overhead, and, in good times, a little profit.

Promising your customer that you can beat the competition on price is just like saying “I'll willingly forsake any hope of making money.” It won't kill you right away, but every day you go to work and get a little closer to the failed business graveyard.

If you want to beat the competition, beat them by offering a better product, or better service. Otherwise you are promising the customer the lowest quality job you can get away with for the money.

When you need wiring done in your house do you look around for the cheapest guy who has a pair of pliers, or do you hire a professional electrician to keep your family safe? If you want quality, competent work, you hire a professional. You get someone who understands what they are doing instead of someone who is copying what they have seen someone else do.

Fortunately, in the fence industry, it doesn't cost twice as much to get American made quality hardware covered by liability insurance, instead of poor quality, imported knock-offs. It often costs the same or less for the products, and you never pay to replace them if they should fail for any reason.  And American consumers are overwhelmingly willing to pay more for American made products.

A lowest price guarantee means that your competitor will make more money than you.

Monday, June 8, 2015

What do you look for in a drop rod?

First, it's got to hold the gate shut, so it has to be made of a strong enough material to withstand the demands of the environment where it will be used. At Modern Fence Technologies, we offer several types to match the need. Anything from 1/2” mild steel, to 5/8” stainless in lengths 12” to 48”, to 1” solid mild steel and 1” tubular galvanized, for the biggest gates.

Second, the guides have to be strong enough to take a hit. All of our guides wrap two sides of the gate upright, to allow screws in two directions. This prevents the drop rod from “peeling off” the face of the gate when it is under strain. And there is a hanger bracket to keep the rod from dragging the ground when the gate is in use.

Finally, for many people today, security is critical. We now offer lockable drop rods in all the most popular sizes and styles, including stainless steel! All American made, all world class products from the leader in gate hardware design, Modern Fence Technologies. Use the best. Order today!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Building a Better Gate, Part 2...

When you write a blog you sometimes wonder if there is anyone out there reading what you write. Once in a while you get a great comment on a post that just needs to be shared, expanded on, and appreciated. In an earlier post titled “Building a Better Gate...” I made a blanket assertion that the angle of a brace is more important than the direction.

When all other factors are equal, this is the case. But what other factors are there? An anonymous responder pointed out that the direction of the brace is often determined by the material and construction method chosen for the gate. Here is the text of the response:

On a metal gate, the diagonal should go from the hinge side high, to the latch side low. This is called being in "tension" vs. the alternative which is called being in "compression". Assuming that the welds hold, (which is an assumption that should be made), the question is whether the brace is more likely to stretch or compress, and compress includes bending. It will always take more force to stretch a metal brace, than it will take to bend one. That is why a truss rod works in one direction and not in the other.

On a wood gate, your braces need to be set the other direction, or in "compression". You cannot weld the ends of the wood together, and there are not great fastening systems for that. In tension the fasteners that are normally used will pull apart; in compression normal nails or screws will normally do the trick.”

I am going to agree, except for one very small point. Where the comment refers to “metal”, it is more correct to say “steel”. Aluminum can be a trickier material. It is prone to not only compression or bending, but it can also be stretched. So while an aluminum gate should have braces from the high hinge side to low latch side, a heavier aluminum gate may also need additional gusseting to combat the longitudinal stretching that can occur with aluminum.

The commenter goes on to make excellent points about the challenges of wood gate building and the need to use compression and gravity to help your fasteners hold the gate together.  All in all a great conversation about gate building.

Thank you to all who read these posts, and a special thanks to those taking time to set me straight!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Does Your Fence Installer Have a PhD?

It seems there is nothing so simple as setting a fence post.  Until you do it.  The opinions about and techniques used in setting fence posts are as varied as the people who do it, the type of fence they install, and the terrain they deal with.

  For some, it's not set right if it's not set in concrete.  For others, only driving will do.  And what about how deep it should go?  Whether digging or driving, nearly everyone has an opinion about how deep a post should be.  If you can get three fence installers to agree on all these issues, there are a few countries in the Middle East that could use your unique talents as a mediator.

  The fact is, we live in a great and varied world. Conditions in one area of the country are not the same as those seen by fence installers in another area.  Sometimes the conditions change so much just crossing the street, or even in one backyard that what works in one place will just not work in another.  In order to be a complete and well rounded professional, it pays to have several techniques available for setting posts.

  While depth of post depends on variables like soil stability, the potential for frost heaving, the height and type of fence intended, and the materials used, the method of connecting the fence to the planet can vary due to all these factors, plus local digging conditions, water table depth, and personal preference of the installer.

  It boils down to one basic point.  There is no single “best way” to install a fence post.  Some ways work better in some areas, and some don't.  That's why there is so much varied opinion, and why it is important for the consumer to make sure they hire a professional fence installer.  A professional will have several methods available, as well as specialized knowledge of the conditions in your area.

  A PhD may not be necessary for every job, but it's hard to install fence without a Post Hole Digger!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Does your hinge have a true bearing or a Nylon spacer?

Does your hinge have a true bearing or a Nylon spacer?
Many hinges marketed for use on vinyl gates have added a bearing or bushing to the adjuster rod.  Without this feature, a hinge will quickly grind through whatever paint surface is there and start rusting and peeling, squeaking as it operates. Modern Fence Technologies was the first to use engineered bearings, specifically made for this purpose to be true self lubricating bearings, designed to last the lifetime of our hinge, while preventing metal to metal contact, and preserving the paint for a lifetime of great looks, and smooth, quiet operation.

To do this we had to overcome several challenges. First, materials are needed that can stand up to ultraviolet light without degrading, and must also be impervious to cold and water, in order to survive outside in the elements for 15-25 years or more. They must also be strong enough to support the loads placed on them.

Many companies use nylon as a bearing material. It is not engineered for this purpose. Nylon breaks down under UV light, and is affected by water and cold. It actually absorbs water and swells, and gets brittle when cold, leading to costly call backs and repairs. It also tends to deform under load over time.

Instead, Modern Fence Technologies uses ACS 09MK-MF Nylotron for bearings on black hinges and a proprietary material for our white hinges. Nylotron is an engineered plastic that is highly stable and is load supporting. It incorporates graphite to lubricate the joint. This specific grade of Nylotron remains flexible in cold conditions and continues to lubricate no matter the temperature, and doesn't absorb water.

Our special blend for white bearings incorporates UV inhibitors, along with water repellent lubricants and engineered plastics to maintain resiliency in cold and wet conditions, survive direct sunlight, meet the rigorous load bearing demands of our Nylotron bearings, while offering a color matched bearing for our all stainless steel,white powder coated hinges.

We have also designed all of our bearings to truly support the load of the hinge over the lifetime of your gate. Nylon breaks down quickly in the elements and many of the bearings on the market today are so small as to be more properly referred to as “spacers” than true bearings.

Don't be fooled by the lower cost imports with poor quality bearings, or none at all. They just don't make the grade.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Building a Better Gate...

Building a Better Gate...

In order to make a gate that stands the tests of time and use, there are some basic principles that should be followed. Using leverage to make a gate more stable, rather than easily deformed is the key.

Everyone has seen the old fashioned wooden gate with a Z-brace, a diagonal intended to make the gate more rigid. Most fence guys will tell you that there are only two ways to put in a Z-brace. The right way, and the wrong way. Some say it should go from the top hinge to the lower outside corner of the gate to “hold it up”. Others say it should go from the lower hinge, up to the upper outside corner to “lift it up”
From years of experience, they will tell you that the way they do it is best. The problem is they are both right. Except when they are not. More important than which direction the brace runs is the angle it runs in. That angle will determine whether the brace supports and makes the gate more rigid, or whether it adds unnecessary and unsupported weight to the gate, making it weaker than it would be without the extra brace.

Next time you ride over a bridge, look at the supports. They are designed to form a “truss”, which is a stable form. Trusses are based on triangles, among the most stable of geometric constructs. (Think “pyramid”, very old, very stable.)
To make your gate as strong as possible, and prevent sagging, the key is keeping diagonal braces to 45 degrees or less. This allows the brace to apply a vertical force, supporting the weight of the gate against gravity, rather than a horizontal force, that results in sagging and twisting of the gate.  These principles apply no matter what material you build your gates with.  Proper bracing, at 45 degrees or less, is the key to success.

If you are running into problems with a gate design, or would like more detail about why the 45 degree rule is the most important factor in bracing a gate, call Modern Fence Technologies at 888 456-6786.  Or, if you are on the West coast, call our Carson City, Nevada branch at 888-613-8146.