Your Place: When a new fence fails to impress

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Q: I recently had a new fence installed, and I am pretty unhappy about it. The wood quality is terrible, as if they used seconds. The salesman said this is the way the fence should look. I have only paid half the total cost. Should I ask them to repair/replace anything before I pay the balance?

A: Since I haven’t seen your fence, it’s hard for me to judge. I also don’t really understand what the company representative means by "this is the way the fence should look."

Have you looked at other fences of similar composition to check him out?

Every board I’ve ever purchased has the grade stamped on it. And anyway, any builder or carpenter worth dealing with can tell the grade of lumber by just looking at it.

My raised garden beds are built of red cedar, which I bought at Lowe’s. Three are several years old; one is as new as last Memorial Day weekend.

All look about the same age, though the new one looks a little brighter.

The difference is that I went to Lowe’s and picked through the piles until I found what I wanted.

Not every board is the same, as you might guess.

My house is sided with red cedar, and I keep several replacement boards in the garage.

The front of the board is smooth; the back is rough.

Are both sides of the fence rough, or just your side? The rule is, good side faces the neighbors, not-so-good faces you.

Though I understand your disappointment, you should have asked for a detailed explanation of the materials the installer was proposing to use, demanded a written contract for work performed — if it was a huge amount of money, you should have had it looked over by a lawyer — and then specified contractually what you wanted and how much it should cost.

Also, you should have never given the installer 50 percent up front. If you did sign a contract with these people, that wasn’t written in their favor, it might include a way of reaching a settlement without going to court, because that’s where I think you are headed.

Although belated, it might be time to call that lawyer.