Lakehouse West Retirement Estates is a high-end retirement community nestled on 25+ pristine wooded acres in Sarasota, Fla., on the west coast of the Sunshine State.
One of two major renovation projects performed during 2015 was the replacement of approximately 2,000 lineal feet of 20+ year old wood fence.
Through a combination of persistence, vision and thinking “outside the box,” the end result was a visually pleasing, durable and “green” bamboo fence that beautifully enhances the landscape.
East Coast Fence and Guardrail of Cocoa, Fla. was the installing contractor, and the story of how the project came about is fascinating. Don Miller, the general manager and 40+ year veteran of East Coast Fence, provides the narrative:
Donald Blivas, a co-owner of Lakehouse West Retirement Estates, along with Fred Diala and John Rowe, live on Siesta Key, a pristine area long the west Florida coast. A custom bamboo fence was installed in this area and when Blivas saw it, he became very interested in bamboo.
“The natural beauty was exactly what he wanted to replace the old wood fence at Lakehouse,” said Miller. “He met with Annette Hodges, the executive director, and it was decided to get serious about bamboo fence for Lakehouse.”
Through a stroke of luck, Miller said that about five years ago he had received a brochure from Cali Bamboo®, a leading manufacturer of green building materials for residential and commercial projects made primarily from bamboo, including fence.
Although he reorganized his office several times, he never there the brochure away.
“Around the first of the year, a group of us at East Coast Fence were talking about how most all types of fences had become a commodity, and we were looking for something that would differentiate us from everyone else,” he said.
“It took me a couple of days, but I found that Cali Bamboo brochure and called. I spoke with Jay Emel and Chris Veety of Cali Bamboo and East Coast Fence was hooked.
“Bamboo wood fence is really beautiful, especially with the color choices, and I feel it is the greenest, most eco-friendly building product of its type on the planet.”
East Coast Fence became a Cali Bamboo distributor, and was perfectly positioned when Blivas continued to show interest in the product.
Blivas was referred to Miller, who then met with Hodges and Rich Meola, the director of environmental services for Lakehouse.
A lengthy discussion took place to go over bamboo colors, cane sizes and height.
Cali Bamboo comes in a variety of heights, colors and cane sizes. The 8’ wide rolls can be natural, carbonized (a slightly darker brownish tint) or black. These are actual colors, Miller notes, and nothing is painted or stained.
The bamboo fence comes in either 3/4”, 1” or 2” diameter actual cane sizes. It was decided that 1” natural color fence would be the perfect fit.
The natural color would blend in perfectly with the wooded area and the 1” canes would be more than sufficient as far as strength was concerned, he said.
Miller and Meola then took a golf cart and left to inspect the fence line. As they approached the fence, Miller immediately realized that there was a major problem.
Approximately 75 percent of the fence was right in the middle of a very mature and dense line of 40’ tall Australian pine trees. Nice, huh!
“You could not even see the existing fence in some areas it was so thick,” said Miller. “Any real fence person knows that Australian pines plus fence equals trouble. The root system is a very dense matted configuration that makes it almost impossible to dig holes with any type of manual post hole differs or augers. Standard post spacing is not possible, period.”
It was agreed that Miller would return the next day with a
crew, tools and a variety of fence posts to do some testing as far as setting posts was concerned. The next day he returned with a crew to give it a go. Manual post hole diggers and a 2-man auger proved useless.
Wood posts were definitely ruled out. They then started driving a wide variety and sizes of round posts.
Again, it was a wasted effort. The posts actually bent or just bounced off of the extremely dense root system.
They then tried a master Halco PostMaster steel post. They went right through the dense roots.
“Everyone was amazed just how easily they drove,” said Miller. “I had known about the PostMaster for years, but never really made an effort to use them.
“We were at the Masters Club show in Fort Lauderdale and spoke with Scott Willhite, Master Halco’s southeast sales manage, and he has urged me to give them a try. He even convinced Beverly Catechis, the president of East Coast Fence, and me to buy a bundle of them. To be quite honesty, I really believed that they would be put into inventory and just sit there. Boy, was I wrong!
“We had a meeting and it was decided that we would use the PostMaster posts for the Lakehouse project. Their versatility would allow us to get more uniform post spacing and allow the fence to roll with the grade better. Once all the bamboo fencing was completed, a simple cover board makes the steel posts disappear from sight,” he said.
“The fact that steel posts, or any posts for that matter, would not be visible was the exact look that owners wanted,” Miller said.
A contract was agreed upon and 250 rolls of bamboo fence and the SteelMaster posts were ordered. In late July, a crew of four East Coast Fence installers arrived to begin the clearing and fence removal.
Miller noted that just getting the old fence out presented a special problem in itself. After 20+ years, the Australian pines had grown over, under, around and through the wood fence. It took a week of sawing, cutting and hacking out the old wood fence, and another two days getting it to the landfill.
The posts were delivered on August 3 and the full truckload of bamboo fence arrived the following day.
“We started driving posts on the 5th and drove 84 posts the first day. All posts were driven by Friday, Aug. 7th,” said Miller.
“Using a compressor and a driver was out of the question. There was just no room to maneuver. We built two special post drivers out of 4-1/2” Schedule 80 pipe, and they worked like a champ.”
Victor Curras, the East Coast Fence foreman and a 15 year fence veteran, was absolutely amazed at how easily the SteelMaster posts drove.
“I’m very familiar with Australian pines, and when I first arrived, I was asking myself, why me?” said Curras. “Once we actually got into driving them, I could not believe how easily they went in. I had not used them before and was a little skeptical.
“They also allowed me to keep a nice straight line and not have any radical jobs. In a few places, we actually cut out a groove and ran the fence between trees.”
They started installing runners on August 10 and had them all up by the 12th.
“We then started carrying the rolls of bamboo to the fence line. The rolls are very manageable and the strength to weight ratio is very high. You cannot break or fracture a 1” bamboo cane if you tried,” he said.
The fence has five strands of galvanized wired running through each individual cane.
“When you come to the end of a line, you take off as many canes as you need, cut the wire and twist it back,” noted Miller.
“Every single cane is used. There is no waste, none. Out of 250 rolls, we had to replace five individual canes,” he added. “Specially designed screws with colored heads to match the three bamboo colors are used, and they blend in beautifully.”
A 1×6 pressure treated cover board is installed on top of the steel posts with stainless steel screws and the job is complete.
Derek Arsenault, James Carter and Karl Butler, the other members of the crew, have over 40 years experience between them and all agree that bamboo fence is great to work with, Miller noted.
“They said it is easy to work with and makes you proud to have installed it.”
All of the principals of Lakehouse West are extremely happy with the end product, Miller said.
“It kept with the ‘natural’ look that we wanted, and coupled with the green, eco-friendly nature of Cali Bamboo fence, it is exactly what we were looking for,” said Hodges.
Catechis stated that Cali Bamboo fencing has allowed them to offer a beautiful, upscale and very green product to their regular line of fence products.
“Our new retail store on U.S. 1 in Cocoa is ‘the bamboo jungle,’ she said. “We could not be happier with Cali’s product, especially being in such a tropical setting. With such a limitless amount of framework stains and add-on accents, your imagination is your only limit.”
About East Coast Fence and Guardrail: East Coast Fence and Guardrail is a leading supplier and installer of wood, vinyl, ornamental, aluminum, bamboo, and chain link fence, as well as composite walls and guardrail. East Coast Fence is a supplier of Miami-Dade rated vinyl and composite wall systems. The company employs over 15 professional work crews on a seven-days-a-week schedule. For more information, call 321-504-3666 or visit the web site.
About the Master Halco PostMaster® steel post system: The PostMaster system is offered by Master Halco, North America’s largest manufacturer and wholesale distributor of perimeter security and fencing. PostMaster steel posts are engineered to provide the strength of steel without sacrificing the natural beauty of a wood fence. The flexibility and versatility of PostMaster’s in-line design can be covered or concealed with matching wood and it works with most wood fence styles. For more information, call 888-643-3623 or visit www.masterhalco.com.
About Cali Bamboo: The San Diego-based company’s product offerings include bamboo flooring, fencing, plywood, poles, and recycled composite deicing. For more information, call 888-788-2254 or visit the web site www.calibamboo.com.