When you take on a DIY fence project, a lot of decisions are left entirely up to you. This means you can do the installation however you want–which is great if you already know what to do. However, you may be stuck wondering if you’re making the best choices when it comes to the installation method, and opinions on the matter can differ. One of the most important installation decisions you must make is how to set your fence posts in the ground. Without secure posts, your fence won’t stand much of a chance against the elements! Let’s explore how to ensure your fence posts stay put.
Choosing the Strongest Posts for Your DIY Fence
No matter what type of DIY fence you install, you don’t want weak posts. Wind and gravity will take hold of them, and they’ll start tipping over. However, some types of fences have a greater risk of tipping and therefore require extra care in post installation. Full privacy fences are the most likely to incur damage from wind because they are solid. There’s no way for wind to pass them through, so your panels end up essentially being wind sails–and they’re held down only by two posts every eight feet or so! Basically, the more surface area your fence has, the harder it will be for your posts to hold it up. Split rail fences have an easier time in the wind because of their sparse rails.
So, if you’re installing a panel fence, you’ll want to take extra care with post installation. Fence posts also should be buried sufficiently deep in the ground–between a half and third of the post is a good standard. You may want to consider supporting your fence with thicker posts. When it comes to panels, more surface area is bad, but with your posts, you want more surface area! A skinny fence post–especially one supporting a solid panel fence–cannot easily withstand the raging winds. When you dig your post holes, make sure they are three times the width of your fence post.
Proper Fence Post Installation: Should You Use Gravel or Concrete?
Once you’ve chosen the fence posts you want, how exactly do you install them so that you’re sure they won’t move? Methods vary, and there are differing opinions about how to do it. Some fence posts are set in concrete while others are set in gravel, and you need to decide which method you’ll use for your own fence.
Unfortunately, even when they’re installed as securely as possible, fence posts mounted in the ground are still at risk of moisture damage as rainfall wets the ground and seeps below. The main advantage of crushed gravel is that it drains moisture away from the post. The bits of gravel interlock to mimic the strength of concrete, and many DIYers also choose gravel because it is much easier to remove if you decide to take down your fence. However, gravel cannot always take the place of concrete–and the more secure your fence is, the less likely you are to end up wanting to remove it! After all, if you’re already thinking about taking your fence down, you may want to pick a project that makes you a little more excited for the future of your fence.
Concrete is the most secure material for setting fence posts, especially if you have sandy soil. Gravel may be okay with dense, clay-heavy soil, but in looser soil, concrete is the only thing that will truly keep your fence posts stuck in place. Using premixed concrete rather than dry concrete will ensure ultimate security.
While concrete is so sturdy, it lacks the drainage of gravel and can trap moisture in a wooden fence post, ultimately leading to rot. To combat this problem, when you pour your concrete, fill the hole so that the top of the concrete forms a slight dome. This will enable water to run off the post hold and away from the wooden post. It is also important that your concrete is buried beneath the dirt rather than sticking out of the ground.
Try not to skimp on any aspect of installation–even if seems easier in the short term. Proper fence post installation is absolutely crucial for a successful DIY project! By taking all of these considerations into account and installing your fence posts properly, you’ll have a fence that is guaranteed to last a long time.