Installing Fence Posts
If you want your fence to outlast its first summer, you need to set the posts deep enough in the ground to withstand wind, rain, and frost. With that in mind, there is only one hard-and-fast rule when you're digging a fence posthole: Dig a hole for the post that is half as deep as the fence is high. In areas with frost, dig the hole at least that deep or 6 inches below the frost line, whichever is deeper. You can set the post in concrete or fill the hole with dirt. You can dig the hole a bit deeper than you otherwise would and put 4 inches of gravel on the bottom for drainage. Otherwise the hole should be 4 inches wider than the widest dimension of the post, but the size of the hole depends on the height of the fence and quality of the soil.
DIG THE HOLES
Consider hiring a contractor to dig the holes in rocky soil. Rent a power auger for holes that aren't in rocky soil. Work with a helper and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Raise the auger after every few inches of digging to clear out soil. Dig to the depth required for the posts, plus 4 inches for a gravel base.
For end, corner, and gateposts. You'll set corner posts, end posts, and gateposts in concrete. The others are set in tamped soil. Start by lining the bottom of all the holes with 4 inches of gravel. Then mix concrete in a wheelbarrow and fill the end, corner, and gatepost holes with 6 inches of concrete. (If you're setting more than two posts in concrete, pour and set one hole at a time.)
PUT IN END, CORNER, AND GATEPOSTS
Restring the layout lines and use them as guides to set the end, corner, and gateposts. (You'll set the line posts later) While the concrete is still wet, put the posts in their holes. Plumb each post with a level and hold it in place with braces and stakes. Mix more concrete in the wheelbarrow. Shovel the concrete around the posts that will be set in concrete. Fill the hole about one-third of the way. Air trapped in the concrete will weaken it. Work a 2x4 up and down in the concrete to release the air.
FILL THE HOLES
Continue filling the holes with concrete up to about 2 inches above ground level. Smooth the surface of the concrete with a mason's trowel. As you smooth the surface, slope it away from the post so rain will drain away from it. Using the mason's line as guides. Align and plumb each post, then backfill around it and tamp the soil. (Footings aren't needed for line posts.) Slope the soil at the top of the holes away from the posts for drainage.
MARK A LEVEL LINE ON ALL THE POSTS
Start by marking one of the end posts at the desired height. Hold chalk like against the mark and stretch it to the other end post. Level the line with a line level and snap it against the line posts. If the fence is long, work no more than three or four posts at a time to avoid problems caused by sag in the line. Extend the chalk line across all four faces of each post wit ha combination square. Position the square so when you rest the saw on it, it will make a cut along the line, marking the top of the post. Guide the say along the top of the square to cut off the top of the post. If your saw won’t cut deep enough to cut through a fence post (most saws won’t), remove the jug and screw it to the opposite side of the post. Cut as before to cut through the post.
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Skill Level: Beginner
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