A broken fence. The bane of homeowners everywhere. Chances are if you own a home or plan on buying one, you’ll encounter the problem of fence post repair sooner or later. If your fence is damaged, leaning, or otherwise broken and needs to be repaired, you’ll want to do those repairs as soon as possible to keep the problem from worsening.
A fence can begin to lean for several reasons, but the most common point of failure for a fence is at its posts, where the fence meets the ground. In this article, we will go over the most common causes of a broken fence, and what you can do to remedy the situation.
What Causes A Broken Fence?
There are some causes that can cause a fence to lean over time, or even cause damage to it or cause it to break completely. Inadequate support, shifting soil and erosion, dry rot, insect damage, and severe weather can all damage and destroy your fences, requiring costly fence post repairs.
If a fence is installed without sufficient support at the base of the posts, it can begin to lean as the ground around it erodes and settles over time. There are several causes for lack of adequate support. For example, the fence posts could have been installed without the addition of supporting concrete, or there was an insufficient amount of concrete used. If left unremedied, this can cause the fence to become damaged, requiring fence post repair.
Another common cause of damage to fences that can require fence post repair is simple erosion. Over time, wind and water can potentially erode the soil that surrounds the base of the fence post. Eventually, this can become apparent as the fence begins to lean in one direction or another due to the lack of soil around part of its base. Surprisingly, seismic activity can also cause sediments to shift through a process called soil liquefaction. This should be a thing to consider regarding the foundations of your fence and even your house if you live in a region prone to earthquakes.
Rot and decay are another major cause of fence post repair and replacement. While most wood intended to be used outdoors is treated to prevent rot and insect damage, it can still happen in some cases. If the post is not encased in concrete, or if there is dirt around the post above the concrete, then moisture can seep into the wood of the post and become trapped and can cause the post to rot and decay over time.
Even if your fence is made out of wood, it can still be indirectly vulnerable to corrosion. The nails, screws and other fasteners that are used to build and hold together fences are often made from iron or steel and are therefore vulnerable to rusting. Over time, this can cause the structural integrity of the fence to weaken, and possibly even cause the fence to separate from the post entirely. Corrosion can also be accelerated if the climate is especially hot and humid year-round, and by some chemicals present in pressure-treated lumber.
Like with many other structures, fences can be vulnerable to weather and the elements. It’s not uncommon for fences to be damaged or even outright destroyed by severe weather, necessitating a fence post repair or even replacement of the entire fence. Common sources of damage include falling branches from nearby trees and wind-driven debris colliding with the fence. Heavy rain can also erode the supports of the fence post, causing the posts to settle after the storm passes.
Types Of Breaks In A Fence
Now that we know what can cause damage to a fence and potentially require a costly fence post repair, we can go over the kinds of damage a fence may receive. It should be worth noting that not all kinds of damage require outright replacement, so carefully examine your fence before committing to an unnecessary and potentially costly repair job.
Cracks And Splintering
If the fence post is leaning excessively, it can potentially crack and splinter as the post becomes overloaded with weight. Most often, the post breaks at its base, where the post meets the ground it is buried in. A fence post that is broken in this manner often requires the post to be replaced entirely. However, a fence that is in the beginning stages of failure can often be repaired, as long as the cracking isn’t too severe and the original problem is rectified beforehand.
Dry rot is a kind of wood decay that is caused by fungi that target and eat wood. Typically, the lumber used in fences and fence posts is usually pressure treated lumber. Treated lumber is a kind of lumber that has been treated with chemicals that preserve the wood against decay caused by fungi and insects such as termites.
Therefore, wood that is untreated and used in an outdoor environment is vulnerable to dry rot. It should be worth noting that dry rot can be a problem even with treated lumber: posts that are buried and directly exposed to dirt and soil can still become rotted over time, as moisture can become trapped within the wood and eventually dissolve the protective chemicals within.
Termites are another threat to your fence. Termites are a term used to describe several species of small insects that consume cellulose, the stuff that wood is made out of. While treated lumber is immune to termite predation, untreated lumber is very much vulnerable. If your fence shows evidence of termite damage, you may need to do more than fence post repair, as the entire fence is vulnerable if not already infested itself.
How To Perform Fence Post Repair
Replacing A Fence Post
Now that you know what kinds of damage can happen to a fence and what can cause that damage, we can go over what steps and materials are needed for a fence post repair and replacement. Aside from several hours of time, there are a number of tools and materials needed:
What You Will Need:
Also, we recommend undertaking any fencing project with the help or assistance of a friend or family member. Also, be sure to wear the necessary protective gear when using tools and to handle wet concrete, as wet cement can potentially cause burns. Finally, don’t allow wet concrete to dry on your tools, and clean it off with a rag or brush.
First, you are going to want to separate the fence panel from the post. Using your crowbar, lever back the fence panel from the fence post, until the joining nails are exposed and accessible. Next, saw through the old nails with your hacksaw. Hammer in any protruding nails or pull them out with either a claw hammer or combination pliers. Once all of the nails have been removed, you can now separate the fence panel from the fence post.
Once the fence panel and fence post are separated, use a shovel to begin digging out the old fence post to expose the concrete base. If this proves difficult, cut a notch in the old post with a panel saw about eight inches(20cm) up from the base of the post, before carefully lifting the fence post out of the ground by levering a demolition bar on a stack of 2 or more cinder blocks. If there is additional concrete that’s proving stubborn to remove, use a jackhammer or sledgehammer to break the remainder up and remove with the shovel.
First, mix the concrete powder into a 5-gallon bucket. Insert the replacement post into the now-empty hole. Next, pour the concrete mix into the hole around the inserted post. Be sure to lift the post up slightly after pouring to make sure that some concrete gets under the bottom of the post. Then, using the cinder blocks and a level tool, make sure that the post is vertical and straight on all sides. Alternatively, you can use timber and nails to create a temporary frame to hold the post upright.
After allowing several hours to a day for the concrete to set, You can now safely attach the fence panel to the new fence post using a hammer and nails, and remove the temporary frame from the post if necessary.
Repairing A Dry-Rotted Fence Post
The portion of a wooden fence that is most likely to suffer dry rot is the section of the post that is buried underground. If not repaired or replaced entirely it will eventually snap, taking down much if not all of the fence with it. If the fence is moving or the post is loose, the addition of a concrete repair spur can help support it. However, if the post is completely rotted it will have to be replaced(see above).
What You Will Need:
First, using the timber and nails, build a temporary frame around the fence post to support it during repairs.
Next, using your shovel, dig a hole around the base of the fence post where the concrete repair spur will go. Be sure to dig the hole to a depth of about 18 to 24 inches(45-60cm), although deeper is better. Next, saw off the rotten part of the post with a panel saw and coat the exposed wood with wood preservative. Place a concrete spur post in the hole against the remains of the post.
Next, insert the coach bolts through the holes in the concrete spur and tap them with a hammer. This will mark their position on the fence post. After removing the concrete spur, use a power drill to drill holes through the fence post at the marked spots. Be careful to keep the drill level when doing so. Replace the spur and carriage bolts, and push the bolts through the post until they appear on the other side before attaching the matching nuts and fastening with a spanner.
Mix the concrete as per the labeled instructions, and fill the post hole to ground level. If necessary, use a trowel to smooth the concrete surface down and away from the post and spur so that rainwater can drain away from the post. Leave the props in place until the concrete hardens completely, which can take a few hours to a day. Finally, remove the temporary timber frame.
When it comes to fence post repair and even replacement thereof, you don’t have to fret. While a bit time-consuming and labor-intensive, repairing or replacing a fence post can mean a much greater amount of time and labor saved down the road in terms of both money and materials.