A properly built fence isn’t just an aesthetically pleasing addition to your yard; it’s also a rewarding and cost-effective project when you take it on yourself.
Tips for Setting Fence Posts
The key to building a straight and true fence is setting the fence posts. Once they’re correctly in place the fence panels are an easy, low effort job. If you’re putting in a new fence, versus replacing an old one, contact your local gas, electric and water providers before digging any holes.
To begin, you’ll need the following materials and tools:
- Fence posts (treated 4”x4” or 6”x6”)
- Post hole digger or auger
- Carpenter’s level
- Gravel (for bottom of hole)
- Concrete mix
- Container to mix concrete (wheelbarrow or bucket)
- Gloves, protective eyewear, dust mask (to avoid concrete mix dust)
- 1” x 4” boards or similar to brace the fence posts, wooden stakes
- Cordless drill, 2” – 3” wood screws (for braces)
Step 1: Post locations
Mark out the placement of each post. Posts are commonly set 8’ on center (96” from the center of one post to the center of the next). You’ll also want a straight run, so put a stake in the ground on either end of the run of the fence. Offset the line by about 12″ to one side, making sure that the offset is consistent for the entire run. The reason for offsetting your marker is to keep the line out of the way of your posts as you erect them, and to keep the line from interfering with your work space.
Step 2: Dig the post holes
Dig the post holes using a manual posthole digger or an auger. As a general rule the minimum width is 3 times the post width (so a 4” x 4” post needs a 12” x 12” hole). The minimum depth should be 1/3 of your fence height for temperate or warm climates. In colder climates the more important factor is the frostline, which varies from region to region. Ideally, your holes should be deeper than the frostline to avoid frost heaving, which will destabilize your fence. Your local building codes may require a minimum depth, so check with your local building authority before you start. After you determine how deep the hole should be, add six inches to allow for the addition of gravel in the bottom.
Step 3: Set the posts in place
Mix the concrete according to the instructions on the bag and have it ready. Add a shovel-full of gravel to the bottom of the hole and tamp it down flat with the fence post. The gravel provides a solid base for the post and prevents it from coming into direct contact with the soil.
Position the post in the center of the hole and hold it upright. Avoid lifting the post while you pour the concrete around it. This step is easier with an extra set of hands to help.
Use the carpenter’s level on two adjacent sides of the post to get it level and plumb. Attach a brace on one side of the post and to a stake in the ground to hold the post secure until the concrete sets (you may want a 2nd brace on an adjacent side as well).
Tent the concrete so water runs away from the post and doesn’t collect around it.
Step 4: Continue the run
Using the 12” offset line as a guide, position the next post 96” on center from the previous post and repeat the process. You can also use an 8 foot’ 2” x 4” as a spacer to set the correct distance. Level and brace as before. Continue down the run of the fence
Once the concrete has set you can begin adding the panels. You’ll find a number of easy-to-follow fence panel building instructions and how-to videos on onlyfencing.ca. Enjoy your new fence!