Spring is the time for mending fences
By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Home & Garden - posted Wed., Apr. 11, 2012
If you’re looking down your fence line and not seeing the posts line up one behind the other, walk the line and push on each one. If a post yields to the pressure even a little, you’ll want to examine further. If the post moves an inch or more, you have work to do.
First, scratch away some of the dirt at the bottom of the post to see if the wood has deteriorated below the surface. If it is rotted or spongy, it may not have been properly prepared or set. Replacing posts now is better than waiting for a windstorm to force you into the project.
If the post at either end is sturdy, run a strong, taught line from one to the other, about one foot above ground level. If you have to replace those posts as well, drive a sturdy stake into the ground a couple of feet beyond them, and run your line between the stakes. This will give you a guide to keep your fence straight.
Dig around the existing posts until you can pull them completely out of their holes. The best way of digging new holes is to rent a post hole digger – a big motorized augur. It will cost money, but it will save you time and make the job easier on your muscles. The alternative is a manual post hole digger that has two parallel handles. These are effective, but are tough on the arms and shoulders. It will also take much longer to dig each hole. Don’t even bother using a regular shovel. It takes even longer, and you create an asymmetrical hole that is also inadequate for your purpose.
There are a few basic dimensions you should know about. One third of your post should be in the ground, so a 6-foot high post should be 9 feet total. For a standard 4 x 4 post, dig a hole 10 inches in diameter. Make the hole at least 6 inches deeper than the portion of the post that goes in the ground.
Set your posts with crushed stone or gravel. The stone and powdery mix will pack together well and allow for good drainage around the post. Put 6 inches of the mix in the bottom of the hole and tamp it down. Set the new post in the hole, and align it with your guide line. Fill around it with 6 more inches of the gravel mix, then check the post with a level. Tamp the gravel to create a hard pack. Repeat the process of adding 6 inches of material, leveling and tamping until you are a couple of inches below ground level. Fill the rest with soil, or use additional (or decorative) gravel to finish it off.