Hopefully having read our previous post in this fencing series, you are now armed with the knowledge of which fence posts you want for your project so the next question must be how on earth do I get them in the ground? The simple answer is of course – dig a hole and put them in! However, the exact process does depend on which fence posts you have purchased and which method you are intending on using. We will explain the main ones here.
The most important thing to remember when putting up fence posts is that approximately 1/3 of the post should be buried under the ground in order to provide the strength and stability required to keep up a long-standing fence. This means that for a 5 foot fence you would need 8 foot posts. When using wooden fence posts put straight into the ground you will need to first work out where your first and last fence post will need to go and use stakes (or some sticks will do) to mark a string line to follow as you install the posts in the middle.
How to put up wooden fence posts
To dig the hole, the best tool for the job is a fence post digger. This is essentially two narrow shovels facing each other which allows you to dig a hole which is deep but does not get too wide. If you make your hole too wide, then it will be difficult to push the soil back in to stabilise the post. Once the hole is dug, place the post into it and use a spirit level to make sure it is being held level (this is a 2-man job really). Then begin to replace the soil in the hole around the post a small amount at a time, making sure to ram it in at each stage to be sure it will remain secure. Continue until the soil returns to ground level and voila!
How to put up wooden fence posts using metal spikes
There are several different manufacturers of metal spikes for setting fence posts and although it will of course be an additional expense, it is considered to be a far more time effective and arguably much simpler method for setting wooden fence posts. First, be sure to purchase the correctly sized metal spikes for the size and length of your posts. Next, if possible, use a detector to ensure there are no pipes or electric cables beneath your proposed fence.
Now you’re ready to start setting your metal spikes into the ground. Push the first one in and use a sledgehammer to drive it into the ground. You can use a spike fixing tool to make this task easier and to protect the top of the metal spike from becoming mis-shapen. This is well worth a few extra pounds – especially if your fence is long! Keep hammering until the square base of the spike is level with the ground, ensuring that it remains straight throughout by checking with a spirit level. Once one spike is set, you can continue with the others, being sure to measure correctly to ensure each post is correctly spaced. If you prefer you could put the fence up panel by panel and post by post – especially useful if you are not certain that you can measure accurately.
How set fence posts using concrete
This method is appropriate for either concrete or wooden fence posts but do be aware that it will be particularly difficult to remove wooden fence posts in the future if they have been set in with concrete. The easiest method involves using a ready-mix concrete such as Postmix which can be purchased from most DIY stores. Alternatively you could mix your own from sand, gravel and concrete.
First you need to dig holes for each post (or you can do this as you go, erecting your fence panel by panel if you think it necessary or your measuring skills are lacking!) according to the ready-mix instructions. This is usually at least 60cm deep and about three times as wide as the post. You could use a post-hole borer, a post digger or just a regular old shovel! Next put the post in place – either get someone to hold it or use broken bricks or stones. Be sure to use a spirit level on all sides to ensure that your post is level.
Once this is ready, pour in the concrete mix according to the packet instructions (it usually involves part-filling the hole with water first). The concrete should finish just above ground level (alternatively you could finish it below ground level if you plan to cover with soil or grass) and you need to work quickly as it sets fast! Smooth the surface of the concrete ensuring that it slopes away from the post (especially important if they are wooden posts) to that rainwater will run away and not pool.
Finally prop up the post with some wooden battens on each side whilst it sets fully. Next work along your fence line being sure to wait until the concrete has hardened before attaching panels and gravel boards.
Protecting your Fence Posts
if you have chosen wooden fence posts we would thoroughly recommend a good quality wood protection product to prevent damage from the sun and rain. There are products to suit all styles and budgets but we would recommend using Owatrol coating which provide a superior finish and long-lasting protection. Later in this fencing series we will discuss the range of wood treatments available.
Even with concrete posts however, they would benefit from protection and can also be made to blend in with your fence more easily by painting them in the same finish as the panels. For this we would recommend Owatrol’s Solid Colour Stain – and as an added bonus it’s guaranteed for 15 years against peeling and flaking!
In our next installment we’ll be talking about different types of fence panels – stay tuned!
Please note that Owatrol UK can take no responsibility for the advice offered on this page. Before you begin any DIY project you should be aware of any possible health and safety issues – if in doubt seek professional assistance. If you are unsure then please get in touch with you and we can provide assistance where possible.