Fences are exposed to many elements on a daily basis, so it is common for some damage to occur to the fences over prolonged periods of time. One of the most common problems that happens with fences over time is leaning. Luckily, you can often fix a leaning fence instead of having to replace the entire thing.
To fix a leaning fence:
- Identify where the weakest point or post is
- Take pressure off the weakest post by bracing or removing the surrounding fence panels
- Excavate around the post and plumb the post with a level
- Refill the post hole
- Reattach the panels or boards to the post
The general idea behind fixing a leaning fence is to straighten and reinforce the post or posts that cause the fence to lean. There are many ways to go about this process, though, and there are also temporary methods to use until you can do a permanent fix. We will cover both aspects as we continue.
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What Materials Do You Need to Fix a Leaning Fence?
The specific materials and tools that you may need for the process of fixing your leaning fix will depend partially on what type of fence you have and how severe the damage is.
In general, the tools that you need for fixing a leaning fence include:
- A level to make sure that the post is straight when you reinstall it
- Screws that are at least two inches long to replace old screws
- A few extra 2×4 boards and stakes for bracing the post
- A shovel or pry (wrecking) bar for removing the base around the post
- Concrete mix for refilling the base of the post hole
- Cordless drill to remove and replace screws
If you are fixing a chain link fence that is leaning, you may have to also remove some of the damaged mesh and weave in a new section. You will need tension wire, wire cutters, and a fence puller.
You may find that you will have to completely replace some boards or posts if they are severely damaged. Otherwise, you can simply realign the post to stop the fence from leaning.
If the base of your posts has a concrete footing, you will need a couple of extra tools handy to make the excavation easier:
- 3-pound sledgehammer
- Cold chisel
- Safety goggles and gloves
Fix a Leaning Fence by Re-Anchoring the Posts
A leaning fence is almost always due to one or more fence posts sagging instead of standing upright. This might be due to the ground around the posts being too soft, damage from strong winds, or rotting materials if the fence is wooden. It also depends on what kind of wooden fence you installed.
The panels, boards, or sections in between the posts are not weight-bearing, so they do not usually cause leaning; they just sag wherever the posts sag. Though having all the weight of the fence on one side of the post can cause sagging more quickly than keeping the weight equal on both sides.
Figure Out Where the Leaning Is Coming From
You can usually tell where the culprit of the fence leaning is because it is where the fence sags the most. Beyond knowing where the weakest point is, you also have to figure out what is causing that particular spot to lean.
Common issues that you should look for in a leaning fence post are:
- Rotted wood: A fence that is made out of wood will lose its structural integrity if the wood becomes rotted. While this typically occurs with untreated wood, treated wood can also rot over long periods of time. It becomes weak, splits, or warps when rotted.
- Bent posts: Metal fence posts can become bent from a damaging impact, which can lead to the posts and fence leaning.
- Broken footing: The concrete or other mix that was originally used to secure the post into the ground may have broken up or become loose around the post, allowing the post to move around in the hole instead of being steady.
Rotted pieces of wood fences should be replaced as they will have lost their structural integrity. Metal posts that are bent might be repairable, but you may also have to replace the pieces altogether.
Remove the Pressure on the Post
After you have determined which post (or posts) is causing the fence to lean, you need to take pressure off of that post by bracing it or removing the rest of the fence from it.
For a chain link fence, simply remove the clips and post cap to isolate the post.
With wood fences, you need to use a few 2×4 boards to prop up the fence panels:
- Lean the brace boards against both sides of the fence to plumb up the panels.
- Stake the braces into the ground to remove the weight from the weak post.
At this point, you should be able to confirm the cause of the leaning post to determine if you have to replace the whole post or just realign the post hole.
Excavate Around the Post Hole and Break Up the Footing
Using a shovel, break up the ground near the base of the fence post. At this point, you do not have to try to break up the concrete; simply dig around the post and footing until you have dug about two feet down.
The width you should strive for is 2-3 times the diameter of the post. It is sometimes easier to use a pry bar to get some of the hard ground out of the way, but you can stick with a shovel if that is doing the job well enough.
If you have a concrete base for the footing of your fence post, you will likely have to break up the concrete to realign the post. Wearing gloves and safety goggles, use a cold chisel and a 3-pound sledgehammer to break up the concrete.
Plumb, Brace, and Level the Fence Post
Once you have dug up enough of the footing, use a level to help you plumb the fence post so that it is perfectly vertical. Check to see if you can now keep the fence post straight. If you are replacing the post entirely, make sure the new post fits properly.
Brace the post directly with a few 2×4 boards before checking again to make sure that the post is still straight. You may have to adjust the braces.
Fill the Hole Back Up
Either use a fast-setting concrete mix or a mix of wet sand and gravel (if you have dry, rocky soil) to refill the hole. Pack the mixture down tightly using your boot or, ideally, the end of a 2×4. Keep the braces on the fence post until the mixture has completely set.
The amount of time to set will depend on the mix, so be sure to read any instructions that come on the bag. Reattach the panels to the posts with new screws after everything has set.
Use a Temporary Solution
In some cases, you might not be able to completely fix the leaning fence right away. There are a few alternative methods to use instead:
- Steel wedges or brackets can help stabilize a leaning post if it is moving around within concrete footing.
- Post mending stakes or kits can usually be found at home improvement stores or online if you need a simple fix on a budget. Most of these stakes will only work in concrete, though.
All in all, it is relatively simple to fix a leaning post. Most materials are easily found at hardware or home improvement stores, and you might even have some of the necessary tools already.
Check on your fence posts regularly to make sure that there are no weak spots that could cause sagging to prevent the issue from getting out of hand.