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How To Install A Fence Post (Step by Step)

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Are you looking for the best way to install a fence post?

When you learn how to build a fence, installing the fence post is a big part of the process. And although it seems as simple as digging a hole and sticking that post into the ground, a lot more goes into it.

Installing a fence post can vary depending on the material you use, the dirt composition, and your available tools. Keep reading for what you need and what to do to install a fence post.

installing wood fence post

Gather the Tools and Materials You Need to Install a Fence Post

First, you will need to have the right tools. Not having the right tools will make it take longer and be more difficult to install your post. We don’t want to add frustration to this tedious process.

Gathering the correct tools and materials before you get started is key to saving time as well. Doing this will save you a potential trip to the store or asking a neighbor to borrow something at the last minute. 

Tools

Here are the tools you will need for installing a fence post:

  • Posthole digger or auger (2 people required to run auger for safety reasons)
  • Protective Gear: eyewear, gloves, mask
  • Shovel
  • Level or post level
  • Tape measure
  • Post driver: this is only necessary if you will use a U-post for your fence.

Materials 

Although it may seem like posts will be all that you need, there are other materials involved when setting your posts. You also need the following:

  • Fence posts
  • Concrete
  • Gravel

You will need extra gravel if the terrain is mostly sandy or loose dirt. This is necessary to make the ground firm, so your posts don’t tilt or fall over.

Do Some Pre-Installation Research

Installing a fence is not a difficult task, although it will be a tedious and laboring one. It is always good to have help when doing the heavy lifting, but you can do this on your own, if necessary. If you have uneven ground, here’s how to level you fence post.

Before you begin installing your fence posts, there are a few things you need to do first:

  • Check your soil (different types of soil affects how your post should be placed).
  • Check local regulations for post depth and fence height requirements and if permits are necessary.
  • Give enough room from the edge of your property line and your neighbor’s (you don’t want the fence line going onto your neighbor’s property).
  • Plan everything out.

Once you have figured all this out, you are ready to dig your posts. Yay! But don’t forget to put on your protective gear. Gloves are a must because the posts and fencing can hurt your fingers and hands.

There are many types of posts, but today we will discuss the two main types that are used: metal and wood. You can adjust your installation process based on the different sizes of posts, but each process has this basic procedure.

Determine the Type of Ground You’re Working With

Just like weather affects how long your concrete will dry, ground type affects how you will set the posts.

Red Clay

If you have red clay, you will need to add gravel around the post as well as below to allow water to drain. Don’t put the clay back into the hole

Dirt or Sand

Sand can make setting your post difficult. It is loose and makes it hard to stabilize your posts. You may need to add a little more gravel at the bottom of your hole and around your post before adding the concrete. The extra gravel and the concrete will make sure the post is secure so it doesn’t fall over.

Rocky

Rocky terrain doesn’t affect how you will set the post. You will mainly have issues while digging up the hole. It may be a little tougher and can cause damage to your auger or shovel. Just take it slow, and you will succeed.

If you can’t reach the required depth, you may need more concrete to set the post properly.

Install the Fence Post Based on the Type of Post

The steps to install your fence post will depend on the material the post is made of: wood or metal. Up next, we’ll go over the steps for each of the installs. 

Installing A Metal Fence Post?

  1. For a T or U metal fence post, you will need a post driver.
  1. Mark the placement for each corner or end post. Then run string between the corner posts to get placement for intermediate posts.
  1. The corner and end posts are sometimes larger than the middle or intermediate posts, especially if they connect a gate.
  1. For the corner and end posts, you might need an auger to dig up the soil. Don’t make the hole too wide because you will be using concrete and gravel for these posts. You want this reinforcement so keep your posts from leaning.
  1. Dig a hole about one-third of the post final height. This is usually the ideal depth unless said otherwise. Add an additional 6 inches for the gravel. The gravel helps drain water from the post as well as steady the post. 
  1. With corner metal posts, it is easier to fill the hole with concrete. You will need to let the concrete set before putting up the fence. This usually takes about 24 hours, but it really depends on the humidity and the temperature. Cooler temperatures cause concrete to dry slower.
  1. The intermediate posts are much easier than the corner and end posts. If you are using a U-post, the post driver is the easiest and fastest way to install your post. Use the weight of the post driver to drive these posts into the ground.
  1. Space your fence posts every six feet apart. Any further apart and your fence won’t be sturdy. Installing them closer will only cost you more money for additional posts without making it sturdier.

Installing A Wood Fence Post?

  1. Installing a wood post is quite similar to installing a metal fence post, as shown above
  1. When installing a wood post that will hold a gate, first dig the hole about one-third of the fence post height and add 6 inches. Fill the hole with 6 inches of gravel and then put in the post. Add the concrete all around the post and let it set. If your gate is larger than 5 ft wide, use 6×6 posts.
  1. For posts that will not hold a gate and are intermediate posts, you don’t have to use concrete in the hole. You can just pack soil into the hole or gravel around it and on the bottom for more sturdiness.
  1. If you are worried your posts won’t be strong enough, you can still use concrete to set them. The only downfall of using concrete in every post hole over a large area of land, is the extra cost of the concrete.

Frequently Asked Questions

How far apart should fence posts be?

Fence posts should be placed 6-8 feet apart. Divide the length of your fence between each to see which gives you the most even spacing. You don’t want to end up with a small section at the end of your fence. The more distance between posts, the beefier the rails will need to be.

How deep should a fence post be?

A fence post should always follow the 1/3 rule. It means one third of the fence height post should be buried. Six feet tall fence post should be buried 2 feet. An eight foot tall fence should be buried just over 2.5-3 feet. Four foot tall fence post should be buried 1.5 feet.

Conclusion

If you’re building a new fence where an old one currently is, you probably need to know how to remove fence posts.

If you’re just in research mode, we have tons of wood fence ideas, including how long a wooden fence lasts. Those are just a few but there’s plenty more to look through!

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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