Post pullers come from various manufacturers with various features but this category all share the same basic configuration: a wheeled dolly frame with a jack providing the lifting force. The base of the dolly will have legs on either side of the post with the center area open to accommodate the post and concrete plug as they are lifted out. The lifting force comes in the form of a jack – bumper jacks or farm jacks on the budget versions, hydraulic bottle jacks on the mid-range systems, all the way up to hydraulic rams or pneumatic cylinders on the top-of-the-line models.
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- Contractor-grade equipment offers powerful lifting mechanisms that can deliver several tons of lifting pressure to the post.
- Effective at removing posts that are strong and undamaged, when the post is still secure within the concrete footing.
- The same powerful lifting mechanism can be dangerous to the operator and can damage the post puller.
- Only effective when the post is intact and still secure to the concrete footing.
- Expensive – the equipment ranges from approximately $500 to upwards of $3300 for professional contractor-grade machines
- Heavy and bulky to store – even the smallest design weighs more than 50 pounds and that model didn’t have wheels.
If you run a handyman or fence repair business you may have need for this type of post puller, but for the typical homeowner that needs to replace their privacy fence or remove a few posts on occasion there are more cost-effective and practical solutions. The Wood Post Puller method and tool is the only solution that actually works by eliminating the hold of the ground on the post – allowing the post and footing to slide out of the ground on a layer of mud.
If you are going to invest in a commercial grade piece of equipment, this is the group you should consider. The jacks can provide sufficient lifting force to remove posts set several feet into the ground and with large concrete foundations – provided the post and footing are strong enough to withstand the strain. The wheeled dolly configuration is of little practical benefit – the weight and length of a full-length post and concrete footing combined with the dolly becomes very unwieldy and you will likely find it easier to handle the post by itself, separate from the dolly.
Consider the type of posts you will be removing when selecting the post puller and pay special attention to how the puller will grip the post. If you are a handyman you can customize this item yourself, but the common options from the manufacturer are either a chain-binding system or some type of clamping mechanism. For wood posts wrapping a length of chain around the post will usually provide a secure hold on the post, as will the clamp attachments. Chain link or metal sign posts present more of a challenge, the chains and clamps will tend to slide up the post and not grip – so plan to provide a means of securing the post puller to the post. A common solution is to simply drill a hole thru the metal fence post and use a bolt to attach the lifting chain.
The main advantage of the dolly-with-a-jack style post pullers is also their most significant drawback – the same powerful lifting mechanism that is effective at removing posts can be very dangerous – the frame itself can collapse, a weld can crack, the puller can slip off the post or the post could give way – all of these hazards can cause injury to an operator. Just read the safety warnings for these tools – one operating manual was 3 pages of safety warnings and ½ page of instructions!
Another shortcoming of these post pullers is their ineffectiveness at removing posts that are broken off or rotten, or when the post itself is gone and the concrete plug or ‘stump’ remains and must be removed. Some pullers offer screw attachments – essentially a large eyebolt to screw into the wood – this can function when the post has snapped off due to wind damage or impact but does not work well when the wood post is rotten or deteriorated. Other units offer extractor claws or scissor clamps that are meant to grab the outside of the concrete footing or post plug and tighten their grip as the jack pulls up. Again, these accessories are most effective when the concrete plug is one solid piece – cracked or deteriorating concrete will break into pieces (another hazard!) and not be pulled out. These attachments also require the clamp to be held in place during the jacking process so that they are positioned properly on the post or footing – putting the operator directly in the danger zone if the attachment slips or the cable or chain break.
The typical homeowner or do-it-yourself handyman will find the “appliance dolly with a jack” style post puller to be an expensive toy that eats up their storage space and only gets brought out on rare occasion. Other products on the market offer more cost-effective and practical solutions that are effective even on broken or rotten posts and when the concrete footing is fractured and in pieces.