It is a common occurrence, you are at home enjoying the latest thunderstorm roll through and amidst the thunder and wind, you hear a distinctive …crack… as one of your fence posts snaps from the strain. Or more frequently you notice a section of your privacy fence leaning over the next morning, the post broken at the base where the rot and insects have done their damage.
If you have pets you will need to get something temporary setup almost immediately, similarly a temporary fix may be necessary to avoid nasty repair letters from the HOA or just to give you time to get repair quotes ready or until the weekend when you can fix it yourself. Whatever the reason, a temporary fix is often needed but can be difficult to implement.
HOA repair notices are always aggravating but you can use these temporary repair methods to keep your fence vertical. If the fence is restored to compliance the counter resets for the HOA, even if you haven’t done a permanent fix. Read our post about how to deal with the HOA and avoid fines.
The most common break point is right at ground level, this is the point of the post that takes the most strain from wind and is first attacked by water and physical damage from the lawnmower and string trimmers. Usually, the base of the post that is still in the ground will still be solid and secure, especially if the post was set in concrete, and you can use this to your advantage.
We struggled with replacing posts that had broken off at ground level until we figured out a way to remove the concrete footing easily and without digging. Here’s how we slide the concrete out using water pressure.
Purchase a 6-foot steel t-post from your local home improvement store and some general purpose wire. Using a sledgehammer or post driver, pound in the steel post right next to the concrete footing – the t-post will push against the existing post footing and will provide a stronger base for the metal post.
Then using the wire, put a few wraps around the metal t-post and the existing wood post to secure them together. As the wind blows against the fence the wire will tend to slip down towards the ground so make sure it is secured by the cross-rails on the fence or the knobs on the steel t-post to prevent it from dropping all the way to the ground.
If the soil is soft or the existing post base is severely damaged this approach may not be enough, for those situations you will need to add a second t-post driven into the ground at approximately a 45 degree angle (this second post can be the same length or shorter as the original t-post). Then use the wire to make 2-3 loops from the steel t-post to the upper section of the wood post. Insert the handle of a hammer or pliers and then twist the wire to pull it taught – this guy wire will stabilize the post and is also very effective at correcting a leaning post that is no longer plumb.
Other DIY sites and forums are full of ideas like using a 2×4 to splice the broken post together with the base or using metal strapping to form a collar at the breakpoint to reinforce the post. None of those methods are practical and frankly, they don’t work. You will need to shore up the broken fence post as soon as possible to avoid a ‘domino effect’ where once one part of the fence is loose and flopping around it stresses the next closest post and breaks it and each post thereafter.
The methods presented here are not intended to be permanent solutions, but rather offer effective and cost-efficient solutions that will give you time between when the damage happens and when you are ready to implement a permanent fix.
When you are ready to repair the fence, the only permanent solution is to replace the fence post – use the Wood Post Puller method to easily remove the concrete footing and wood post stump so that you can reset the replacement post in the same location.