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how to replace a fence post without removing concrete

How To Replace A Fence Post Without Removing Concrete

Replacing a fence post isn’t an easy job, especially if it’s set in concrete. A typical fence post can sit in 2 – 4 80 pound bags of concrete which is approximately 160 – 320 pounds. And that doesn’t include the weight of the post or the dirt that gets stuck to the concrete. Then there’s depth to consider. Typically a fence post is buried about 1/3 of it’s above ground height. That means a 6 foot high fence post would be about 2 feet underground. You’ll have to dig deep in order to loosen the concrete enough to remove it. It’s not a hard job if you have a Bobcat but it’s very hard to do by hand. A better option may be to replace the fence post without removing concrete.

The best way to replace a fence post without removing the concrete footing is by prying it out. You can do this with a long lever and fulcrum or a car jack. In either case, nail some wood to the post first to pry against and then get to work. Pry until the post releases from the concrete and comes all the way out. then clean the hole and set your new post.

Removing just the fence post isn’t a simple job, but it’s easier than the alternative. And leaving the concrete footing where it is can save you time and money when you set the new post. If the concrete is removed when you replace the fence post, you’ll have to pour new concrete later. That can be a lot of work if you’ve got several posts to fix.

Ahead we’ll discuss how to replace a fence post without removing the concrete as well as situations like what if the post is partially rotted, cracked, or fully rotted. And what if you want to remove the concrete too.

Take The Fence Apart

If you want to replace a fence post without removing concrete then you’ll first have to take down the sections of fence that are attached to the post. Only remove the fence sections directly attached to the post. This will generally include the fence panel and possibly a top and bottom cross beam. The exact pieces that need removal will depend on the type and style of your fence.

Be sure to keep all the pieces some place safe as you take apart the fence. Some fences secure the cross beams with edge clips and screws. You’ll need all the parts when you rebuild the fence later. Also take note of how the fence went together.

I find it helpful to take pictures whenever I disassemble something that I later want to put back together. It’s easier than using labels an shows me exactly what the thing looked like every step of the way.

Get some help if the fence panels are heavy.

Generally the only tools you’ll need will be a screw gun with multiple tips. Most fences are put together with clips and screws. However if you have an old fashioned style wood fence when cross beams go through the post then you may want to bring a hammer or mallet.

If the fence panels are nailed to the post it’s be a tougher job than if it’s screwed together. Get a good nail puller with a cats claw and carefully remove all the nails. You should also buy new nails or screws for when you put the fence back together.

Remove The Post

To replace a fence post without removing concrete, you need to pry the post out.

How you remove the fence post depends a lot on the condition of the post and why you’re removing it. Basically this breaks down into two main categories, damaged or rotten posts and fence posts still in good condition. The removal is basically the same except with a damaged or rotten post you’ll be cutting the post down before removing it.

The most common reasons for replacing a fence post are a cracked or rotten post or because you need to make the post higher. We’ll discuss basic removal first and then get into how to remove rotten posts.

Removing a fence post from concrete involves leverage and a good pry bar or car jack. Using a car jack or two is definitely the easier option.

Start by screwing a strong piece of wood or two securely onto the side of the fence post. The height depends on how you’ll be prying the wood out of the concrete. Make sure this wood is really strong because this is what you’ll be prying against.

If your concrete is below grade then you’ll have to do a little excavating before you start prying the post out. Dig down and expose the concrete. This will prevent dirt from falling into the hole after the post is removed. It will also allow you to silicone around the new post which can help prevent rot.

Car Jack

The first and best method I like to use are two car jacks. Using one jack can push the post at an angle which makes it harder to lift out of the concrete. By using two jacks, you can alternate which helps lift the post straight up.

First I secure two chunks of wood to either side of the post. I attach them about 2-3 inches above the jack. These chunks are what you’ll attach the jacks to later so make sure the connection is strong.

Next I set the jacks. Make sure to rest the jacks on wood or a concrete block so they don’t push down into the dirt as you jack them.

Once the jacks are in place lift them so that they’re both snug against the wood you just secured into the side of the post.

Finally start jacking about 1/2 inch at a time. Alternate jacks so the wood pulls straight up.

If you don’t have two jacks it can be done with just one. Try you best to lift the post straight up out of the concrete and not at an angle. If the jack pushes the post at an angle it’ll make it harder to lift out of the concrete.

If you don’t have a car jack on hand, you can use a lever instead. It’s harder but still works great.

Lever & Fulcrum

If you want to replace a fence post without removing concrete but don’t have jacks, you’ll have to use a lever. This is the same basic idea as using a jack only you’ll be doing the work by hand.

First, you have to create a fulcrum to place your lever on. This can be built out of almost anything but I like to use a thick log. Prying against a round surface makes it a little easier.

Slide a strong beam, around eight to ten feet long, on top of the fulcrum and under the piece of wood you screwed into the post. The longer the wood the easier your job will be. Make sure the lever is very strong wood or steel. I like to use at least a 4×4. You don’t want the lever flexing much as you push.

Start putting pressure on the beam. If your not strong enough to push the post out by yourself you can use counterweights. The more weight you add the easier it will be.

Standing on the beam is an easy way to add weight to the beam but I don’t recommend it. It can be dangerous, especially when the post gives way.

Try stacking bags of fertilizer, soil or concrete onto the beam. They’re heavy and easy to keep steady on the beam because they’re a bit malleable.

Add weight slowly and apply steady pressure. Keep an eye on the post and concrete as they start to move.

If the concrete starts to move with the post then you may not be able to separate them. Depending on how much concrete was used and how well it attached to the post, this method may pull out the concrete at well. It’s not always possible to remove a post from concrete.

Removing A Rotten Post

If the post is rotten or damaged, the method you’ll use to remove it may be a little different.

First cut or break the main portion of the post off at the damage. Generally I like to cut right below the damaged area but if it’s too low you’ll have to cut above it. Make sure to leave some amount of good wood above ground to pry against. Cutting the entire post off too low will make removal harder later because you won’t have enough room for a jack or level.

Sometimes an entire post can be rotten at the concrete which makes prying impossible. You need some strong good wood to pry against. In this case use a demo bar and hammer to chip and pry out wood that’s inside the concrete. Bang the bar into the rotten wood and then pull pieces out with a smaller crow bar. A clawed bar can really help here. Keep banging and splitting the wood pulling pieces out as you go.

You can also use a long drill bit. Screw down into the wood and pull out pieces as you work. Screwing into the wood softens and in some cases chews it up. This makes removal much easier.

Another method I use it to drill in a really long, fat screw. Like a 3/4″ structural bolt with really strong threads. Once the bolt is in place it gives me something to pry against.

Replacing a rotten post without removing concrete is harder than just prying it out, but with enough work you’ll get it.

Clean The Concrete Post Hole

Once the post is removed, clear out the hole of any debris. There may be chunks of wood or dirt left behind. This is especially true if the old post was rotten.

Take your bar and break away any chunks remaining and pull them out of the hole. A lot of times small chunks of wood will get stuck to the concrete. You want a nice clean hole to slide the new post into so make sure to get all the little pieces. The cleaner the hole, the easier installing the new post will be.

Many people use fire to burn debris out of the hole but I don’t like the method. Chipping and pulling chunks out has always worked better for me.

If you want to try fire then have a hose on hand just in case.

Use some kindling to start the fire inside the hole. Keep it burning as long as you need to in order to get all the smaller chunks out. Use a vacuum to suck out all the remaining char.

Make sure you take your time and get the hole as clean as possible. In order to replace a fence post without removing concrete, you have to re-use the concrete. If the holes not clean you won’t be able to slide the new post in which defeats the purpose.

Install A New Fence Post

Make sure you use the same size post as the one you removed. This will ensure the best fit. Keep in mind that lumber isn’t always the exact same size. It’s called nominal sizing. For example, you can order a 2×10 joist but the actual size could be anywhere from 9 1/2 – 9 3/4 inches. Make sure to measure the inside diameter of the hole and buy a new post with the matching outside diameter. Or just a little bit smaller.

If your new post is a little too big to fit into the concrete hole, you’ll have to work it a bit. Take some measurements and find out how much you’ll need to alter the post.

If the post is only a little bit too large, try sanding it down. Use a sandpaper with a rough grit. But if the post is a 1/16th or more too big, you should cut the post down. Use a circular and shave what you need off. If you don’t have power tools where you’re working try a hand plane with a sharp blade and shave the wood down.

Check that your new post is level and at the proper height when fully inside the hole.

Measure the hole depth before you buy the new post to ensure your finished height will be correct. The new post has to be deep enough to provide adequate strength but also high enough to support the fence panels.

As a general rule of thumb, at least a third of the fence height should be buried underground. For example, a six-foot fence will need at least 2 feet buried, which means you need an 8 foot post.

Once the post is set, silicone around the edges where the wood meets the concrete. Silicone helps keep water from slipping into the cracks which may prevent future rot.

Backfill

Now that the old post has been successfully removed without removing the concrete, the hole cleaned and the new post set in place, you can back fill.

In cases where the top of the concrete is below grade, you’ll have to dig a little to expose it before the post is removed. Now’s the time to back fill and level the soil. In most cases you can simply push the dirt you dig right back into the hole. Level the soil and tamp it down a bit.

If the concrete footing is above grade you probably won;t have any backfill work to do.

If for some reason you need more soil, I recommend using the same type as what you dug out. Use sandy fill if your working in sandy ground. But if your soil has grass then use fill soil that’s good for growing grass.

Before you backfill, double check that your post is level and at the right height. Also make sure to silicone around those cracks where the post meets the concrete. It’s a small step that can prevent future rot.

Install The Fence Panel

Once the post is set in place and your backfill is complete, it’s time to install the fence panel.

Do your installation in the reverse order of how you took it apart. This is why it’s important to keep all the screws and parts in a safe place and to take pictures as you disassembled the fence.

Removing The Fence Post And Concrete

In some cases, it’s just not worth the extra effort it takes to remove a replace a fence post without removing concrete. And for some posts it’s not even possible. If the installer used rebar or bolts along with the post, there’s no way to lift the post out of the concrete.

In these cases where you don’t want to, or can’t, replace the fence post without also removing the concrete, you’ll have to replace everything. Below we’ll explain how.

Take The Fence Down

Carefully take apart the fence panel connected to the post you’ll be removing.

Just as before, be sure to keep track of how the fence goes back together, take pictures as you go and save all the parts.

Remove The Post And Concrete

There are a few different ways to remove a fence post and concrete footing.

The first is to dig the entire footing out and then remove it from the hole. This is very hard to do by hand. I only recommend it if you have the help of a machine. But if your going to dig it out by hand then here’s a great time and labor saving tip. Just dig out two sides and then push and pull the post out. Removing two sides of dirt leaves enough room to move the concrete into the void and remove it. You don’t have to dig on all four sides.

I recommend using a car jack or level here as well.

Start by digging around the concrete about an inch or two deep.

Wrap a steel chain tightly around the exposed concrete. Make sure there’s enough chain left over to attach to the jack.

Attach the chain to the car jack and start cranking until the fence post and concrete come out. You can substitute a lever in place of the car jack if you prefer.

The key to removing the concrete with a chain and jack is a very tight connection. The chain has to be super tight around the concrete. If the bond isn’t tight, the chain will pull off. It helps to jack at a slight angle, this will help keep the chain tight against the concrete. If you jack straight up it’s easier for the chain to pull off.

Set The New Post

Now that the old post has been removed you can replace it with a new one.

Removing the concrete footing will leave a pretty big hole. But you should still double check the measurements. Don’t just assume that the hole is the correct size for your new post. Remember that about 1/3rd of the above ground post height should be below ground. For example, a 6 foot high fence post should have about 2 foot buried under ground. If the hole isn’t deep enough you’ll need to dig it down until it’s the correct depth.

Also, make sure the hole is wide enough for the amount of concrete you want to pour. If you plan on using 3 bags of concrete per post, make sure the hole is the right size to allow it. If not, you’ll have to make the hole wider.

It’s also a good idea to add a few inches of gravel to the bottom of the hole. This provides some drainage and a solid base for the concrete.

Set the new post in place and make sure it’s level. I use a few 2x4s temporarily nailed to the post to keep it level as I pour my concrete.

Pour the concrete slowly a bag at a time while checking the post remains level.

A new product on the market is expanding footing foam. I prefer concrete but the foam works really well too. And it’s easier to work with. Concrete’s heavy but foam’s very light. And it sets up much faster. Typically I wait a full day before installing the fence panel but with foam you can do it the same day. Although they do make fast setting concrete that sets up in about an hour.

Once the concrete is dry silicone around the edges where the concrete meets the post and then backfill as needed.

When working with foam there’s no need to use silicone. The foam provides a water tight seal against the wood.

Install The Fence Panel

Now that Your fence post is set in place, it’s time to install the panel.

Install the new panel in the reverse order of how you took it apart. This is where pictures come in handy. You should be able to use all the same screws and connector brackets as before.

Summary: How To Replace A Fence Post Without Removing Concrete

Replacing a fence post isn’t an easy job, especially if it’s set in concrete. A typical fence post can sit in 2 – 4 80 pound bags of concrete which is approximately 160 – 320 pounds. And that doesn’t include the weight of the post or the dirt that gets stuck to the concrete. Then there’s depth to consider. Typically a fence post is buried about 1/3 of it’s above ground height. That means a 6 foot high fence post would be about 2 feet underground. You’ll have to dig deep in order to loosen the concrete enough to remove it. It’s not a hard job if you have a Bobcat but it’s very hard to do by hand. A better option may be to replace the fence post without removing concrete.

The best way to replace a fence post without removing the concrete footing is by prying it out. You can do this with a long lever and fulcrum or a car jack. In either case, nail some wood to the post first to pry against and then get to work. Pry until the post releases from the concrete and comes all the way out. then clean the hole and set your new post.

Removing just the fence post isn’t a simple job, but it’s easier than the alternative. And leaving the concrete footing where it is can save you time and money when you set the new post. If the concrete is removed when you replace the fence post, you’ll have to pour new concrete later. That can be a lot of work if you’ve got several posts to fix.

If you have any questions or comments about how to remove a fence post without replacing concrete Email any time.

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