A fence is a valuable asset for any property, as it provides security, privacy, and aesthetic appeal. However, a fence can also become an eyesore and a safety hazard if it starts to lean or sag due to various reasons. A leaning fence can reduce the value of your home, damage your landscaping, and pose a risk of injury or liability.
Fortunately, you don’t have to live with a leaning fence or replace the entire fence if you notice some signs of instability. There are several ways to repair a leaning fence, depending on the cause and severity of the problem. In this article, we will show you how to fix a leaning fence by yourself or with the help of a professional, as well as how to prevent your fence from leaning in the future.
What Causes a Fence to Lean?
Before you attempt to fix a leaning fence, you need to identify the root cause of the problem. There are many factors that can contribute to a fence leaning over time, such as:
- Soil erosion or settlement: The soil around the fence posts can erode or settle due to water runoff, heavy rain, flooding, or frost heave. This can create gaps or voids under the posts, making them loose and unstable.
- Wind or impact damage: Strong winds, storms, falling branches, or accidental collisions can exert force on the fence panels and posts, causing them to bend or break. This can also affect the alignment and level of the fence.
- Wood rot or insect damage: Wooden fence posts can decay or deteriorate at the base due to exposure to moisture, fungi, or insects. This can weaken the structural integrity of the posts and make them prone to snapping or cracking.
- Concrete footer cracking: Concrete footers are the foundations that support the fence posts in the ground. They can crack or crumble due to age, poor installation, water infiltration, or freeze-thaw cycles. This can compromise the stability and durability of the posts.
- Improper installation: If the fence posts are not installed deep enough, spaced correctly, or secured firmly in the ground, they can become wobbly and lean over time. This can also affect the tension and balance of the fence panels.
How to Fix a Leaning Fence
Depending on the cause and extent of the leaning, you may be able to fix your fence by yourself using some basic tools and materials. However, if your fence is severely damaged or beyond repair, you may need to hire a professional fencing contractor to replace it. Here are some common ways to fix a leaning fence:
1. Repairing a Broken Post
If your fence is leaning because of a broken post at ground level or above, you can repair it by using a metal post mender. A post mender is a U-shaped bracket that fits around the post and wedges between the post and the concrete footer. It helps to reinforce and straighten the post without digging it out.
To repair a broken post with a post mender, you will need:
- Two metal post menders
- Eight galvanized hex-head connector screws (#9 x 1-1/2-inch)
- Impact drill/driver
- Hex drive socket set
- Socket wrench set (optional)
- Drill bit set
- Eye and hearing protection
Follow these steps to repair a broken post with a post mender:
1. Dig out dirt and debris from the base of the broken post until you reach the top of the concrete footer. If there is no footer or if it is made of expanding foam, you can still use a post mender. However, do not use a post mender with spike-style fence post anchors.
2. Position one post mender against one side of the post. The driving point of the post mender should rest at the junction of the footer and the post. You may need to slightly angle the post mender outward to ensure that it wedges between the footer and the post.
3. Hammer the post mender on the driving plate located on its side. You may need an assistant to hold the post mender in place for the first few blows. For safety, the assistant should hold the post mender at top.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for another post mender on the opposite side of the post.
5. Drill pilot holes through each hole on both post menders using an appropriate drill bit.
6. Drive one connector screw through each hole on both post menders using an impact drill/driver and a hex drive socket. You can also use a socket wrench instead of an impact drill/driver.
7. Check that both post menders are securely attached to the post and that they have straightened it.
2. Repairing a Tilting Footer
If your fence is leaning because of a tilting concrete footer that has shifted due to soil erosion or settlement, you can repair it by bracing the post vertically and then filling the soil void with concrete. This will help to stabilize and level the post and the footer.
To repair a tilting footer with concrete, you will need:
- Scrap two-by-fours
- Quick-mix concrete, 50-pound bag
- 3-inch screws
- Electric drill
- Garden hoe
- Garden hose and fresh water supply
- Breathing protection
Follow these steps to repair a tilting footer with concrete:
1. Push the fence upright by screwing one end of a scrap two-by-four to the top of the fence post with a 3-inch screw. Have an assistant push the fence upright while you hold the other end of the two-by-four on the ground. You can also use a stake or another fence post to brace the two-by-four on the ground.
2. Secure another scrap two-by-four to the side of the fence post with another 3-inch screw. Have your assistant hold this two-by-four on the ground at a right angle to the first one. This will create a T-shaped brace that will keep the fence post upright.
3. Dig out any loose soil around the tilting footer until you expose its entire surface. You may need to remove some fence panels or rails to access the footer.
4. Mix a 50-pound bag of quick-mix concrete in a wheelbarrow according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a garden hoe to stir the concrete and add water gradually until you achieve a thick and smooth consistency.
5. Pour the concrete around the tilting footer, filling any gaps or voids under it. Use a hammer to tap the sides of the footer to help the concrete settle and remove any air bubbles.
6. Level and smooth the surface of the concrete with a trowel or a piece of wood. Make sure that the concrete is slightly higher than the surrounding soil to prevent water from pooling around it.
7. Let the concrete cure for at least 24 hours before removing the braces and restoring any fence panels or rails.
3. Replacing a Rotted Post
If your fence is leaning because of a rotted post that has decayed at the base due to moisture, fungi, or insects, you will need to replace it with a new one. This will require digging out the old post and its footer, installing a new post and its footer, and attaching it to the fence.
To replace a rotted post, you will need:
- New fence post (same size and material as the old one)
- New concrete footer (same size and shape as the old one)
- Post hole digger
- Half-wet sand
- Small gravel
- Fast-setting concrete, 50-pound bag
- Garden hoe
- Garden hose and fresh water supply
- Saw (if needed)
- Replacement railings (if needed)
- Hammer or drill
- Nails or screws
Follow these steps to replace a rotted post:
1. Remove any fence panels or rails that are attached to the rotted post. You may need to cut them off with a saw if they are nailed or screwed to the post.
2. Dig out the rotted post and its footer using a post hole digger and a shovel. You may need to break up the footer with a sledgehammer if it is too large or too deep to remove. Dispose of the old post and footer properly.
3. Dig a new hole for the new post using the same dimensions as the old one. The hole should be about one-third of the post’s length deep and about three times as wide as its diameter.
4. Pour about 6 inches of half-wet sand at the bottom of the hole and tamp it down with a shovel or a piece of wood. This will create a drainage layer for excess water.
5. Place about 6 inches of small gravel on top of the sand layer and tamp it down as well. This will create a stable base for the new footer.
6. Place the new concrete footer in the center of the hole and level it with a level.
7. Place the new fence post on top of the footer and level it vertically with a level. You may need to adjust its height by adding or removing some gravel under it.
8. Mix a 50-pound bag of fast-setting concrete in a wheelbarrow according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a garden hoe to stir the concrete and add water gradually until you achieve a thick and smooth consistency.
9. Pour the concrete around the new post, filling up to about 2 inches below ground level. Use a hammer to tap the sides of the post to help the concrete settle and remove any air bubbles.
10. Level and smooth the surface of the concrete with a trowel or a piece of wood. Make sure that the concrete is slightly higher than the surrounding soil to prevent water from pooling around it.
11. Let the concrete cure for at least 24 hours before attaching any fence panels or rails to the new post. You may need to use new railings or cut them to fit the new post. You can also use nails or screws to secure them to the post.
How to Prevent Your Fence from Leaning
To prevent your fence from leaning in the future, you need to maintain it regularly and protect it from external factors that can cause damage or instability. Here are some tips to keep your fence in good shape:
- Inspect your fence periodically for any signs of wear and tear, such as cracks, splits, warps, rots, rusts, or loose connections. Repair any minor issues as soon as possible before they become major problems.
- Clean your fence regularly with mild detergent and water to remove any dirt, dust, mold, or mildew. You can also use a pressure washer or a garden hose to rinse off any debris. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can damage your fence.
- Paint or stain your wooden fence every few years to preserve its color and protect it from moisture, fungi, and insects. You can also apply a water-repellent sealer or a wood preservative to enhance its durability and resistance.
- Trim any overhanging branches or vegetation that can fall on your fence or block its airflow. You can also plant some shrubs or flowers around your fence to create a natural barrier against wind or impact damage.
- Adjust the tension and alignment of your fence panels or rails as needed to keep them balanced and level. You can also add some braces or supports to reinforce your fence posts and prevent them from leaning.
- Avoid leaning heavy objects or applying excessive force on your fence, such as ladders, bikes, or vehicles. You can also install some bumpers or guards to cushion any accidental collisions.
A leaning fence is not only an eyesore but also a potential hazard for your property and safety. However, you don’t have to live with a leaning fence or spend a fortune on replacing it. There are many ways to fix a leaning fence by yourself or with the help of a professional, depending on the cause and severity of the problem.
In this article, we have shown you how to fix a leaning fence by repairing a broken post, repairing a tilting footer, or replacing a rotted post. We have also given you some tips on how to prevent your fence from leaning in the future by maintaining it regularly and protecting it from external factors.
You can check if your fence is leaning by using a level or a plumb bob. A level is a tool that has a bubble in a liquid-filled tube that indicates if a surface is horizontal or vertical. A plumb bob is a weight that hangs from a string and shows if a line is vertical. You can place a level on the top or side of your fence post and see if the bubble is centered. You can also hang a plumb bob from the top of your fence post and see if the string aligns with the center of the post. If the bubble or the string is off-center, your fence is leaning.
The size and material of your fence post and footer depend on the type, height, and design of your fence, as well as the soil conditions and climate in your area. Generally, you should choose a fence post that is at least one-third as long as your fence height and at least 4 inches in diameter. You should also choose a concrete footer that is at least 3 times as wide as your post diameter and at least 6 inches deep. You should also consider the durability and resistance of your fence post and footer materials, such as wood, metal, vinyl, or composite.
You can prevent your wooden fence post from rotting by using pressure-treated wood, which is wood that has been treated with chemicals to resist moisture, fungi, and insects. You can also apply a water-repellent sealer or a wood preservative to your wooden fence post every few years to enhance its protection. You should also avoid burying your wooden fence post directly in the soil, but use a concrete footer instead to create a barrier between the wood and the ground.
You can fix a leaning fence panel or rail by adjusting its tension and alignment with the fence posts. You can use some tools such as a turnbuckle, a wire stretcher, or a tension rod to tighten or loosen the fence panel or rail until it is balanced and level. You can also use some braces or supports to reinforce the connection between the fence panel or rail and the fence post.
You can remove a broken or rotted fence post from the ground by using a post puller, which is a tool that clamps onto the post and lifts it out of the hole with a lever or a jack. You can also use a digging bar, which is a long metal rod with a pointed end that you can insert under the post and pry it out of the hole. Alternatively, you can use a saw to cut off the post above ground level and then dig out the remaining part of the post and its footer.
You can install a new fence post in the ground by digging a hole for it using a post hole digger, which is a tool that has two metal blades that you can push into the ground and pull apart to scoop out dirt. You should dig the hole about one-third of the post’s length deep and about three times as wide as its diameter. You should then place some sand and gravel at the bottom of the hole to create drainage and stability for the new footer. You should then place the new footer in the center of the hole and level it with a level. You should then place