Setting Fence Posts: Installing Concrete Footing

When setting fence posts, installing concrete footing can fit your fence building needs, but you must then decide whether to mix your own or have ready-mixed concrete delivered by truck.

| January 31, 2014

  • Home improvement expert Jeff Beneke lays out the pros and cons of each fencing type and explains what your investment will be in "The Fence Bible."
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing
  • A concrete footing. Even though the concrete hardening (technically known as curing) process begins quickly, you should leave the posts undisturbed for at least two days after pouring the concrete.
    Illustration by Melanie Powell
  • Power mixers (electric or gas) can be rented from home centers and rental outlets. They are particularly useful if you want to mix your own concrete ingredients and have a large number of holes to fill.
    Illustration by Melanie Powell
  • Mortar tubs are usually large enough to mix one large bag of concrete mix with water. A mortar hoe, with two holes in its blade, speeds the mixing process, but a standard garden hoe will work nearly as well.
    Illustration by Melanie Powell
  • After the post hole has been filled with concrete, use a margin trowel to smooth the surface and form a slope away from the post. If you don’t have a margin trowel handy, use a putty knife or a flat piece of wood.
    Illustration by Melanie Powell

Good neighbors make good fences and good fences require good planning, materials and construction. The Fence Bible (Storey Publishing, 2005) acts as a reference to construct any fence that might be right for your property with an explanation of project options and detailed step-by-step instructions from fence-building and home-improvement expert Jeff Beneke. The following is excerpted from chapter three “Wood Fences.”

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Fence Bible

Installing Concrete Footing

If you plan to bury your fence posts in concrete, one of the big decisions that confronts you is whether you want to mix your own concrete and, if you do, which products to use and how to do it.

There are circumstances under which it makes sense to have ready-mixed concrete delivered by truck. Under ideal conditions, it will save time and not prove much more costly than the alternatives. Ready-mixed concrete is ordered by the cubic yard. One cubic yard equals 27 cubic feet (or 46,656 cubic inches, if you need to do the math) and is typically the minimal amount you must order. Assuming that you dig 36-inch-deep holes that are 12 inches in diameter, dump 6 inches of gravel in the bottom of each hole, and plan to use 4 x 4 posts, you ought to be able to fill 15  1/2 holes with 1 cubic yard of concrete. You should plan to overfill each hole, however, and you will almost certainly spill a bit, so a safer bet is that you could handle 13 or 14 holes with a minimal order.



However, before the concrete truck pulls up to your house, you need to have all the holes dug and all the posts placed and braced. You need to make sure that the truck can get fairly close to the holes (although you do not want a concrete truck driving through your yard), and you should have a small crew available as soon as the truck arrives, equipped with shovels and a couple of wheelbarrows, so that you can work quickly. If you keep the truck waiting to unload too long, you may have to pay extra.

The process normally involves sliding a wheelbarrow under the truck’s chute, filling the wheelbarrow with no more concrete than you can safely handle, wheeling the concrete to the hole, shoveling the concrete into the hole, then returning to the truck for another load. Helpers can be handling another wheelbarrow as well as working on the filled holes to create a smooth surface that slopes away from the post (I usually use a margin trowel for this job; see the patting concrete around pole photo in Slideshow).





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