Cedar fence posts and dirt

Old 07-02-13, 05:28 AM
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Cedar fence posts and dirt

I recently had a fence installed by a local company and after they left, I noticed that some of the fence posts are set in concrete at ground level (the concrete is visible at or above the ground line) while in others, you can dig down quite far and never even see the concrete.

My neighbor would like me to pack dirt around the posts that have concrete showing (to hide the concrete). But I was under the impression that on a wood fence, you should try to avoid contact with dirt (making me think, in fact, that maybe I should add more concrete to those posts that are currently packed in dirt).

So...the question is: does it matter whether the fence post is in contact with dirt? I know the installers packed each post with gravel, then poured the concrete, on the theory that this will drain water better. Any further advice?

Old 07-02-13, 05:36 AM
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It's hard to not let a fence post contact the soil. Gravel at the bottom helps the water drain from the post. Generally it's best to have the concrete near the top so it doesn't trap any water. It shouldn't hurt anything to have a little dirt over the concrete. The drier the post can stay [good drainage] the longer it should last.
Old 07-02-13, 07:53 AM
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I would never question why a contractor does one practice over another, nor would I say it was the wrong way to go..

Did you pay for concreted posts? Which is typically in your estimate?

Or was it just done, without your knowing it was part of the actual installation description in your estimate?

If it was not included in your estimate but was performed in the actual installation it is possible that the installers came across issues while installing your fence that required cement to fix the problem. It could have been a high water table, or roots, or very rocky soil... Or just plainly enough, the soil may not have been good for packing.
Anything could be the reason why cement was added to a job that did not call for cement. In that, not every post needs cement. As long as not evey post has the same problem.

Now, in all this, soil being in contact with a post? No problem as long as the posts used were pressure treated posts.. or actual cedar posts.

The cement being towards the very top of the soil line, or the grass line... well, it would have been best if there were enough room to grow some grass.. but hey, that is fixable with more soil and seed.

Now with everything there is a reason. You could always ask your contractor why he did whatever it is... I am sure they will have a reason for you. But more than likely it was justifiable in their cause to make sure your fence stayed up as long as possible.
I am sure they did it for the better good

Any further questions feel free to ask away

Last edited by Shadeladie; 09-03-14 at 08:19 AM.
Old 08-03-13, 08:52 AM
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don't put soil on top

I would not put soil over the cement that the posts are set in. Putting soil will allow the moisture in the soil to be in contact with the wood, which is what you are trying to avoid by setting them in cement. Another issue is if you cover the cement with soil, soon grass will grow in the soil. Over time soil and debris trapped in the grass will build up around the post, defeating the benefits of setting the posts in cement. Tell your neighbor, setting posts in cement is the accepted method, and with time the cement will discolor and get darker looking and be less noticeable. If they insist on the cement being covered, ask them if they will pay for new posts when they rot out in 5 years.
Old 08-05-13, 11:45 AM
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Everyone has their own opinion on how to install a fence... right or wrong is based upon experience as well as conditions being different between different applications.
There are no rules, but I do follow my own routine .. and I have installed more than my fair share of fence posts, pressure treated or Cedar and or even Redwood, Aluminum and Steel and in some cases Iron.
In my experience I can say this...

It is ok to back fill a wood post hole with soil.
It is also ok to cement any type of post.
It is preferred to back fill wood posts with soil rather than cementing them in place. If the conditions in ground are dry and no so saturated from underground water, backfilling the hole with the surrounding soil and or stone or crushed stone and soil is perfectly fine. A post installed in this manner and under those soil conditions can last anywhere from 10 -20 yrs...

A cemented post may hold up to higher winds and the post may stand up straighter for a while but in my career of installing fences I have found more posts that were cemented snapping off at the very base than any non cemented post. And in some cases the cement has tendency to withold moisture, near the post. The cement bases make repairs much more time consuming as well as costly.

To each their own, but I do believe that back filling a wood post is acceptible. Not only acceptible but in my opinion it is preferred unless ground or soil or weather conditions in the area of installation sway my decision to do otherwise.

Again, Best of luck in your decision...

Last edited by Shadeladie; 09-03-14 at 08:19 AM.
Old 08-07-13, 08:47 PM
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I agree with the previous post, mostly. Read "Continuous post"; SULIS - Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series: U of MN.

Post deep enough to prevent heave; http://www.brainerdhomeinspection.com/frosth~1.pdf

Best quality job, waterproof the posts before concrete (cement is an additive of concrete) collar that will act as a sponge to hold moisture, wicking up the post to air-dry as tree trunck feeds moisture from roots (capillary action) prolonging the wetting action; Are Wood Posts in Concrete a Bad Idea? | eHow

Concrete collar (use only when extra lateral resistance is required as it stores water like a sponge) 6" below grade- end of article- tips; http://learningstore.uwex.edu/assets/pdfs/A3052.pdf

No relation to me, lol; "Does BFC install their wood fence posts in concrete footings?
No. BFC does not recommend that you attach concrete footings to your wood posts. By putting concrete on your wood post, you’re creating an area just underneath the soil that allows water to gather near ground level and rot your wood post at a much faster rate than it would without the concrete footing. BFC uses a .40 ACQ pressure-treated fence post. The normal life expectancy of a pressure treated wood post without a concrete footing can be anywhere from twenty to thirty years. With a concrete footing, you decrease the life expectancy of the wood fence post by more than half and set yourself up for a very labor intensive removal should you ever need to remove the wood fence post. BFC sets and tamps our wood fence posts with the soil that came out of the original hole and set our wood posts two and one half to three feet below the ground. This is a tried and true installation method and is the way that the majority of wood fence is installed in the northeastern U.S." From; Backyard Fence Co. - Aluminum, PVC, Wood, Vinyl and Chain Link Fence


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