How To Set A Fence Post By Yourself

If you are like me, you do not like paying people for doing stuff you feel like you should be able to do yourself.

Putting in fence posts is one of those things we needed done, but I did not want to pay someone to do it.

Setting fence posts by yourself is pretty easy. You need to make sure you have an auger, post hole digger, quick-dry concrete, level, work gloves, multiple two-by-fours, gravel, and access to water.

Read on to find specific instructions and some tips to make sure your post is set correctly.

The tools you need

Just like any other project you will have in your yard, there is a list of items you will need to successfully complete the project.

  • Auger

Depending on where you live, you may run into some hard ground and/or rocks that make it difficult to dig your hole.

In the two places we have owned homes, the ground was pretty full of rocks.

So using just a regular shovel was not enough to dig the hole that we needed.

We ended up using an auger that would attach to our power drill that was used for digging holes for bulbs.

You can purchase a bulb auger from here.

Since our ground is so full of rocks, it did not work as successfully as we had hoped.

So, depending on your situation you might want to purchase or rent a power auger from The Home Depot or Lowes.

This will help you dig holes much faster than just using a shovel.

  • Post hole digger

The auger will be good for getting the hole started for you.

By the time the auger is done, you will have a bunch of dirt still in the hole, but you will have to get the dirt out.

A post hole digger will be the best option for you to get the dirt out.

You can use a regular shovel in this situation, but normal-sized shovels might actually cause you to dig a bigger hole than you actually need.

A post hole digger will be just the right size to get the dirt out of the hole that the auger created.

You can get a post hole digger with wood handles here or one with fiberglass handles here.

Either will accomplish the task, but the fiberglass will probably withstand more wear and tear.

  • Level

A level will be used to make sure your post is in a straight up and down position.

There are a few options you can choose from for levels, but there are levels specifically made for posts.

You can find some of these here.

  • Work gloves

You will be working with wood and dirt, so you will want a good pair of work gloves to proect your hands.

  • Quick dry concrete

There are many different kinds of quick-dry concrete out there.

Go to your local hardware store and look for the quick-dry concrete you like best.

For our post setting project, we used Quikrete fast setting concrete mix.

Find more about their concrete here.

You will want the quick-dry concrete because if you have multiple posts you need to set, you won’t want to wait a day or two for them to set.

Plus, you can find fast dry concrete that you don’t need to mix, so no mixing in a wheel barrow ahead of time and no cleanup afterwards.

  • Access to water

You will need some water for your quick-dry concrete.

How much you need depends on the concrete.

So having a hose nearby connected to a water source would be good.

But if you do not have that, a bucket full of water will work as well.

  • Two-by-fours

Lastly, you will need two-by-fours for a few reasons.

First, when the post is ready to be set, you will need something to keep the posts in place.

So, you will end up connecting the two-by-fours to the post to keep the post in place.

Second, you might need to move the concrete around in the water, so the two-by-fours will be good for moving that around.

Steps to setting your post

Once you have all the tools you need, setting the post is following a few simple steps:

  1. Find the spot you want to bury your post. Use the auger to dig a hole. A good rule of thumb is that 1/3 of the post should be underground. So, if I have an 8-foot post, 2 feet 8 inches should be underground. The quick-dry concrete I used had instructions that an 8-foot post should be 2 feet into the ground. So your hole should be 2 feet to 2 feet 8 inches. Also, typically the hole should be 4 inches wider than your post, so make sure your hole is wide enough as well.
  2. Once you’ve dug the hole with the auger, get out your post hole digger and clear away any remaining dirt from the hole. Remove any rocks or other debris from the hole.
  3. Once all dirt and debris has been removed, put a layer of gravel at the bottom of the hole. This will help to stabilize the post in the hole.
  4. Put your post into the hole. Take 2 two-by-fours and attach them to perpendicular sides of the post using two screws for each. You can attach these two-by-fours by either nails, screws, or clamps. Then put the other ends of the two-by-fours on the ground. Attach the level to the post and move the two-by-fours until the post is level
  5. Put the quick-dry concrete in the hole and then follow it up with the appropriate amount of water, based on the directions on the bag. The concrete will probably come up to about 4 to 6 inches from the top of the hole. Recheck the level of the post and adjust the two-by-fours accordingly. Do this before the concrete sets.
  6. At this point, you may need to stir the quick-dry concrete with your other two-by-fours.
  7. Wait for the concrete to dry. Once it has dried, cover the rest of the hole with dirt left over from the digging. Then you are done.

Other items to consider

First, you want to think about the temperature it is outside when you are wanting to put in your post.

If the temperature is around or below 32 degrees, you might consider digging your hole on a different day.

Cold temperature causes problems for you: the hole gets harder to dig and the quick-dry concrete will not dry so quick.

In cold temperatures, the ground will get hard and make it difficult, if not impossible, to dig.

I did not consider the temperature when pouring concrete into a post hole and it took 2 days for the quick-dry concrete to set.

Also, consider where any lines may be going into your house.

Gas lines are typically 24 inches into the ground, while service lines start around 18 inches.

If you are using an auger, you could damage these lines.

If using just a regular shovel, there is still the possibility of breaking a line, but less likely.

If you are unsure and you are digging a post near your home, call someone to come out and inspect where the lines may be.

811 is a nationwide number for the US for contacting local utilities to come out and check for lines.

Call a few days before you dig and allow someone to come out and set up flags.

Lastly, some have reported their post rotting out after a few years.

This is known as “collar rot”.

This can be avoid by either “doming” the top of the concrete instead of making it flat.

You can also solve this by building up the dirt around the top of the hole so that any moisture will drain away from the post.

Other resources

Home Depot has a good video on how to set a fence post by yourself here

Bill Lantz

Bill Lantz is a database analyst by day and a weekend warrior by... weekend. He's currently building up his own miniature homestead in Central Utah with his wife and six kids. Some of his interests include knowing random trivia about films, reading history books, and playing video games with the boys.

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