More on Fence Post Installation
Fence Post Installation: Round Metal Posts
Round 1-5/8 inch steel posts make very good long-lasting posts that are easier and less expensive to install than wooden posts. Should you get these black round posts you should order brace bands with them to provide a firm fence attachment point at the top of each post that will prevent the fence from sagging.
Posts without Drive Sleeves
To set a 9-foot or 10-foot round post without a sleeve into the ground, it helps to prepare the way with a digging bar. Put a piece of tape on the digging bar at a height corresponding to the desired depth of the hole. Then take your digging bar and thrust it into the ground where you plan to set a post, tapping it down with a hammer as may be needed. With its weight helping you, work the bar downward however far you want the post to go. As you proceed, rotate the bar in the hole enough to open up a space about wide enough to accommodate the post. If you do that, when you get two feet down you will know there are no rocks or roots in the way. (If you run into a rock or root that the bar cannot navigate, shift the bar to another place and try again.)
Now install the post (see video) with a manual post driver. The driver is a weighted metal cylinder open at one end and closed at the other, with handles on the sides. To use it, take it up a little two-step ladder such as you have in the pantry and slip it over the top of the metal post. Put the end of the post where you want it to go. Then raise and drop the driver anywhere from a few inches to nearly its full length onto the post, so as to tap or pound the post into the ground. When you use this tool, be sure no one is trying to assist you by holding the upper portion of the driven post with their hands, as the heavy descending driver can seriously damage hands.
As you drive the post in, stop when you are about a foot down and apply a carpenter’s level to make sure it is straight. Keep driving it down until only seven feet two inches remain above the ground. If you have not prepared the way with a digging bar, this pounding will sometimes distort the upper inch or two of pipe. If that happens, get a pipe cutter and cut off the distorted portion of the pipe. Then arrange things so that the pipe has a finished height of 7 feet.
Round Metal Posts with Drive Sleeves
We also offer 1-5/8 inch round metal deer fence posts with 2-1/2 foot drive sleeves. These are a little easier to install (see video), because nobody has to get on a step-stool. Instead, one inserts a steel drive cap into the open end of the sleeve and hits it with a metal mallet or heavy hammer to drive the sleeve into the ground. That can make dents in the drive cap, which may eventually wear out. So, for smooth fence post installation, it’s wise to get one such cap for every 20 or so posts with sleeves.
When the sleeve is halfway in, remove the drive cap and insert the post (which for a 7-foot fence will be 8 feet long, and which can be inserted only 1 foot into the sleeve). Now apply a carpenter’s level to make sure the post is straight. (The post can move back and forth in the sleeve a little, but this small amount of movement can be stopped later).
Then remove the post, replace the drive cap, drive the sleeve three-quarters of the way in, put the post back in the sleeve, and check it for straightness again before driving the sleeve all the way in, so that only an inch or so is above the ground. If the sleeve needs adjustment at any point to keep the post straight, place the drive cap on top and hit the drive cap (not the sleeve!) gently with the hammer so as to move the sleeve in the right direction.
There is likely to be some play in the post after it’s inserted in the sleeve. To eliminate this, pound two galvanized nails into the space between the post and the sleeve. These nails should be separated from each other by roughly a quarter of the distance around the post. Please note, however, that these nails make the sleeves hard to remove. So don’t use them if you are planning to seasonally or periodically dismantle your fence.
Challenging Fence Post Installation: Setting Posts in Solid Rock
Just about the most difficult type of fence post installation involves setting the posts in a solid rock face (rock ledge). To do this, use a Hilti drill with an 18-inch x 0.5-inch “All Masonry” bit to drill three holes 12 to 18 inches into the rock. Then pound half-inch rebar 30 to 36 inches long all the way into those holes with a sledge hammer or post driver so that about 18 inches of rebar is left sticking out of each hole. Place a sauna tube over these lengths of rebar, arranging things so that all three lengths of rebar are at least a few inches in from the edge of the sauna tube. Before filling the sauna tube with concrete and setting your deer fence post in the center, put some big dents in the bottom 12 inches of the post with a hammer, so that it cannot turn or come out after the concrete has hardened. Another tactic is to drill half-inch pairs of holes through the post in both directions, one pair about 2 inches up the post and another pair 8 to 10 inches up, before setting the post in the concrete-allowing concrete to enter the post and hold it firmly.
Attaching Brace Bands and Caps to Round Deer Fence Posts
Brace bands offer a convenient way to ensure that your fencing cannot slide down the posts. Place a brace band near the top of each round deer fence post. The flanges on the band should face outward toward the deer except on posts where earth anchors will be attached, in which case the flanges should point toward the place where the earth anchor will be inserted into the ground. Now make sure the brace band is at the top of the post, pass the bolt provided through the holes in the flanges, apply a nut, and tighten the nut with a wrench until the brace band cannot move. Then place your flat vinyl cap onto the top of the post and you are done.
An economical alternative to round deer fence posts is provided by angle-iron posts with a black powder-coat finish. These posts have a smaller cross-section than the round posts but for most purposes serve just as well.
If you get angle-iron posts, however, you should be prepared to defend them against rust. Inspect the posts at least once a year and spray any rust spots with rust-preventive paint. Perfectly at home in most garden, orchard, or farm settings, these posts look less suitable protecting suburban residences or estates, for which they are not recommended.
To install an angle-iron post for a 7-foot deer fence (see video), simply get on a short stepladder and drive the post down with a manual post driver until seven feet are above ground, testing it periodically from the front and side with a carpenter’s level to make sure it goes in straight. If the soil is rocky, use a digging bar as described above for round posts without drive sleeves.
Later, when you’re putting the deer fence rolls in place, attach the fencing to each angle-iron post with five or so eight-inch heavy-duty zip-lock ties, but in addition pass the zip-tie through one of the holes in the angle-iron post so as to prevent the fencing from slipping down the post.
Wooden Deer Fence Posts
Because they are thicker and stronger than metal posts, it is sometimes worth using wooden posts at corners (only if no trees are available) and at places that can be expected to bear major loads (see video). Avoid using untreated wood, because most untreated wood in contact with the soil will rot in a year or two. These posts should be set 3 feet into the ground (4 feet at stress points). Like other posts, they should be spaced 15 feet apart for metal hexagrid fencing and 20 feet apart for polypropylene fencing. The deer fencing should be loosely attached to each post with five or so U-nails. As with all posts, the fencing should be pulled tight enough so that it stands straight, but no tighter.