A leaning fence is a sign of an underlying issue, such as a weakened post, soil erosion, or improper installation. The average professional cost to repair a leaning fence is between $200 and $600. With the right equipment and skills, you can DIY most repairs.
Common Causes of Fence Leaning
When the soil underneath a fence post erodes, the fence becomes unstable and leans. Soil erosion results from heavy rains, flooding, wind, or snow. Having sprinklers near the fence posts also causes the soil to loosen around the fence, causing it to lean.
Weak or Rotting Posts
Wooden fence posts are prone to decay and rot when exposed to moisture. Pressure-treated wood is more suitable for high-moisture areas since it resists insects and decay. Cedar and redwood are also less likely to rot.
Poor installation of fence posts leads to sagging, which may cause the fence to fall over. Common installation mistakes include improper alignment, uneven post spacing, and lack of cross-bracing.
Cross braces are diagonal supports arranged in an X-shape. They keep the fence stable during strong winds. If posts are not buried at least two feet into the ground, they may not support the weight of the fence and can start to lean over time.
How to Assess Fence Damage
Step back and inspect the entire fence. Note the degree and direction of the lean. Is the entire fence leaning, or just specific sections? This will help you understand the scope of the problem.
Checking Alignment and Level
Use a level or plumb line to measure the lean’s extent. This measurement will help you align the leaning posts with the rest of the fence.
Push against each fence post and observe how much resistance it gives. A weak base gives little or no resistance, unlike a sturdy one. For wooden fence posts, look at the base of the sagging sections for signs of rot. You must replace the damaged sections if an external force bends your metal or vinyl fence out of shape.
Safety Precautions for Fence Repair
- Always wear protective gear such as gloves, safety goggles or glasses, boots, and clothing.
- Ensure ladders, scaffolding, and other equipment are in good working condition.
- Cordon off the work area to prevent bystanders from getting injured.
- Turn off the power to any electrical lines and equipment to avoid electric shock.
- Contact the local utility companies to mark any underground lines or pipes.
Correcting a Leaning Fence with a Tilting Footer
Tools You’ll Need:
- 3-inch nails or screws
- Garden hoe
- Garden hose and water supply
- Bull float
- 2×4 lumber
- Quick-mix concrete
1. Identifying Footer Issues
Start by identifying the direction and extent of the lean. Clear any dirt, vegetation, or other obstacles around the fence post.
2. Lift and Realign the Fence
Dig out the soil around the fence posts to expose the base of the footer. You should clear out 8-10 inches away from the footer to accommodate the correction. Push the fence upright and place braces or beams against it for support.
Use a level to make sure it’s perfectly straight. The braces should extend from the fence post to the ground at a 45-degree angle for maximum support. Use 3-inch nails or screws to secure them to the post.
3. Pouring a New Footer
Mix concrete according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Pour the concrete mix around the base of the leaning fence posts. To remove air bubbles, tamp down the concrete with scrap wood. Pour the mix slightly above the surface. Smooth out the concrete surface using a bull float. Allow the concrete to cure for one or two days.
4. Verifying Alignment and Stability
After the concrete has fully cured, remove the bracing boards. Test the stability of the fence by gently pushing on it from different angles. The posts should now be more secure and stable.
If you had to remove any fence panels during the repair process, reattach them using the appropriate screws or nails.
Repairing a Leaning Fence with a Broken Post
Tools You’ll Need:
- 3-inch nails or screws
- Hammer or Drill
- Replacement fence post
- Replacement railings (if needed)
- Concrete mix
- Wooden braces
- Stain or paint
1. Remove the Damaged Post
Disconnect the fence post from adjacent panels, rails, or wires, depending on the type of fence. Start by removing any nails, screws, or other fasteners. Use wooden braces and nails or screws to secure the fence in an upright position temporarily.
Dig around the broken post using a shovel. Remove enough soil to expose the base of the post and break up the old concrete using a sledgehammer. Once you’ve exposed the broken post, carefully remove it from the ground.
2. Dig and Install a New Post
The hole for the new post should be as deep as the original one and three times as wide. A wider hole allows you to add gravel and concrete for stability. Adding a layer of gravel before filling in the concrete improves drainage, preventing wood rot.
Place the new post in the hole and check that it is level. You might need someone to help you hold the post steady while refilling the hole with concrete. While the concrete is still wet, brace the post to keep it in position until the concrete sets.
3. Reattach the Fence Panels
Allow the concrete to cure for 24-48 hours, then reattach the fence panels and rails to the new post. Use nails or screws to secure the panels.
If the new post is taller than the rest of the fence, you can cut it down to match the height using a saw. Consider applying a weatherproofing treatment to the new post to prevent premature rotting.
Alternative Methods for Fixing a Leaning Fence
Temporary Fixes: Fence Braces
Metal or wooden fence braces can help keep the fence standing until a more permanent repair can be done. Position the fence braces diagonally from the leaning post to the ground, and attach using nails or screws.
Strengthening Fence Stability with Anchors
Post anchors, spikes, and menders are metal devices that are driven into the ground and fastened to the leaning post. They provide stability by securing the post into the ground, preventing further movement.
Using Gravel or Compacted Soil for Support
Crushed gravel and soil are ideal foundation materials to straighten a leaning fence post. Dig a hole around the post, add some gravel at the bottom for drainage, then fill it with a mixture of soil and gravel. Tamp down the mixture as you go to compact it and provide stability.
DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
While DIY fence repairs are cheaper than hiring a professional, some tasks can prove challenging. Simple fixes like attaching a brace or spike are often handled as DIY projects.
Following each step ensures a more thorough and lasting repair. But, if a large section of the fence is sagging, the fence may need professional repair or replacement.