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Why Is My Fence Leaning?

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Carpentry > Why Is My Fence Leaning?
Why Is My Fence Leaning?

Whether you installed the fence yourself or you are just the proud owner, a fence can be an important feature of your landscape. From marking the perimeter of your yard to keeping children or animals safe from harm, your fence probably serves an important service for your property.

 

If you notice your fence leaning precipitously, you may need to take fast steps to remedy the situation. There may be a variety of reasons for a fence not standing upright. The University of Tennessee Extension offers helpful information for planning and building fences, which may help you diagnose the issues with your fence.

 

As you explore the various reasons for a leaning fence, take steps to fix the problem to keep your fence in good repair.

 
  1. 1.Rotten or Broken Bases

    Fence posts often break or rot in the ground over time. Rotten or broken bases often occur if the bases are the wrong type of wood, not rated for use as fence posts in contact with the soil. Wood with an insufficient ground rating will not withstand exposure to the soil and it will decay quickly. Once the decay starts, the bases will not support the stringers, which form the base of the fence.

    If possible, it’s often better to repair rotten fence posts rather than replace them because replacing the posts may cause significant stress to the stringers and boards attached to the post. It’s necessary to support the stringers and the slats carefully before you begin working on the rotten post.

  2. 2.Shallow Posts

    Shallow fence posts are a sure recipe for a leaning fence. Although digging post holes can be back-breaking labor, the work is worth it in the long run. If you cut corners in the depth of your post holes, your fence will lack strength and it will likely lean within a short time. In addition, the fence will not be strong enough to withstand winds and animals, which could exert a pushing force against the fence and make it lean.

    The taller the fence, the deeper the fence posts must go into the ground. For a 3-foot fence, fence posts must be 18 inches deep. A 4-foot fence needs fence posts 24 inches deep. A 5-foot fence requires 32-inch fence posts. A 6 foot fence needs 36-inch deep fence posts and a 7-foot fence requires fence posts 42 inches deep.

  3. 3.Bad Weather

    Significant wind and precipitation, in the form of either rain or snow, can disturb a fence in the soil and create leaning problems. The combination of overly wet soil and the force of the wind can create too much strain and pressure on the fence posts, which can cause the entire fence to lean. In addition, a fence without properly seated fence posts that are not driven deep enough into the ground will not survive against strong and wet weather conditions. A season of moisture – such as spring rain or winter snows – might be too much for the fence to withstand.

  4. 4.Warped Wood

    Because wood is a natural material, it tends to warp over time. Even pressure treated wood is still porous, which means that it will absorb moisture and then dry out. As wood absorbs moisture, it swells. As wood dries out, it shrinks. This process stresses wood, which might create cracks in the wood or it might cause it to warp. If wood has too much length between support posts, the expanse of wood that is not supported will be the weak points that tend to warp with stress. To avoid wood warping, make sure that fence boards 6 feet long have three evenly supported rails to support the expanse of wood.

  5. 5.How to Fix Leaning Fence

    If possible, strive to repair your fence rather than replace it. Fence repair will save you money and it will also save the parts of the fence that are not in need of repair or replacement. The repair process will depend on the issues you’re experiencing with your fence.


    If your fence rails are not supporting the expense between posts, you may need to bolster the existing rail or add additional rails to lend strength and stability. A “sister rail” is an additional rail that you add to an existing rail, bolting it to the rail just above or just below. Another option is to add a new rail to the fence, positioning it between existing rails to add stability and strength.


    If fence boards need replacing, pull the existing ones from the rails by unscrewing the screws holding them in place. Install new fence boards to replace the old ones.


    Leaning fence posts can pose a significant problem for a fence. To fix a leaning post, dig out the defective post and remove the old cement footing. Plumb the fence so it stands straight and brace it to hold it there. Once you have secured the fence, it’s time to pour a new footing. Mix up the concrete and fill the posthole with cement. Before the concrete dries slope the surface so water will drain away from the post.


    If an existing fence post has buried rot beneath the ground, add another shorter post to the damaged post to give the fence stability. Move away soil from around the damaged fence post and break up the existing footing to remove it. Brace the fence post to keep the fence straight and then cut off the rotten portion of the fence post to remove it. Cut a new fence post to replace the portion you removed, making it about 1 foot longer than the portion you cut away. Place the new fence post into the hole and bolt it to the old fence post with carriage bolts. Pour a new concrete footing to finish the repairs.

     

    Although fence repairs can be time consuming, once you repair your fence, you should be able to enjoy it for many more years.

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