A fence is a supportive all-rounder keeping your home safe and secure. Depending on your preferences, your fence may just be a functional part of your property, or it may also be an accent piece that completes the look of your home.
Either way, a leaning fence can be a big problem – not only does it look unsightly, but it’s also a safety hazard. Left unaddressed, an unstable fence can collapse altogether, and at this point, it’s entirely beyond repair.
Fixing a leaning fence quickly means you can avoid this fate altogether. In many cases, you can repair and straighten a fence that is only starting to lean. These FAQs will help you find a practical, reasonably-priced method to get your fence standing tall again.
What causes a fence to lean?
There are many reasons why a fence can lean. Some of them are to do with the environment it’s in, and some are more related to the way the fence is built.
Most often, a leaning fence has damaged or rotten fence posts below ground level or the posts were never installed to a proper standard. It may have also become unsteady and wobble in its concrete footing.
The lean of a fence can be caused by:
- Poor workmanship: One of the leading causes of fence issues. Poor installation can cause the fence to lean prematurely. This is easily avoided by using a high-quality fencing contractor.
- Wind and weather: Strong winds can generate enough force to cause a fence to lean. Fences made in a solid style are often prone to tilting as they have a larger surface area, whereas fences made with chain links or iron bars let air flow through.
- Force or impact: A strong impact, like pets barrelling into a fence or people leaning and climbing on it, can be the cause of tilting issues. Collisions from bikes, lawnmowers and other yard hazards can also destabilise a fence.
- Moisture & soil instability: Excessive rain, snowmelt, or flooding can cause the ground to become wetter, softer, and more prone to movement, and wooden fence posts can rot in these conditions. Some soil types are also inherently more stable than others.
- Tree roots: As the tree’s root system grows, it can put pressure on the fence posts, causing them to tilt. Since roots grow slowly, it might take years to notice the effects on your fence.
- Vines: If vines grow out of control on your fence, it may start leaning due to the extra weight.
Can you fix a leaning fence without replacing it?
It’s often possible to repair a leaning fence without having to build a new one. However, it depends on a lot of factors: for example, the quality of the original construction, the quality of the materials used, environmental factors and the condition of the fence.
Let’s say that after an assessment, the problem is determined to stem from a few rotten timber fence posts, but the rest of the fence is in good condition. In that case, your fencing contractor may be able to replace the problematic fence posts and provide a more cost-effective solution than installing a new fence.
If the fence has simply been destabilised by force or impact, you may be able to install a permanent brace or replace the concrete footing without replacing the fence posts.
However, if more than a quarter of the fence is damaged – or the existing fence is on its last legs – it may be more cost-effective to replace it.
How to fix a leaning fence
Determining why the fence is leaning is the first step. Once the cause is identified, the tactics used to repair a leaning fence include replacing rotten or damaged fence posts or installing a permanent brace or wedge to keep the fence post in position.
To replace a leaning fence post and fix a leaning fence:
- Secure or brace the fence so that it is in the desired position. You’ll need to ensure the fence remains stable even when you remove the post.
- Remove damaged, rotten, or leaning fence posts. Dig out the defective posts and remove the foundation, often old cement footings which are no longer stable. It’s usually recommended to deepen the holes to give the new posts a stronger, firmer hold.
- Insert the new posts into the holes and pour in the cement for the footing. It’s recommended that you pour the cement so that its surface is sloped towards the ground, allowing water to drain away from the fence posts.
If only a section of the timber fence post is rotten:
- Cut the rotted portion of wood out (often the section underground). Dig around the rotten part, and remove the damaged portion. Next, install a new post and bolt it at the bottom end of the old post. Finally, pour new concrete to stabilise the footing.
These are just some of the possible methods of fixing an unstable fence. The best solution for you may not be straightforward, especially if you’re facing multiple causes at once.
For instance, if tree roots are causing your fence to lean, this is an issue you’ll have to address to keep the problem from recurring. Your local fencing specialist should be able to pinpoint the problem and work out a suitable (and site-specific) solution.
How much does it cost to fix a leaning fence?
As the causes and solutions vary, the price of repairs is also different from fence to fence. Repairing a leaning fence can cost between $400 and $1000, depending on the extent of the problem. Fence posts cost between $120 and $400 to replace, and in many cases, there may be multiple fence posts in need of replacement.
The average cost of replacing a leaning fence is $1500 to $3000, so when repair costs start to approach this price bracket, it may be more cost-effective to install a new fence.
Note that these prices are approximations; the actual rate will depend on the length of your fence, the extent of the damage and the fencing contractor’s terms. For more information, it’s always best to have a professional fencing contractor come to your home and provide a personalised quote.
How do you temporarily brace a fence post?
There are times that you are unable to fix a leaning fence post yourself permanently. In the meantime, to keep your fence post from leaning, you need to brace it. The simplest way is to push the leaning post back to an upright position and brace it with a piece of lumber.
You can also break the old concrete footing using a sledgehammer and a chisel. Drive an appropriately sized stake into the ground, then brace the fence as explained above. Screw the stake to the brace to reinforce it. Finally, clamp the post to the brace. This solution is not permanent but will give you enough time to contact a contractor to come and evaluate your fence.
This story first appeared in Jim’s Your Local Expert.