Reusing Wooden Fence Posts to Fix a Wobbly Fence [with pics]

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In this article I’ll describe how I’ve dealt with reusing wooden fence posts and reusing existing fence post holes in concrete. I’ve reused wooden fence posts a couple times in my life. When wooden fence posts rot at the bottom you can usually still use the above-ground piece as a fence post (it’s just not as tall as before).

I recently had to replace a wobbly fence post, so I’ll describe the steps I took to do this. And I didn’t pour new concrete!

Reusing Wooden fence posts to fix a wobbly fence (and I didn't pour new concrete)
Reusing Wooden fence posts

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Disclaimer: I am not a professional fence installer. Don’t take this to be “professional advice.” This is just the steps I’ve taken at my own houses to reuse old fence posts. If it works for you, good, if not, you should call a pro. I can’t be held responsible for your results or mishaps as a result of you reading this.

Look at your rotten fence post…is it a DIY job?

It is important to look at your fence and determine if it is a DIY job. Will you be able to remove the fence panels to access the rotten post?

Be honest with yourself. If you can’t do it, call a professional.

Call Fences Pros for a free quote specific to your area.

In this project I reused an old fence post, AND I also reused the existing the hole in the ground. (I didn’t pour new concrete.)

Here is the fence post I needed to replace. The fence gate latched against this post, and the wobbly post made it very difficult to open the gate.

Wobbly fence post needs to be replaced because the bottom of this wooden fence post is rotten

You can see in the picture above that I was using a “Fence Mender” to act as a temporary brace.

The fence post had been wobbly for awhile and I decided to use that black metal bracket to support the rotten post until I could replace it.

If you’re curious about using a Fence Mender as a short-term fix, click here to read my article.

Step 1: Take out the existing rotten post

The picture above shows us why it is possible to reuse wooden fence posts if they have rotted at the bottom…because the damage is just at the bottom. The top, above-ground part of this fence post is still good.

You could cut off this rotten part and reuse the rest of the of post. It is going to be shortened though. And this particular post was too short for me to reuse elsewhere on this fence.

BUT…I did have another taller fence post that was rotten at the bottom that I was able to reuse in this post’s former hole.

Step 2: Analyze the hole in the ground and remove debris

For this particular project, not only did I want to reuse an old wooden fence post, but I wanted to reuse the existing hole in the ground.

I didn’t really feel like pouring new concrete.

Below is a picture of the hole in the ground after I knocked over the rotten post.

Even though it looks like all dirt, there is actually concrete down there below the dirt. (All that dirt directly against the wooden post probably contributed to the rot.)

Reusing the existing hole in the concrete for a new post.
Existing hole in the ground left behind from the rotten fence post

Reusing the existing hole meant that I had to get out the rotten chunk of fence post still stuck in the ground.

To do this I first use a little garden shovel and remove what I can with it.

Trying to clean out the hole

Then I use a chisel to stick into the chunk of wooden fence post and try and spear it so I can pull it out.

Using a chisel to spear the wood to pull it out.

It is satisfying when you pull out a big chunk of the old, rotten fence post like shown in the picture below.

Pulling a rotten chunk of the old fence post out of the 4x4 hole in the concrete
Removing chunk of the old, rotten fence post

Step 3: Use a Pry Bar to clean the sides of the hole in the concrete

Once I’ve removed all the old rotten wood from the post hole, I use a metal pry bar to scrape off any residual chunks of wood that may be stuck to the concrete hole.

You can see the 4×4 concrete hole near the end of the pry bar

You may think this was purely a dirt hole, but you can see there is concrete down there. You see the edge of it in the picture above…near the end of my pry bar.

I don’t know why the initial fence install had the concrete that far down, and not have it come right up to the surface.

Will reusing an old post hole mean the new post will rot too?

When you reuse an old post hole you’re putting a new post into the same conditions that caused the previous post to rot.

But my thinking is that if the previous post lasted 15 years, I’m good with the new post lasting 15 years. Chances are I’ll probably be replacing the entire fence in the next 15 years anyway.

With this particular hole, the post I put in may rot over time because it’ll be in contact with that dirt.

But to minimize the risk of this happening I’m going to put gravel at the bottom of the hole to help drainage, and I’m going to pack gravel around the post too.

Hopefully it helps.

Step 4: Continue cleaning the hole and pour gravel down into the hole

When the hole gets deep it is often necessary to just stick your hand down there to pull out dirt. This takes some patience.

(It helps if you have a skinny arm because a 4×4 fence post leaves a 4″x4″ hole in the concrete. It doesn’t give you much room to work.)

I cleaned out the hole as best I could. I think I even dug deeper than the previous post.

Then I poured some gravel down into the hole to allow drainage.

The idea is that if it rains and water seeps down along the sides of the posts, it won’t pool at the bottom of the post and rot your post.

Instead, it’ll drain away through the gravel and avoid prolonged contact with your fence post.

Most references I found suggest 6-inches of gravel at the bottom of your fence post hole. (Reference: Tractor Supply)

pouring gravel into the bottom of a fence post hole to allow drainage
pouring in the gravel

Get some privacy from your neighbors with one of these 19 awesome Privacy Fence Ideas

Step 5: Insert a different fence post into the hole

So far I’ve bascially shown you how you can reuse an existing fence post hole in concrete.

Now, I’ll show you how I go about reusing wooden fence posts.

Here is another old fence post I had where the bottom of the post had rotted.

(I got this free from a lady who was giving it away.)

Reusing old fence posts - the bottom of this wooden post is rotten but the top part is fine.
The bottom of this fence post is rotten (but the top is fine)

Is it garbage?

No. The top part of the post is fine.

So I stick the TOP PART (the “good part”) of the old fence post into the existing fence post hole that I just cleaned out.

You can’t really tell from the picture below, but the “good” end is stuck into the ground, and the rotten end is sticking up in the air. (I just cut off the rotten part later.)

Stick the good end into the ground and rotten end is sticking up above ground

Preparing a Post to put in the ground:

I haven’t done these things yet (I’m still learning), but I came across some things that people do to help extend the life of their fence post. I don’t know if any of these are scientifically proven to work, but they’re something to think about.

I recently read that dipping the bottom of fence posts in tar before you put them in the ground may help prolong their life. (Reference).

And another interesting idea I read about in a forum, is to avoid having the bottom of your fence post cut straight across. Instead, try beveling the four sides of the bottom of the post at 45-degree angles to make a tip.

Step 6: Level your Post and start backfilling the hole

I use a 3-foot long level to ensure my post is straight, side-to-side and front-to-back. Because the new post goes into the old hole in the concrete it was very close to being nice and level…it only required minor adjustments.

Then I began backfilling the hole with gravel and tamping it down.

Tamping down the gravel into the backfilled hole around the fence post.
Tamping down the gravel into the backfilled hole

Step 7: Mark the top of the post and cut off the rotten part

reusing wooden fence posts means you may have to cut off the rotten part of the post. Here I'm marking the post with pencil where I'm going to saw it off.

I mark where I want the top of my fence post to be.

You could use a string and stretch it between the two posts on opposite sides of the one you are removing. Then mark your post so it is the same height as your other posts.

Then I draw a pencil line around all 4 sides of the post.

I use my circular saw to make a cut into the post. My saw blade doesn’t extend all the way through a 4-inch post, so I make another cut through the opposite side.

This does the trick.

Step 8: Stick a fence post cap on the post

Putting the fence post cap back on top of the post

Sticking a fence post cap on top of the post like I did in the picture above will prevent moisture from wicking into the cut-portion of the post.

For extra protection, I could have sealed the top of the post where I made my cut, but I think my plastic post cap will do the job.

Step 9: Re-attach your fence panels to the post

Now that you have your new post level and secure, you can re-attach your fence panels or fence stringers to the post.

Reattach the fence posts or stringers to your fence post now that it is level and firmly in the ground
The “after” picture after I’ve reused an old fence post into an existing hole in the concrete.

Remember if your fence repair is beyond a DIY job you can call the pros for a free quote.

Tools I used during this project

  • cordless drill to unscrew fence panels from the fence post
  • little garden shovel to clean out the hole
  • chisel to pry out the rotten wood stuck in the hole
  • gloves (these are more safety protection but you end up doing a lot of digging by hand)
  • pry bar (to scrape the edges of the concrete hole)
  • 3-foot bubble level
  • a string and line level (I didn’t use these on this project, but I have in the past for a similar project)
  • pencil (to mark your cut)
  • circular saw (to cut off the top of the post)

Thank you for checking out my article on how I reuse wooden fence posts and reusing existing concrete fence post holes.

I hope it helps with your project.

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