How to install fence panels and posts yourself


Have your fence posts been rotting for years and finally given up? Or maybe you just fancy a change of scenery? What ever your reasons are for replacing your fence panels, if you’re a hands on person, and would prefer to install your own fence panels and posts yourself instead of paying someone else to do it for you then, why not? I’m a professional landscape gardener, installing new fence panels and fence posts all the time, but is it really that hard? Maybe it’s because I have installed so many new fences over the years, but I actually think it’s one of the easier jobs to do. Although I would definitely recommend having another person help you at the very least! Before we begin, lets look at some of your questions to help you along the way…

What do I need to check before installing new fence panels and posts?

This is a good question, and one that is easily missed! My absolute biggest problem that I face when installing the fence posts are tree roots! Still, to this day, I have not found an easy way around the roots! You can use an axe, but it could take you all day. You could use a chainsaw, but your chain will go blunt as soon as it comes into contact with dirt. You could use a hand saw, but you need to dig a larger hole than necessary around the root. Basically, they are a head ache! If you are going to be installing a new fence near large trees, then it may be worth getting some quotes from professionals beforehand, but if your feeling brave, then lets take a look at ways around this. You can also check out my other post on ‘how to install fence posts with tree roots in the way’.

The most common width of fence panel is 6 feet. When measure 6 feet from your previous post, and marking where your next post hole needs to be, have a look to see if there are any obvious signs of tree roots that may get in the way. If there is an obvious one above the surface, then you will need to start digging, working your way backwards, towards your previously installed fence post, until you are able to dig a hole, preferably 2 feet deep. When you have done this, you will need to measure the new distance from fence post to your new hole, and using a saw, cutting the panel down to size. If you are using concrete gravel boards, then you will need to cut these down too using a 9″ angle grinder with masonry/stone cutting blade. If on the other hand, you are able to dig, lets say 1.5 feet into the ground before hitting a tree root, then you should be able to cut the fence post short by using the angle grinder, although it would be good practice to widen the fence hole slightly to allow for more concrete/more support.

What tools will I need to install new fence panels and posts?

It’s important to use the correct tools when erecting your new fence, although I still say to this day, that the most important tool of all is your spirit level! No one wants to see wonky fence posts! This is also going to be where you will need to weigh up the costs of purchasing your own tools with hiring a professional to do the work, considering that they already have all of the necessary equipment to hand. Along with each tool needed, I have included an estimated cost of each one to help give you an idea. Although I am sure that it will still work out cheaper than paying for professional labour!

Tools needed to install fence panels with wooden posts

  • Tape measure £5.00
  • Spirit level £20.00
  • Post hole digger £30.00
  • Drill £20.00
  • Builder’s string £5.00
  • Breaker £180.00 (if removing old concrete)
  • Panel saw £10.00

Tools needed to install fence panels with concrete posts

  • Tape measure £5.00
  • Spirit level £20.00
  • Post hole digger £30.00
  • Builder’s string £5.00
  • Breaker £180.00 (if removing old concrete)
  • Panel saw £10.00
  • 9″ angle grinder with masonry cutting blade £70.00
  • Ratchet straps £10.00

The total amount of money needed to invest in tools comes to approximately £270.00 £330.00. Now this sounds like a lot, but if paying 2 landscapers like myself a rate of £20.00 per hour, per person, this comes to £320.00 per day. Suddenly, the price of tools needed doesn’t seem so high!

Which protective equipment will I need when installing fence panels and posts?

  • Rigger gloves for lifting fence panels and posts, whether they be wooden or concrete posts! It doesn’t take long for your hands to start feeling the stress…Believe me!
  • Dust mask for not only mixing the concrete, but for also cutting the concrete posts and gravel boards with a 9″ grinder, if these are being installed of course!
  • Safety goggles for mixing the concrete (be careful not to get any dust or cement in your eyes) and for also the cutting of concrete fence posts and gravel boards as well as the breaking up of old fence post concrete. You will most definitely get pieces of concrete in your eyes if not using goggles!
  • Ear muffs are needed when the breaker or 9″ angle grinder are in use. I’ve had my ears ringing for days when not putting them on, it’s just not worth the risk!

Step by Step guide to install new fence panels and posts

Step 1

Preparation is key! The first thing you need to do is use builders string line to mark a straight line from the start to the end of your new fence panels. It’s this string that will get you the perfect straight fence that everyone desires, and keeps you from going into neighbors boundaries etc.!

Step 2

Dig your first post hole! Using a post hole digger or petrol auger, be sure to dig your post hole 1/3 of the height of the post above ground. For example, the most common height of fence panels would be 6 feet, meaning that the post hole should be 2 feet in the ground at a minimum. If using a manual post hole digger, it may be worth using a breaker (also known as a kango) to help break up hard ground as it’s not always easy using a post hole digger alone and will help speed up the process!

Step 3

Once the hole is dug, insert your new fence post into the ground. Once this is done, using a tape measure, make sure that the height from the ground measures the correct height to the panels that you are erecting. For example, if you are using 6 foot fence panels, then you will want the post to be a minimum of 6 feet above ground level. If it’s not, then you will need to remove the post, and dig some more!

Remember, lots of us use gravel boards, especially if using concrete posts. If this is the case, then be sure to include the height of the gravel boards. Most gravel boards are 6 inches, or 1 foot in height.

Step 4

Once you are happy with the height of your first fence post, without adding water, fill the hole with 2 bags of concrete post fix. You can use other brands of cement specially designed for fence posts, but sand and cement will do the job just as well. Using post fix however, usually allows you to fill the hole dry, allowing you to add water later.

Once you have added your post fix, using a spirit level, you should be able to move the fence post to the correct level (be sure to check all sides on the spirit level) with the dry mix keeping it secure. Once you are happy, simply add lots of water to the hole, gently checking the level every couple of minutes with the spirit level to be sure.

Step 5

Using 6 feet wide fence panels as an example, using a tape measure and your string line, measure 6 feet across from your first installed fence post and start to dig another 2 feet into the ground.

Step 6

Using a gravel board (or fence panel if gravel boards aren’t being used), insert the gravel board into the slotted concrete fence post and make sure that the end of the gravel board matches up to the correct position to your post hole. Be sure to line the gravel board up to the builder’s string line. This will allow you to see if the fence hole has been dug in the correct location and if not, then it’s just a simple case of making the existing fence post hole larger.

Step 7

When you are satisfied that the fence post hole is in the correct location, it’s time to insert the fence post into the hole. It’s best to have an extra pair of hands to help you out when installing new fence panels and posts. Whilst one of you hold the fence post in the upright position, using a tape measure, measure the height from the top of the gravel board, to the to of the fence post, making sure that the fence panel will stand at the correct height.

If you are going up hill, then you will need to allow extra height for when the next fence panel is installed to avoid the fence panel going above the post.

Step 8

Not forgetting to make sure that the gravel board is is level using a spirit level before hand, it’s time to place the fence panel into the concrete post slot and on top of the gravel board. Once in place, simply re-insert the fence post and using a ratchet strap, tighten the new fence post to the previously installed one. If it’s the first fence post, then you won’t be able to use a ratchet strap at this point as you will have nothing to strap it to, so be sure to make sure that the fence post is help level when using concrete post mix as seen in step 2.

Step 9

Whilst one of you hold the post into the upright position using a spirit level, you can then use the string line to check that the fence post is in the correct position. If it’s not, then using a strong metal bar such as a scaffolding pole, move the post over slightly, re-check the spirit level and make sure that it’s in line with the string. Remember, providing that the ratchet strap is nice and tight, this should keep everything together whilst you adjust your fence post to the correct position.

Step 10

Finally, it’s time to fill the hole with concrete post mix. Depending on the product you use, you should be able to pour the concrete into the hole dry, and then adding lots of water afterwords. Most of the time, you can get get the post nice and straight whilst the hole is full of dry concrete, holding it still whilst you add the water. If there is lots of tension on the fence post, meaning that this isn’t possible, make sure that you hold the fence post steady with a spirit level in hand, whilst you pour the water into the mix. After 5 minutes, you should be able to let go!

Things to remember when putting up your new fence panels and posts

If you are using wooden fence panels and posts, then in theory, these should be a lot easier to erect. You just need to follow the instructions above but screw the posts to the fence panels instead of using a ratchet strap.

Remember, we use ratchet straps to hold everything together whilst making adjustments with the concrete posts, but this is only because we can’t use screws to hold them together. Once everything is screwed together and lined up properly, this is when you would fill the hole with cement.

One of the most important things is to make sure that the gravel board and/or fence panel is level when using a spirit level, otherwise it will be impossible to get the fence post level in the upright position!

Should you have any questions regarding the installation of your new fence panels and posts then please write your comments below as I would love to help!


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