Today we will discuss the best way to remove a fence post from a solid concrete base when you have a wood post broken off at ground level and can’t dig or use expensive heavy equipment.
There are a ton of solutions online that work well when the fence post is strong and sturdy: you can use a block & lever to extract the fence post, dig around the sides of the fence post and push the post out, lift the fence post using a bumper jack or railroad jack, or of course you could use heavy equipment.
However, none of these solutions works well for a home-owner facing wind damaged wood fence posts that has snapped off flush with the ground.
Most often the fence post splintered, so there is nothing left above ground to grab a hold of. Also, the concrete the posts are set in are of unknown size and depth, or the fence you are repairing is close to a structure which hampers accessibility of a backhoe (not counting the expense of a backhoe or the damage they cause just driving in yards).
In the event that only a few fence posts got damaged in the storm, the repair will obviously go much faster. Just be sure to set your new posts in the exact spot the old ones were in.
Applying an assortment of approaches is the best method. First, reduce the grip the ground has on the posts by using a Wood Post Puller (a simple engineering solution) and then proceed to put some weight behind your lifting technique. Concrete is very strong when compressed, but tends to be extremely fragile when pulled.
In fact, the tensile strength of concrete is only about 10% of its overall strength. Pulling the cement out of the ground can cause unexpected debris to fly as the concrete fractures under this tension.
Concrete Base Removal of Fence Posts
- Step 1: If anything is fastened to the wood post remove it and clear out the area around the fence post and cement base.
- Step 2: With a water hose running, push the spike tool fully into the ground at the edge of the cement fence post to be removed.
TIP – Try to wiggle the post after the initial spike tool insertion – any sort of shift to the cement base in the ground (even vibrations) will allow the water to force its way in alongside the concrete and create a thin layer of mud. Try to drive a pry bar into the remaining wood post and then pull the bar back and forth or hit the cement with a sledgehammer. Now try lifting out the fence post and cement mounting per the instructions in Step 4 – usually the wood post will pop right out 🙂
- Step 3: Repeat step 2 at uniform locations around the cement – most fence posts will require no more than 4-6 insertions of the spike tool, but stubborn posts may need a spike tool to be inserted every 2-3 inches until you’ve encircled the whole cement mount. If you are unable to remove the fence post and cement described in Step 4, repeat Step 3 at more locations around the cement.
- Step 4: Force pry bars into the cement base at opposing sides and about a 45 degree angle from the ground. The closer the fulcrum is positioned to the pry bar the better the leverage will be. Two 5-6 foot pry bars would be perfect but a multitude of various other things could be used. Fully insert the next spike in the ground next to the cement footing. With the water turned on to the spike, apply even downward force to both pry bars (this requires 2 people) lifting the concrete base and broken fence post. Do not rush this – give the water time to start building hydraulic pressure around and on the bottom of the cement footing which will help loosen and lift it.
TIP – Be careful of the pry bar positions – if they are too vertical you’ll lose leverage.
- Step 5: Now you need to alternate pry bar locations. Remove either of the pry bars and reset back again 45 degrees from where it was – use the other pry bar to hold the concrete during the reset. When both pry bars are reset, repeat Steps 4 and 5 until the post is fully removed.
Caution – the post and cement footing combined are heavy (frequently over 100 pounds)! If the cement footing stays intact you will be able to pull out the post and cement footing as one solid piece. If the cement footing has cracked, the pieces can be more easily taken out.
Even if your wood post is considerably rotten inside the concrete, and portions break off, they can be easily removed by hand – just reach in to the post hole and peel the damaged cement from the sides and bottom. It’s a good idea to cover or otherwise secure the post hole opening (use a bucket over it) to avoid any accidental injuries.