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Be a Post Master, Installing Deck and Fencing Posts

Well-built outdoor projects start with accurate layout of post locations. A few 1x2s, a length of mason's string, and simple arithmetic will get you to that goal.

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Post Master

Post Master

Many of the pergolas, garden gates, decks, arbors, and other outdoor structures featured in WOOD magazine call for posts set in straight lines and with square corners. A few 1x2s, a length of mason's string, and simple arithmetic will get you to that goal.

The illustrations and captions on these pages show you the essential steps in locating and lining up the posts you'll need. Posts set in the ground, and anchored with concrete, are the best way to support a gate, a fence, or a pergola with an attached swing.

Use posts made of pressure-treated lumber or foundation-grade (heartwood) cedar. Make sure to sink them deeper than the frost line for your area, to counter the effects of frost heaving. For a neater job, and added protection against heaving, buy cardboard tubes at your home center to line the post holes before filling them with concrete.

Before you go too far, check with local or county government officials to make sure your project plans are in compliance with building codes and ordinances regarding setback from your property line. Also, call 811 from any phone in the U.S. (or the "One Call" phone number for your province in Canada), and ask to have the buried pipes and wires on your property located and marked before you dig.

Continued on page 2:  Get organized


Comments (8)
r boehm wrote:

I replaced my rental property fencing his year with something that has worked well for me. I suggest you give road base material a try. Its a sand aggregate mix we can pick up at the local material yard and it's used on highway construction projects as the base for concrete. it packs tightly and drains easily. Russ - Colorado

7/5/2012 10:50:43 PM Report Abuse
joeygemma wrote:

As long as the base of the post is not set in the concrete the moisture can escape. Add 6 inches of gravel below the post, put the post in the hole, add about another inch of gravel and then pour concrete.

5/5/2012 01:42:56 PM Report Abuse
pbarnrob wrote:

Something I saw (either This Old House, or Norm on the Woodworker's Shop of a Saturday morning back when I watched TV) they were putting a post on an existing concrete surface. Drill, use a quick-setting concrete to mount a galvanized pipe in the hole; then drill the bottom of the post and just set it over the pipe. I hope to jack up the beams, pour a box of concrete to make up the difference (with that pipe centered in it) and re-set the post over it... Before it all falls apart!

4/20/2012 03:20:15 PM Report Abuse
pbarnrob wrote:

My 1910 Craftsman house was reworked in about '78, and the wooden porch was taken out (rotten) and replaced with concrete. The 12x12 redwood posts were sunk into the concrete deck of the porch as the roof was re-assembled. Now one post is about 8" lower than the other, rotting in the hole, since there's nowhere for rain to go.

4/20/2012 03:18:59 PM Report Abuse
claysoules wrote:

RogersI2 raised the red flag about sinking wood in concrete. It it the WORST POSSIBLE solution to fixing a deck/fence post to the ground. Even steel posts when sunk into concrete will begin to rust at the surface of the concrete where the moisture from the elements oxidises the steel and rots the wood in a surprisingly fast pace. As RogerI2 said, use GALVANIZED embeds in the concrete and SEAL THE CONCRETE at the interface with the embed for a long-lasting installation.

3/26/2012 09:10:42 AM Report Abuse
rogersl2 wrote:

I have to say I just removed a deck I put in 21 years ago to make room for an addition. Half of the 4x4 post were rotted and broke off when pulled out the rest showed decay damage also. Our local building inspector says even .6 treated posts will rot. The best method is to pour concrete piers with a metal plate on top with the treated posts on top of that.

3/23/2012 03:36:29 PM Report Abuse
stolicky602136 wrote:

A comment about "one call" numbers. You can now simply dial "811" anywhere in the country in order to reach your nearest one-call center. There is no longer a need to remember lengthy telephone numbers.

4/22/2010 09:58:42 AM Report Abuse
stwining wrote:

Great article. Clear concise and to the point. If one can not follow this, they should probably farm the job out to someone more qualified.

4/1/2010 05:16:05 PM Report Abuse

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