How to Reuse a Fence Post: The Do’s and Don’ts


Fence posts aren’t cheap. A good post can last up to thirty years without outside interference and will still be structurally sound. It’s a shame that sometimes they get damaged or need to be removed.

To reuse a fence post, a couple of things need to be in order. There can’t be too much rot, and there can’t be too much damage to the wood. If the post is not in working order, then it cannot be reused.

We will dive into the details to figure out if your fence post(s) are reusable and how they should be reused properly.

Working Order

If fence posts need to come out of the ground, it is a good idea to examine how reusable they are. This depends largely on how old the wood is, how much rot it has experienced, and if there is any splintering going on with the wood.

Rot will likely occur only near the bottom of the post. If there is not a lot of rot you can simply turn the post over so the rot is towards the sun or cut the rot off. If there is a lot then the whole section will need to be removed before it can be reused.

If the wood is old but has no damage then it shouldn’t be used for anything more than decoration or small structures because it likely won’t be very sturdy.

If the wood has splintered or is splintering first, determine how bad the damage is. If the damage is severe then the wood should only be used for decoration. If it isn’t so bad then you can reuse the post as an actual fence post.

The general rule of thumb is that a cedar fence post will last 30 years before it needs to be replaced. Pine will last about 10 years.

The wood themselves will likely outlast these general rules, but using them for support after these time frames is likely to result in damage to the fence and a lack of stability.

What this means is that old and damaged fence posts make great decorations and small structures but should not be considered for heavy structures like full-size fences.

Do: Use For Decoration

Reusing a post for decoration is rather easy. Most decorations are light and don’t need a lot of support. Therefore almost any wood, no matter how damaged or old can be used so long as proper care is used.

Proper care involves sanding the wood down, staining the wood for protection based on the needs of the wood (whether it is indoor or outdoor should dictate the type of stain), and proper project use.

Sanding wood down is a straightforward endeavor. Grab some rough grit sandpaper and rub the post until it any splinters are removed. Then grab a finer grit and go over it again to make sure everything is smooth. This process can be expedited by using a belt sander or a similar tool.

Stain

The stain you use for the wood depends on how you intend to reuse the fence post. The color is entirely up to you, but there is a difference between indoor and outdoor stains. So make sure you plan accordingly.

Staining should be done after sanding for outdoor wood, but before you set any reused fence posts or start drilling holes in the wood.

For staining wood for indoor decoration, the same basic rules apply. Staining should be done after all wood modification (sanding, using a lathe, and coloring), but before you start drilling holes.

Projects

Reused fence posts making great signposts is a given, but you can also use them for several other outdoor projects. Most of these ideas can be applied to indoor use too.

  • Raised Planter Boxes
  • Picnic Tables Legs
  • Patio Stools
  • Garden Pot Holder
  • Composter Legs
  • Patio Pergolas
  • Address Display

Not to mention that you can reuse the fence post as a fence post if it isn’t too old or damaged. This just requires you set the post again and secure your fence panels to it.

The indoor projects you can do are just as abundant as the outdoor projects. As mentioned above, a majority of these ideas can be applied to the outdoor too.

  • Wooden Floating Shelves
  • Industrial Shelving
  • Side/Coffee Table Legs
  • Wooden Bench
  • Bed Frame
  • Headboard

These are some basic ideas that would apply to a majority of projects. The important thing is to remember to properly maintain your resued fence post as it ages with sanding and staining.

Failing to do this will increase the rate your wood ages. Ultimately ruining any project far faster than it needs to be ruined.

Don’t: Use To Support Tall Structures

A big no-no for reusing old fence posts would be to reuse them for supporting heavy and tall structures. If a post isn’t structurally sound (i.e. it creaks, has massive splintering, or is covered in rot) it should not be used for support.

This includes reusing the fence post as an actual post. Your fence will cost a lot more to replace in five years than replacing one or two posts right now.

Generally, a tall structure is anything more than one foot above the top of your fence post after it has been set. A post should be set about 1/3 the length of the post in the ground. So, a tall structure would be about one foot taller than 2/3 the length of the post.

A heavy structure is anything that causes the wood to creak and crack. Depending on the age and integrity of your wood this could be anything from a bowling ball to a human. There is really no rule of thumb for this one, so use your best judgment.

Basically, don’t reuse wood for more than it can handle. If you are new to wood then take heart and know that this means that you need to be cautious in how you reuse your fence posts. Don’t press your luck.

Do: Use For Small Structures

Even old wood can support a small structure easily with proper maintenance. This is excellent because it means you can reuse that fence post to build a small picket fence around your garden or for a playset that your grandkids can play on.

I again caution you to err on the side of caution and to properly treat your wood before use and maintain your wood as it ages.

A small structure would be (like mentioned above) a lightweight fence or a play structure for toddlers. Anything that reaches the top or just under the top of the fence post would work just fine.

Not to mention that the weight requirements of the wood have to be pretty minimal. The wood you use is ultimately your judgment, however, do not assume that your wood is good. If you are worried about it or questioning its integrity then don’t use it.

This could also be a lot of garden structures. Like a raised bed or hose reel stand. Any small thing that doesn’t have to support a lot of weight is exactly what reused fence posts would be great for.

Don’t: Leave Broken Bits In The Ground

If the fence post you are reusing has rotted out of the ground then there is a little maintenance you have to do. Likely the bottom of the post is still in the ground and needs to be removed.

This isn’t hard but can be time-consuming. There are plenty of ways to get the bottom of the post out of the ground.

First, you have to dig around your post to reach the concrete. After that, you need to remove the concrete. If the post broke above the concrete by a little way then you can use easier methods. Here is a video that explains several methods.

Removing a post that has rotten and broken too far under the ground requires a little more labor to remove. You end up digging around the concrete and then splitting the concrete. I’ve also included a video the shows how to do that.

It can be a little frustrating to remove the post’s bottom from the ground, doing so is necessary though if you are planning on putting in a new post for your fence.

After this maintenance is done however you can devote all your time to reusing your fence post for another project.

Final Thoughts

There you have it. The do’s and don’ts of reusing old fence posts. You make sure the wood is up to the task and you’ve taken care of it and then start your project.

To recap, reusing fence posts as fence posts should only be done if the wood isn’t too old, is sturdy, and isn’t rotten. If it is too old, not sturdy, or part of it had to be removed because of rot then use the wood for decoration or small structures like short fences or garden hose stands.

Safety should come first when using old materials. It is best not to risk it. Especially if you intend on having it be used regularly and are relying on the wood being dependable.

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