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Author Topic: Life expectancy of fence posts.  (Read 7217 times)

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Offline hackberry jake

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Life expectancy of fence posts.
« on: June 08, 2012, 02:22:05 pm »
I'm in the process of building a horse fence. I have several different species of posts. White oak and cedar sawn 4x4s. Sassafras, honey locust, and cherry round posts from 3" to 6". I'm pretty sure the honey locust, and cedar will last pretty well, but what about the rest? They will be two and a half to three ft deep and no concrete will be used (except for the gate post). It's rocky, hard clay soil. I bought carbide cutters for my auger and wore out the cutters and the auger on the 88 holes I drilled. That was fun.
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Offline colinofthewoods

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2012, 02:38:45 pm »
That sounds like a nasty job !  Not sure about your different wood species but I have heard that backfilling the hole with gravel will help the life of the posts,  also with western red cedar anyways,  if you char the posts it makes natural creosote and also helps them last.   I have also found the tighter the grain the better too.

Offline hackberry jake

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2012, 02:44:01 pm »
This is eastern red cedar. There is definately something to the tight grain thing. There is an old "quilting shed" on this property that is over 100 years old that was sided with old growth pine. It's hard to count the rings, they are so tight. The siding still looks ok. I built a shed for my four wheeler about 7 years ago and an exposed pine 2x4 is crumbling away. We just don't grow em like they used to.
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Offline beenthere

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2012, 03:10:41 pm »
jake
Wood in the ground is quite different conditions than wood used as siding.

As far as wood in the ground, the heartwood will usually be more resistant to decay than the sapwood, so take that into consideration when thinking round posts vs. sawn posts.

Location will have an effect as well. Dry soil will have a different long-term effect than wet soil.

And wood really isn't any different today than 100 yrs ago. Growth rates can be different, and age when cutting the tree can also be different.
We keep wood now that would have been tossed out as no-good 30 + yrs ago.
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Offline pyrocasto

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2012, 03:19:21 pm »
My grandpa could tell ya what posts work best, he's been using them his whole life. Cedar works great, last for many years. I think locust is pretty good as well, but white oak sucks. You'd think it'd last but it rots away rather quickly. Never had any sassafrass to try before.

My dad decided to try landscape timbers once, the little round ones with 2 flat sides. Lasted 1 year before the bottom rotted off.

Also I've heard of some old timers drilling holes down into the post, and filling the holes once a year with oil. Never tried it myself.

Online POSTONLT40HD

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2012, 03:36:51 pm »
If you were in S.C., the Locust post would still be there after the wire fence rusted away. We still have locust post in the ground my Dad put in the ground 48+ years ago.
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Offline doctorb

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2012, 03:38:05 pm »
I don't know about honey locust, but most fence installers around here brag if they have locust posts.  I assume they mean black locust.

Just a bit off topic, and off target for the Forum, but I though the concrete fence posts I started seeing decades ago for split rail fences were going to be the next best thing.  No rot, all holes of uniform size, etc.  I don't see them anymore, and I wonder why.  In terms of life expectancy, they would live forever.
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Offline Cedarman

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2012, 04:13:57 pm »
Just visited the old homestead where I grew up.  There are still cedar fence posts holding up some fence.  The posts were put in at least 80 years ago, maybe 100.  The wire has been changed several time.
I put some ERC posts in in 1980.  Took the fence down , but left the posts.  These were round posts or split.  The red was still good a few years ago when I pulled some specifically to cut them at ground level to see how they fared.  The red was still solid , sapwood long gone.
I don't think honey locust works well as a fence post.
Solid yellow hearted black locust is hard to beat also, but very hard to drive staples in when dry.
We always backfill with dirt, never concrete.  Gravel works well if you need a tight post right off the bat.
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Offline Al_Smith

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2012, 04:35:57 pm »
In order ,osage orange,black locust ,catalpa .Yeah I know the last one is a surprise but they grew them in groves in this neck of the woods for fence posts .

I cut osage posts by the thousands as a teenager during the 1960's on my grandmothers farm .At that time there were osage orange fence posts that were still good that were sank in the 1890's .

She sold the ones we cut for around 50-60 cents each and payed us I think a dime which doesn't sound like much .It was her saw,her gas ,her tractor and two kids making 15-20 bucks a day wasn't bad in those days .Besides that granny fed us well . ;D

Offline tyb525

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2012, 04:50:58 pm »
Mulberry also lasts, so I've heard. Honey locust can too, but not as good as black locust.
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Offline Larry

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2012, 05:07:29 pm »
Cedar will outlast you.  I tried honey locust one time and it made it about 5 years.  Black locust will also last forever.

Shortly after I moved to Arkansas I sold my post hole auger...most of the time it was trying to twist the tractor around in circles.  I could dig a hole by hand with a rock bar faster than the tractor auger.  I hire a backhoe for holes now days.  Sit it the shade with a cool one and watch him fight them rocks.
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Offline chevytaHOE5674

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2012, 05:21:44 pm »
Much of my perimeter fencing is still hanging on northern white cedar posts that were put in around 1920 or so. UP until a couple years ago most were pretty solid, but it seems in the last 2-3 years more and more have been rotting off at the ground. Can't complain though that's a pretty good lifespan for a wood post.

Offline CalebL

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2012, 05:43:47 pm »
I've had real good luck with white oak for posts.  In fact, a few weeks ago, I milled some 16' white oak posts for my new sawmill shed and put them in the ground today.  I expect they will last about 20 years or so. 
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Offline beenthere

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2012, 05:50:13 pm »
I have some white oak 4x4 sawn posts I put in the ground in 1965 and still there, holding up a three-board fence. I sawed the red oak into 1x6 fence boards and the white oak into 4x4 posts. However, will admit that they are failing once in awhile and either get replaced or that section of fence is missing (don't need to keep the neighbors cows out anymore as I own the land now).
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Offline Cedarman

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2012, 09:18:07 pm »


She sold the ones we cut for around 50-60 cents each and payed us I think a dime which doesn't sound like much .It was her saw,her gas ,her tractor and two kids making 15-20 bucks a day wasn't bad in those days .Besides that granny fed us well . ;D
20 bucks a day is $2.50 per hour with no deductions.  50 cents would buy a quart of root beer and a fish sandwich at the A&W where the cute girls were.
Today you would have to make $30 per hour to get the same deal. Not bad even if you had to split the money.
Plus you got fed.  There is money in fence posts.
I am in the pink when sawing cedar.

Offline Delawhere Jack

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #15 on: June 08, 2012, 09:35:42 pm »


She sold the ones we cut for around 50-60 cents each and payed us I think a dime which doesn't sound like much .It was her saw,her gas ,her tractor and two kids making 15-20 bucks a day wasn't bad in those days .Besides that granny fed us well . ;D
20 bucks a day is $2.50 per hour with no deductions.  50 cents would buy a quart of root beer and a fish sandwich at the A&W where the cute girls were.
Today you would have to make $30 per hour to get the same deal. Not bad even if you had to split the money.
Plus you got fed.  There is money in fence posts.

And if you saved those dimes in silver dimes and quarters, today they'd be worth........ Oh, sorry, wrong forum....  ;D
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Offline scsmith42

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2012, 09:49:37 pm »
Jake, stay away from honey locust for your posts.  Honey locust and white locust are not rot resistant.

Black locust and yellow locust are the woods to use instead.  Each of these will last 80 years or more in most locations.  Honey and white locust less than 20.
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Offline Al_Smith

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #17 on: June 09, 2012, 05:16:07 am »
Most times the part of a post,power pole ,pole barn colume that goes bad is the 6 inchs near the ground level .The part in the ground will almost last forever .

They used to take those 6 inch osage posts ,sink the poles ,stretch the fence ,install the barb then take a chain saw and cut the tops off at a slant so the water would shed .

Now of days they just use a little crawler ,pound in the post ,stretch the fence and barb all in one pass .Others use high tensil wire which I never thought would work but it seems to .The woven wire with a strand of barb or two over seems to have gone the way of the village blacksmith .

Fences in general in this area are almost none existant because the entire area has gone to just about all field crops with very little cattle .

Offline ladylake

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #18 on: June 09, 2012, 05:33:36 am »

 I've heard white oak post out of fresh cut logs will last a long time, out of dry old logs will not last.  Steve
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #19 on: June 09, 2012, 05:58:44 am »
Old rail fencing from the 1880's-1910 era made of white cedar are still found where the woods over took the land again and some of the land was cut a second time. But anyway, rail fencing is quite different to post fencing because the bottom rails are lengthwise on ground. Most of the old farmers around here took them all up and turned them into kindling for the stove. This would have been back in the 70's early eighties when there were land improvement programs. ;)

That being said, the neighbors put up aspen fencing this spring. It's probably a temporary pasture, but I also think they have no cedar or tamarack on the farm. Too bad to, because if your going to cut fencing, be nice to be able to use it longer than a year or two. ;)

Pre-commercial thinning pays off. :)

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