How to Set a 4x4 Fence Post

Written by denise bertacchi
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How to Set a 4x4 Fence Post
4x4 posts are used as support for many wooden fences. (Joseph Sohm-Visions of America/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

A wooden fence takes a lot of abuse from the elements--including wind and freezing temperatures. A 4-by-4 fence post needs to be set firmly in the ground at a depth that provides both support to the fence structure and prevents heaving when the ground freezes and thaws through the seasons. There are several methods for setting a fence post--using gravel in the hole instead of concrete will save money, time and effort.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Post hole shovel
  • Shovel
  • 2-by-4 to tamp gravel
  • Crushed gravel
  • Ruler
  • Level

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  1. 1

    Dig a hole for the fence post with a post hole shovel. The hole should be 10 inches wide and deep enough that one third of the 4-by-4 is buried in the ground. The hole should also go below the frost line to prevent the fence from being disturbed by the ground freezing and thawing. The frost line varies from region to region, so check with your local building inspector to find where the line is in your area.

  2. 2

    Place the post in the hole. Fill the hole with crushed gravel, about five inches at a time. Use a 2-by-4 to tamp the gravel firmly into the hole around the post.

  3. 3

    Check the post with a level placed on the side of the lumber to make sure it is still standing at a 90 degree angle to the ground. Straighten the post as needed.

  4. 4

    Fill hole with another five inches of gravel, tamp again and check for straightness with the level. Repeat these steps until the hole is filled nearly to the top.

  5. 5

    Fill the remaining few inches with dirt from the hole, or with top soil. Tamp the soil into place.

Tips and warnings

  • Double check your property lines before installing a fence to make sure you are placing it on your side of the boundary.
  • Always call to have your utilities marked before digging holes in your yard or property. is a free national service that will help you locate your local One Call Center.

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