Fence Post Braces and Digging Barriers: Do You Need Them?
The aim of fence post braces is to counter sideways stress. If your fence weighs a lot, or if there’s a snow load on it, or if a heavy tree branch falls on it, the fence will experience sideways stress. If the stress is too great it can tilt or bend the posts, so it’s definitely something to avoid.
A good way to avoid excessive sideways stress is with fence post bracing. Put a braced post (or an earth anchor) at or near each corner, gate, and end (an “end” being a place where the fence butts up against a building, wall, or other fence). Then, when a sideways stress comes down the line it won’t do any harm because the bracing will counteract it and nothing will move. Your fence will be protected.
Well then, Do you need this protection? The answer if your fence is short (less than 150 feet long, especially where snow and falling branches pose no hazard) is “Probably not.” Likewise, you are unlikely to need fence post braces if your fence is 4 feet tall or less, even though we do offer brace posts for such fences. For taller fences over 150 feet long, especially where tree branches or snow are likely to pose a hazard, bracing is appropriate.
Choosing the Right Bracing
In that case, what sort of bracing should you get? The best and least expensive fence post bracing is provided by earth anchors. Ours have a propeller-like screw at the end of a long shaft and an estimated pullout strength of 2,000 pounds.
Just put a metal rod through the anchor’s handle, screw the anchor into the ground at roughly a 45 degree angle (this can be dicey if rocks or roots are in the way), keep going until only the handle pokes out of the ground, and attach the handle to the top of the corner post with a length of heavy wire. These anchors cost about $10 each.
The problem is where to attach the anchors. If you attach them to the corner posts you will only need one anchor per post — installed about halfway around the corner’s exterior angle. However, there will then be a cable hanging off the corner that can make trouble for lawnmowers, running kids, etc.
To avoid having any cable outside the fence line, install the next post over (the “corner approach post”) a little closer than usual to the corner, screw your earth anchor into the ground right along the fence line, headed from the corner approach post toward the corner post, and attach it to the top of the corner approach post. This leaves the small distance between these two posts unbraced, but since the distance is really short it doesn’t matter. Of course, since each corner has two corner approach posts, you will need two earth anchors per corner instead of one; but they cost so little it doesn’t make much difference.
Similarly, you should put your earth anchor fence post braces on end approach posts rather than on end posts and on gate approach posts rather than on gate support posts. Doing this works well on mid-length to long dog fences.
But what if your fence is short, say 40 feet on a side? In that case your corner approach post will go at least a quarter of the distance to the next corner, and the length of fencing protected will range from very short to nil. Here the best course is to abandon earth anchors and decide whether to use corner and end/gate brace post systems for your bracing, or else whether to forego fence post braces altogether.
Corner and end/gate bracing posts (like the corner bracing post shown in the photo at the top right of this page) are ordinary round metal posts with one or two bracing posts attached to them at a roughly 45 degree angle. They are expensive, but the cost is mitigated by the fact that each of them replaces one regular post. So if you face a major threat from heavy snow or falling branches, go ahead and use them even though your fence is short.
The digging barriers offered in our catalog are two feet wide and designed to have grass grow through them. Once attached to an existing fence, laid down flat on the ground (so that lawn mowers can go over them), and staked down securely with long stakes provided in the kit, they should end just about any digging problem.
The down-side is that these digging barriers are expensive. So before getting them, determine whether a modicum of training can discourage your dog from digging along the fence line. And help the training along temporarily by applying some dog repellent along the fence line. We’re happy to sell you digging barriers, but we don’t want to do so if you don’t need them.