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How to Fit a Gatepost ~ by Jon

How to Fit a Gatepost

Ideal tools for the job:

Posthole digger/Double shovel – these are two shovels connected together designed for digging holes. Available from farm suppliers and DIY stores

Breaker bar - A large, heavy steel bar with a point on the end generally used for breaking concrete or stone. Some stores sell breaker bars with a point on one end and a flat plate on the other end (which is preferable for tamping the backfill around your post) Available from farm suppliers and DIY stores

Spirit Level  - For making sure your post is straight

Tape measure For  measuring the depth of the hole

Tamper – If you are unable to find a breaker bar with a flat plate you can always use a sledgehammer handle or flat-edged, straight branch from your woodland.

Cement 

Water 

Postcreteready mixed concrete that dries in 15minutes. Costs roughly £4-£7.  Available from farm suppliers and DIY stores

Ground conditions

There are three main types of ground :

ClayI find clay the easiest to work with, except for it sticking to your shovel. It’s easy to pull out of the hole and is very moist. When it comes to backfilling around your post, it’s very good for compacting and if done properly you don’t need to use cement or concrete.

Soil – Soil is easy to dig into. When it comes to packing around your post, if the soil is very loose, sprinkle dry cement in the hole along with some small stones and tamp them down.

Stony – If you need to dig into stony ground, persevere! With a breaker bar you can eventually get down to your required depth.  If not, and you hit an unbreakable stone hopefully at least a foot or more deep (ideal depth is 2.5 or 3 foot) you can pour a wet concrete mix in the hole around your post, and leave for 24 hours to set. Alternatively, if you are in a hurry, you can use Postcrete, which sets in 15mins.

 

Fitting the post 

 

Dig your hole to the required depth, 2½ – 3 feet if you can.  The heavier the gate the deeper the hole needs to be.  Place the post in the hole, get it level with the spirit level, and then backfill a small amount of earth around the sides. Make sure there is enough room all the way around the post for your tamper to reach the base of the hole. It is very important that you get the backfill very compacted at the bottom, because if it is loose at the base but compacted nearer the top, the post will pivot! You can tell if it is compacted well by backfilling about 4 – 5 inches - your post should be freestanding. You can then get the post straight again with the spirit level. Always place the level on the same sides of the post, e.g. the front and one side, otherwise you can get a misreading on the level. Just keep backfilling bit by bit and hey presto! you should have a solid post.    

see more demos and tips on Woodlandstv.co.uk 

Posted in: Practical Guides, Woodland Activities ~ On: 12 October, 2007

6 comments so far

peter broughton
6 September, 2009

I have a couple of gates to hang measuring 2metres wide by 4 foot high on each gate.What size wooden posts would you recommend?and how deep into the ground would you put the posts?

karl
3 February, 2009

I wish to change my old iron gates on my drive for nice looking wooden ones, the gates are about 3ft 6″ high, what size posts do i need and how deep are the posts supposed to go into the ground? there are 2 gates approx 4ft wide, can you help???
Regards
Karl

John
24 October, 2008

What was that about clay being “easy to pull out of the hole and is very moist”. Here in Oz I just dug a 3′ post hole into clay and believe me, it was anything but moist! About 2″ of friable topsoil, another inch of diggable clay, then thirty odd inches of dry clay that rang like ceramic on my spade. Too hard for the spade or double shovel. I used a breaker bar to chip about an inch of depth, then scooped the clay chips out with a beans tin, then back to the breaker bar.

We’re in drought but have just had a couple of days of rain so I figure it was as good a time as any to do the job. All day to do one hole. It’s a double gate so tomorrow…

Rob
28 October, 2007

I would only use concrete when necessary, but sometimes I believe its use is essential.

If anyone has tried to get a solid post in rainy conditions – a regular occurrence over here in Wales – they will know that tamping wet sticky soil in a hole half full of water just isn’t going to work. With the post in place, pouring a bucket of dry mix into the hole and then tamping down what usable material you have on top can save the day. If you are concerned about moving the post while hanging the gate then I would leave the concrete to set and come back and hang the gate another day.

When there isn’t enough soil depth it can help to concrete the post into any depression that can be made into the bedrock. I know contractors that will also put an additional collar of concrete near to (but below) the top of the hole – this can give peace of mind, particularly if hanging a large field gate.

Dick
13 October, 2007

For about a fiver you can get a post level which makes the levelling process a bit simpler, although is not a lot of help if you are using round posts. I’d also add to the tool kit a couple of 4 foot lengths of 2″ x 1″ with a nail knocked through at one end. Lightly nailed at right angles to each other just over half way up the post, these help steady the post in an upright-ish position while you do the initial back fill. At 4 feet, they are long enough to clear the sides of the hole

llangurig mart
12 October, 2007

Read with interest as plenty of experience –

double shovel – a great work out and a fantastic tool – saves hours and saves bad backs !! – totally recommended

appalled to see you use concrete : why so ?

Wood rots – concrete does not – eventually someone has to dig the concrete boulder out – sheesh – had some fun and games on that score –
Large stone – never failed to get hold of some – even taking some to site works just as well – place flat side on gateside of the post and tamp well in. With Stones its easier to reuse – an awkward bit of concrete not so easy.
Concrete – carbon foot print = well poor

I tend to go for a deeper hole 3.5 to 4 feet – whatever works

For those who have done a fair bit of walking in Wales – a well done gate is a joy to use – something that hopefully will catch on in Wales more often :)

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