How to Repair a Wood Fence

a white fence in a lawn

Wood fencing is one of the most popular fencing types because of its aesthetics, versatility, privacy, and cost. But wood fencing is vulnerable to the elements, which means it requires regular upkeep. If you want to maintain your curb appeal, you’ll need to know how to repair a wood fence when it suffers damage.

It’s important to know what you can do to extend the lifespan of your wood fence, whether it’s replacing pickets or rotted posts.

In this article, we’ll cover:

Common Wood Fence Repairs

  • Replacing a post: This is a common repair because wood posts rot, which results in a leaning fence.
  • Replacing a fence panel: Fence panels can be blown over by powerful wind, or can crumble thanks to rot. 
  • Replacing a fence picket: Fence pickets can break due to falling branches, or they can simply rot.
  • Repairing fence rails: You might not be able to repair a rail that’s pulled loose from its posts if the joint is badly rotted.
  • Straightening a leaning fence gate: Sometimes, a gate sags because its own weight has pulled it out of alignment with the fence. The most common reasons wooden gates lean are thanks to loose hinges or gate posts. the first thing you should do is check its hinges.

How to Replace a Wood Fence Post

Wood Fence Post with blur green background
Photo Credit : Martin Vorel / LibreShot / License

Materials needed

  • 2×4 bracing
  • Replacement post 
  • Digging bar 
  • Concrete
  • Shovel 
  • Rubber Mallet
  • Drill 
  • Screws
  • Sledgehammer
  • 3-inch screws

Step 1: Detach the panels

Tap the fence panel and the bottoms of the horizontal fence rails with the rubber mallet. Lift the panel on the damaged post upward and set the it aside. Repeat for the panel on the other side of the damaged post.

If the fence is attached with screws, find the metal brackets that hold the fence panel on the damaged post and unscrew all of the screws with a drill.

Step 2: Remove the post

Rock the old, damaged post back and forth to loosen it. You may need to di around the concrete with a shovel. Use a sledgehammer to break up the concrete and dig it out with a digging bar. Remove the old post from the ground.

Step 3: Place the new post

Mix the concrete. Add 4 inches of crushed stone to the bottom of the hole for added drainage. Brace the new post in position and pour concrete. Make sure the hole is below the frost depth in your area.

Step 4: Reattach the fence panels 

Use the drill to reattach the fence panels with 3-inch screws. Remove the braces when the concrete hardens.

How to Replace a Wood Fence Panel

a close-up of a wooden fence panel
Photo Credit : PxHere / CC0 1.0

Materials needed

  • Drill 
  • Hammer 
  • Crow bar
  • 2×4 hangers/brackets
  • 3-inch screws 
  • Scrap wood (as needed)
  • New fence panel
  • Circular saw

Step 1: Remove the panel

Remove the crossboards and slats by using a hammer or a crow bar to pry the old nails out.  If the fence was put together with screws, remove them with a drill. Be careful not to damage the posts. You can take a piece of scrap wood to act as a buffer between your tool and the post, to avoid unnecessary damage.

Step 2: Secure the brackets

You’ll need 2×4 hangers to put up the cross boards for the panel. Each section requires 4 hangers. Secure each bracket with two 3-inch screws, making sure each one is in the correct place to secure the crossboards of your new section.

Step 3: Prepare and place the crossboards

Take your new crossboards and check if it fits into the brackets. Mark the distance between the posts and If necessary, cut them with a circular saw to fit, taking the space taken up by the screw heads and brackets into account. Slide the crossboards into place. Secure them with screws.

Step 4: Install the slats

Place a string across the top of the fence posts as a guide to align the top of the slats. Install the slats to the crossboards using a drill and 3-inch screws. Each boards shoulder be secured with two screws at the top, and two at the bottom.

How to Replace a Wood Fence Picket

a white wooden fence picket
Photo Credit : PublicDomainPictures / CC0 1.0

Materials needed

  • Pickets
  • Hammer
  • Crow bar
  • Nails
  • Screws
  • Measuring tape
  • Circular saw (as needed)

Step 1: Remove the old pickets

Take a hammer or a crow bar to pull out the nails and remove the old pickets without disturbing adjacent boards. If your fence is attached with screws, use a drill to remove them. If your pickets have rotted enough you may be able to pull them from the crossboards with just your hands.

Step 2: Install the new pickets

Measure your old pickets to determine their exact size. Find pickets of similar size and shape. You can use longer pickets so long as you cut them to the correct size with a circular saw. Install the new ones with nails or screws.

How to Repair a Wood Fence Rail

Materials needed (if repairing rail with a 2×4)

  • Wood preservative
  • Galvanized nails and screws
  • 2×4
  • Caulk
  • Drill
  • Paint

Step 1: Apply wood preservative

Saturate the 2×4 and the damaged areas with wood preservatives to protect them from potential rot.

Step 2: Make a cleat

Check that the rail is level and make a cleat to support the rail by fitting the 2×4 underneath. Nail the 2×4 to the wood fence post with galvanized nails. Drive a couple of nails through the rail into the cleat.

Step 3: Apply Caulk

Caulk the top and sides to keep out moisture.

Materials needed (if repairing rail with galvanized steel T-braces)

  • Wood preservative
  • Galvanized nails and screws
  • Caulk
  • Drill
  • T-braces
  • Paint

Step 1: Drill pilot holes

Level the rail and then drill pilot holes into the post and rail.

Step 2: Secure T-braces

Secure the T-braces to the rail with galvanized screws.

Step 3: Apply caulk

Caulk the joint, and wait for it to dry.

Step 4: Paint

Paint the T-braces to match the fence.

How to Straighten a Leaning Wood Fence Gate

Materials needed

  • Fence repair spike
  • Concrete
  • Screws
  • Drill

Step 1: Gravel or dirt

If the gate post is set in dirt or gravel, straighten it by driving a fence repair spike into the ground and screwing the post to the spike.

Step 2: Concrete

If the post is set in concrete, reset it in new concrete. Mix the concrete and fill the post hole with 4 inches of crushed stone for drainage. Brace the new post in position and pour concrete. Let it dry.

Step 3: Screws

If loose screws are the cause of the lean, replace them with longer screws.

Should You Repair or Replace Your Wood Fence?

Over time, wood can become damaged or start to deteriorate and will need to be replaced. You should regularly inspect your fence for wear and tear.

If you have a couple of boards and posts that are deteriorated or broken, then a simple repair should be enough. However, if the majority of the posts and panels are rotting, tilting, or falling apart, then it’s time for a new fence. A well-maintained wooden fence can serve you for up to 20 years. After two decades, your fence may be old and in need of replacement.

FAQ About Repairing a Wood Fence

Do you have to sand a fence before restaining?

Sanding is generally not required before staining if the fence is brand new. It does help if there are areas where the stain may have difficulty soaking in.

How do you maintain a wood fence?

Every two to three years, pressure wash the wood to remove dirt, moss, mildew and graying. Then, recoat with a UV-inhibiting, water-repellent coating. You should repair fencing with a type of wood that is rot-resistant. Pressure-treated lumber, cedar, and redwood stand up well underground.

What rots a wood fence?

Rot occurs when there is too much moisture on the wood. It often occurs at the post base and can be identified quickly since fungal growth usually appears. Termites and other pesky wood-destroying insects are also culprits responsible for rot.

When to Hire a Fence Repair Pro 

Why spend your free time replacing fence posts when you can hire an experienced and reliable pro instead? DIY fence repair is hot, back-breaking work, and that’s nothing compared to the headache you get finding the right stain!

If you’re looking for someone to repair your wood fence, FenceGnome connects you to the best fencing pros near you.

Main Image Credit: Rawpixel / CC0 1.0

Lydian Pine

Lydian Pine is a creative writer and studio artist whose work first debuted in a short story anthology. She graduated from the University of North Texas in 2020 and enjoys video games, theatre, and swimming. Lately, she has started to study entomology as a hobby.