The 18-year old wood fence sections around my lawn are sound but the posts, which are in cement, are rotting at the bases. What type of fence posts or supports would keep this from happening in the future? Should I reuse the sections?
Olena ~ Corvallis, Oregon
Olena, I am surprised that your fence posts have lasted this long, because usually wood that has been set into cement begins to show signs of rot after only a few years. In the past, I have even seen pressure treated fence posts that rotted prematurely because they were set into cement footings. Under normal conditions, I recommend anchoring fence posts into cement only when using metal fence posts. If you want to use wood posts for your fence project, then I recommend purchasing posts that have had their butt-ends chemically treated. After the post is positioned vertically in the hole, fill the hole with crushed gravel and compact it with a "wacker-packer."
If the horizontal sections of your fence are still in good shape, then you would be wise to re-use them. In my opinion, a weathered fence is often better looking than one that is constructed from freshly cut lumber, plus you'll save lots of money by reusing all that wood. Perhaps now would be a good time for you to refinish the fence sections as well, as you will have to dismantle the fence in order to replace the rotten posts.
If you choose to replace the wood posts with metal ones, then you can attach the horizontal fence panels to the new posts with metal U-shaped brackets. If you don't want the metal posts to be visible after the fence is reassembled, then you can install some vertical wood members, which will cover the posts and are supported by specialized mounting brackets that attach to the round metal fence posts.
You may want to consider hiring some fence installers who work in the Corvallis area to set the new posts for you. Professional installers have the right equipment to quickly dig new post holes, and this might save you many hours of shovel work. If you're going to tackle the whole project yourself, then use a string line and a tape measure to lay out the new fence line. Remember, the new posts need to be the correct distance apart in order for the old fence panels to be reused. Good luck with it!