The process of removing a wooden privacy fence is fairly straightforward, but digging out the fence posts can be challenging, particularly if they are set in concrete. The traditional means of digging down into the soil around the post is difficult, time-consuming work, and a lot of effort is needed to lift the post and its concrete base out of the hole. However, there is an alternative to the back-breaking labor involved with digging up posts: the use of a farm jack to perform the heavy lifting. Below is how you can safely use a farm jack to lift a wooden fence post out of the ground with minimal or no digging required.
Tools and materials needed
Farm jack - Also called a tractor jack, this ratcheting jack is designed to lift tractors and other agricultural equipment, but it is also useful for other tasks such as removing fence posts. Farm jacks can be located at agricultural equipment supply stores and other hardware outlets. As an alternative, you may also use a bumper jack if you already have access to one; these are functionally-equivalent, though smaller, to farm jacks.
Four-by-four piece of lumber - You will need an 18-inch long piece to serve as a lifting base for the jack.
Scrap piece of two-by-four lumber - This will be used as a support for the base of the farm jack, and two feet of lumber should suffice in this role.
Structural screws in 6-inch lengths - A relatively-recent innovation in construction, structural screws are made from hardened steel and are designed to be driven straight into heavy pieces of lumber with no pilot hole. Some structural screws use special bits to drive the screws, so be sure to obtain the necessary bit if one does not come with the screws.
Electric drill - You can use any corded electric drill or a cordless drill operating at 18 volts or higher.
Work gloves - These will protect your hands from splinters while handling the lumber.
Eye protection - Keep your eyes safe from flying splinters of wood should the post suddenly snap.
1. Remove all surrounding fence pickets and crosspieces - Before attempting to remove the post, you should dismantle the fence in the surrounding area. Even if you intend to leave the fence in position in some areas, you will find it much easier and safer if there is nothing attached to the post during removal. Pickets and crosspieces may break or fall and cause an injury or damage, if you leave them attached.
2. Create a jack support by attaching the four-by-four section to the fence post - Once you have cleared away the surrounding pickets and crosspieces, measure up 12 inches from the bottom of the fence post where it meets the ground and align one end of the 18-inch long four-by-four piece at this point. Hold the four-by-four piece tightly to the fence post, then drive several 6-inch structural screws through the piece's midline and into the post behind it. You will need to use one screw for every 3 inches of four-by-four to provide maximum strength. Attach the 18-inch long piece of four-by-four lumber to the fence post with five screws (3, 6, 9, 12 and 15 inches from the bottom of the four-by-four piece). This attached piece will serve as a jack support point.
3. Position the jack beneath the jack support - After you have attached the four-by-four piece to the fence post, place a scrap piece of two-by-four by the side of the fence post beneath the jack support point to use as a base. Next, align the jack beneath the jack support point so the jack rests squarely on top of the two-by-four base. Be sure to keep the jack as vertical as possible to avoid slipping once you start pumping the handle.
4. Begin jacking - After you have the jack aligned, begin to ratchet the handle to raise the jack. When the jack engages with the jack support, keep the jack as close as possible to the fence post to maintain lifting force near the midline of the post. Keep jacking and the fence post should begin to slowly rise from the ground. If you feel undue resistance or sense that the assembly is becoming unstable, immediately stop and assess the jack support to be sure it is still attached firmly. If necessary, go back to step 3 and re-position the jack from the starting point.
5. Keep jacking until the post emerges from the ground - When the fence post and its attached concrete foundation emerge from the ground, guide it as necessary so that it slowly shifts away from the hole. Then, detach the jack carefully so it doesn't fall or slip. Remove the wooden jack support, if you need to use it on an additional post, or discard it along with the post.
If you are in need of professional help contact a local fencing contractor.