How to remove an old garden fence.
How best to dismantle and remove the old fence.
Our best tips and tricks
Depending on your own personal situation, there might be some differences between certain aspects of dismantling and removing the old fence, but I'll give you my tried and tested methods and you can pick and choose what suits you best.
There's always the chance that a car, or three cars in this example, came crashing through your fence into the garden and did most of the dismantling job in the process. On a cold and frosty morning, with sheet ice on the roads, this happens every winter and in some cases we were called back year after year to keep replacing the same section of fencing. It's good work if you can get it lol.
This is a good example to show two fences which need to be removed. The old council iron railing is rotten at the base so it's just hanging on by a thread. To dismantle that we use a simple angle grinder and cut the railing up into sections and carry it out to the van. For the fence panels, they are usually quite simple and straightforward to remove too. Most panels are fitted with screws, so if a panel needs to be replaced it's a simple process of removing the screws, slipping the whole panel out and inserting the new panel before screwing it back into place. To remove the whole fence, just remove all the screws from each panel until the whole fence is down.
If the screws are all stuck or the heads are worn out, then just unscrewing the panels isn't going to work for you, then you have two options. You can go in with a lever bar and just pry the panels off the posts with brute force, or you can use a reciprocating saw with a hacksaw blade fitted and simply cut down the face of the post until you go through every screw holding the panels to the posts. When you go through the last screw, the panel will usually just fall out. That was always my prefered way of doing it. By doing it that way, rather than hacking in with a pry bar and a hammer, which sometimes ended up with bits of panel flying off and making more work, the recip saw method tends to keep the old panel intact and whole, which makes the job of carrying the old panels out of the garden and into the van much easier.
Of course this raises the question of what to do with all of the old fencing? As professionals, following best practice and the law obviously, we were registered waste carriers, licenced to move our own waste to a recycling depot. You might have that yourself or you might want to call on a recycling firm to come and collect your waste. All I'll say on that is to check their credentials and make sure your old fencing does actually go to the recycling yard and isn't just tipped off in a farmer's field somewhere. If you have a van or a car trailer, you can drive the waste material to your own local council recycling centre and dispose of it all there. In days gone by, we might all have just piled it up and made a bonfire out of it, but that's generally frowned upon now, and in most areas it's actually breaking the law, so just be aware of that if you're thinking of having a big fire with your old fencing. It's tempting, because it's a free and easy way to get rid of all that wood, but it's illegal to burn treated timber in any area, and if you pollute the air in your community with thick wood smoke, your neighbours will almost certainly get on the phone to the fire service or the police or the local council and report you, so my advice is not to burn it. You might have a log stove and use that, but again, it's treated timber which contains some chemicals which are extremely toxic when burned, so just be aware and don't put you or your family at harm.
On a more substantial fence, taking it down is a matter of cutting it up into manageable portions and carrying it out to the van or trailer to be taken away. The fence posts are generally set at 6ft intervals and I would usually work my way along taking out a 3ft section at a time, cutting from top to bottom, splitting each 6ft section in half. Two people can probable carry a 6ft section if the van or trailer is nearby, but for most jobs, there's often a fair distance to get from the fence to the loading area, so I always found it easier to carve it up into smaller more manageable sections. Depending on the weather too, if the old fencing timber is soaking wet, that makes it very heavy so you might opt to cut it up into 3, 2ft sections.
At this point, you have got the panels or the fence sections down and away, and now you're left with the old fence posts, and of course, the concrete they are set in. My advice here is to leave any good posts in the concrete and don't cut them off just yet. The concrete can be very difficult to get out of the ground, and the post, if it's still in fairly good condition, is a good lever for getting the old concrete block out of the ground. Start by giving it a firm shake back and forward to see how well the concrete is bonded into the ground. If you feel any movement at all, that's a sign that the concrete is loose and with a few more shakes back and forward, there's a good chance it's going to break free and you can simply wrap your arms around the post and lift the whole post and the concrete out of the hole. Ok, you have to be a bit of a gorilla for that to work, but it's my first choice and if you get some of the concrete out of the ground with that method, it's worth it.
If you give the post a shake and it's absolutely rock solid and there's no movement whatsoever, that means the job was done well previously and you're in for a bit more work. The first thing to do is uncover the concrete. Dig around the base of the post until you can see all of the concrete. Once you can see what you're dealing with, grab a sledge hammer and give it a whack with everything you've got. Hit it like you mean it now, no half swings, give it hell! Work your way around all four sides of the post and smash it hard. If your luck's in, the concrete has split in two or more places and the post will simply come out and you can begin extracting the lumps of concrete from the post hole.
If your concrete just laughed at you lol, it's time to get serious. There's only one option now, and that's the concrete breaker or jack-hammer. Mine is called Bertha lol. Actually, I have two. I have little Bertha, an electric powered breaker, which does well most of the time, and for any concrete which laughs at Little Bertha, I have Big Bertha, the petrol powered professional breaker, and she is the undefeated champion of concrete breakers. If you don't own a Bertha, you can hire one from most builder yards or tool hire shops for a day or a half day. You can buy a little Bertha from the big DIY stores and tool places too. They are a bit pricey but a great tool to have when you need it.
Once Bertha has had her fun and chopped up all the old concrete for you, cut the post off the blocks and put the whole blocks into gorilla buckets and the broken pieces into more gorilla buckets and get it all away for recycling. It's heavy stuff so either half fill your buckets so you can still lift them yourself, or two people can grab a handle on each side and get the concrete out of the garden that way. You can use a wheelbarrow too if there's easy passage through the garden.
And that's it. The old fence is down and gone and you're ready to start building the new fence. As a bonus, if the old fence posts were spaced correctly, you have all of the old post holes available now to set your new posts into, which is going to save you quite a lot of work.
See you on the next page. HOW TO LAYOUT NEW FENCE POSTS.