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Author Topic: Life expectancy of fence posts.  (Read 39488 times)

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Offline Kansas

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #20 on: June 09, 2012, 06:03:01 AM »
I have been hesitant to recommend cedar for posts in this area. I might just be overly cautious.  Out farther west, they work well. Hedge rules around here.

If you want to really dig some holes, rent a post hole digger that goes on a skid steer. Its nice if you accidently screw it into the ground, which sometimes happens. You can just hit the reverse button and unscrew it. Beats a tractor driven one hands down.

Offline Cedarman

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #21 on: June 09, 2012, 06:58:03 AM »
I was in awe the first time I saw an auger screw itself into the ground.  One second pulling dirt, next second headed to China. Only does it in very wet conditions though. 
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Offline thecfarm

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #22 on: June 09, 2012, 07:07:49 AM »
My Father only used the cedar on this land. Only split or rounds ones. The fences are long gone now.
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Offline Norm

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #23 on: June 09, 2012, 07:15:52 AM »
I'm clearing out an old fence line on our place that's ERC. Looks like they cut the tree trimmed the branches and stuck them in the ground. Sapwood is gone but the heartwood is still hard as a rock.

Offline Magicman

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #24 on: June 09, 2012, 08:16:10 AM »
It really depends upon your soil type and drainage.  With our dense soil, nothing will last except Black Locust.
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Offline Dodgy Loner

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #25 on: June 09, 2012, 10:18:15 AM »
Jake, stay away from honey locust for your posts.  Honey locust and white locust are not rot resistant.

Black locust and yellow locust are the woods to use instead.  Each of these will last 80 years or more in most locations.  Honey and white locust less than 20.

Honeylocust = Gleditsia triacanthos and black locust = Robinia pseudoacacia. But I've never heard of white locust and yellow locust. What are they? ???
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Offline rmack

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #26 on: June 09, 2012, 10:52:25 AM »
I have been hesitant to recommend cedar for posts in this area. I might just be overly cautious.  Out farther west, they work well. Hedge rules around here.

If you want to really dig some holes, rent a post hole digger that goes on a skid steer. Its nice if you accidently screw it into the ground, which sometimes happens. You can just hit the reverse button and unscrew it. Beats a tractor driven one hands down.

I have used bobcat mounted augers too. they are very impressive.

not only can you root around rocks and still get the hole close to where you want it, they are also very handy for digging up stumps, while leaving most of the soil that is normal pulled up with the root wad right in the ground. it's that ability to 'drill' laterally and work the auger around in various angles that makes all the difference in the world.

I don't have an auger for my tractor, would never buy one either... it's just not the same tool.
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Offline hardtailjohn

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #27 on: June 09, 2012, 11:18:09 AM »
We've got some "blasted" Western Larch (Tamarak) posts in alot of our fences that are almost 100 years old, and are still sound. One stretch in particular, is across one of our meadows (peat bog) that we're planning on pulling the posts and resetting them this fall. They're getting lower and lower, but we pulled a few to test and they're as solid as they can be still!
We've also got some rails that have been "halved" in a mill, and they've been up for almost 40 years and are still much more solid than the whole rails that are on a fence that was also put up at the same time.
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Offline scsmith42

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #28 on: June 09, 2012, 11:27:30 AM »
Jake, stay away from honey locust for your posts.  Honey locust and white locust are not rot resistant.

Black locust and yellow locust are the woods to use instead.  Each of these will last 80 years or more in most locations.  Honey and white locust less than 20.

Honeylocust = Gleditsia triacanthos and black locust = Robinia pseudoacacia. But I've never heard of white locust and yellow locust. What are they? ???

Yellow locust is the same genus as black locust, except that the heart wood is a yellow color.  It grows in the mountains of western North Carolina.

White Locust is a term that I've heard some local fence contractors use.  They may have been referring to honey locust and did not realize it.
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #29 on: June 09, 2012, 11:40:25 AM »
I believe there are 4 Robinia species in the US of tree size and there are some others that are natural hybrids. In all there are 20 Robinia in the US and Mexico including shrub species. I looked it up in the dendro text here, is all I know of them. That being said, all I know up here is the black locust because it's planted for ornamentals.
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Offline Magicman

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #30 on: June 09, 2012, 01:52:34 PM »
Here, Black Locust is highly invasive and will quickly overtake and smother a newly planted Pine plantation.  Since it will "root sprout" it is tough to control.
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Offline Tree Feller

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #31 on: June 09, 2012, 03:36:52 PM »
The problem with ERC as fence posts is the sap wood. If you are building barb wire fence, the intermediate posts usually aren't but about 4" in diameter. Around here, a 4" ERC post will have over 2" of sap wood. When it rots away (pretty quickly, too) there's nothing left but a skinny stake of heartwood. Wire staples fall out, too, when the sapwood they are driven into rots.

ERC from West Texas or the Hill Country is what people use around here. I assume the drier conditions out there produce less sapwood so the posts last much, much longer.

The OP listed Sassafrass as a choice and it is a good post wood. Post Oak will last about 10 years or so around here before rotting at the ground surface. Bodark (Osage Orange) will outlast the fence builder. As Al wrote, Honey Locust doesn't  last long but Black Locust will endure like Bodark. Mulberry, which is a Bodark relative is a good post tree.

Hedge, aka Osage Orange, Bodark, Bois d' Arc, Bodock, etc. was originally shipped to the plains states in the mid-nineteeth century to be used for hedge rows. I've read that thousands of bushel-baskets of the fruit (we call them Horse Apples) were planted. When barb wire began replacing hedge for livestock control, the hedges were cut down and used for fence posts.

I've also read that Bois d' Arc was the first tree that Louis & Clark sent back East on their transcontinental expedition. It's an amazing tree and one of my favorite woods.

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Offline sandhills

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #32 on: June 09, 2012, 04:12:36 PM »
Funny I just came in from fixing some OLD fence and saw this thread, there is hedge posts I guarantee are well over 100 years old in that fence and still standing fine (wish I could say the same for the wire), just don't try pounding a staple in them, it ain't gonna happen  ;).  I use a lot of erc that I cut off our property but as Tree Feller mentioned about his, ours also has a lot of sap wood which doesn't last long, I'm just cheap I guess.

Offline wwsjr

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #33 on: June 09, 2012, 04:19:03 PM »
I usually use the small ERC, throw on mill, make 4 cuts with Accuset set to 4" removing the majority of the sap wood.
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Offline Magicman

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #34 on: June 09, 2012, 04:36:48 PM »
Fast growing ERC, or any other species for that matter, with wide growth rings will not last as long as a slower growing tree with close growth rings.  The closer rings make the wood more dense and consequently more resistant to moisture intrusion and rot.
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Offline Tree Feller

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #35 on: June 09, 2012, 05:33:50 PM »
The closer rings make the wood more dense and consequently more resistant to moisture intrusion and rot.

That's true in softwoods and diffuse-porous woods but,

"In ring-porous hardwoods such as oak and ash, the width of the large-pored earlywood doesn't vary much, so the rate of growth is reflected in the amount of denser latewood. Therefore, fast growth produces denser material."  from R.Bruce Hoadley's "Understanding Wood"

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Offline hackberry jake

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #36 on: June 09, 2012, 05:50:20 PM »
I've been sawing big bodark logs today, but at $4 a bf, I can't afford to make fence posts out of it.
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #37 on: June 09, 2012, 06:00:56 PM »
Yes ring porous woods get denser with more latewood, the early wood in most any NA species doesn't vary much in width. It's just easier to see by eye in the ring porous woods. This characteristic is used to help separate some of the ring porous woods. Generally, what slow grown wood has going for it is more stability or less drying defect. But we know some species have a reputation of bad behaviour no matter what. ;)
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Offline Cedarman

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #38 on: June 09, 2012, 10:42:43 PM »
ERC grown amongs hardwood or in very thick stands where they reach for the sky will tend to have less sapwood.  The crowding of the tree causes the lower branches to die off thus a smaller amount of green on the tree.  With less demand for nutrients the sapwood turns to heartwood.  As the tree slowly dies over many years almost all of the sapwood can turn to heartwood.  These make the best fence posts since the sapwood is 1/2" or less.  These are the posts we select to sell as fence posts.
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Life expectancy of fence posts.
« Reply #39 on: June 10, 2012, 05:25:51 AM »
Then there are some species that have very little sapwood, open grown or otherwise. Butternut, tends to be open grown to survive and any that I have had sawed have less than 1" of sapwood.
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