How Deep Do Wood Fence Posts Have to Be?

Wooden fence posts hold up the fence and keep it stable so it won't fall over.

Minimum Depth

Set wood fence posts below the frost line.Set wood fence posts below the frost line.
Set them deep enough to keep the fence stable and to prevent frost from pushing the posts out of position.

The minimum depth for a fence post of any height in stable soil is 2 feet. Loose or unstable soils may require more depth in order to support the fence and keep it sturdy. Concrete may be required to anchor the post in some soils or code jurisdictions regardless of post depth.

The One-Third Rule

Bury at least one-third of the post height as a good rule of thumb for wooden fence post depth. For example, one-third of a 6-foot-high fence is 2 feet; therefore, the minimum depth for a 6-foot-high fence is 2 feet. Taller fences need deeper posts.

Frost Line

Frost below a fence post will push up on it, causing it to move, tilt or possibly fall over. The colder the climate, the deeper the frost line will be. Dig holes for fence posts at least 6-inches deeper than the frost line.

Building Codes

Many building departments have codes for minimum post depth on fences and other posts set in the ground. They may also require permits and specify fence construction methods. Consult your building department for fence post depths and permit requirements.

About the Author

Michael Logan is a writer, editor and web page designer. His professional background includes electrical, computer and test engineering, real estate investment, network engineering and management, programming and remodeling company owner. Logan has been writing professionally since he was first published in "Test & Measurement World" in 1989.