How to Properly Tear Down an Old Fence


When approaching any outdoor project, most people are reminded of the words of at least one older relative, usually a parent. Those words are almost always some variation of “there’s a right way and a wrong way to do a job” followed by the old favorite “do a good job the first time.” Even if you happen to be tasked with taking down an old fence, the advice of your elders still applies. So, what is the best way to get this job done right the first time?

Scope of the Project

The very first question you should address is what your ultimate goal is. If you are removing the fence for good, then you’ll need to find a way to remove the fixed posts and their foundations. If you are simply replacing the fence, then your choices become a little more complex. To keep things simple, you will likely want to make sure you choose the right materials for the replacement and make sure you have the necessary tools and materials to fill in post holes and to remove the debris when the work is complete.

Legal Issues

A visit to the County Recorder would be a good second step once you have your plans in place. Removing a fence that either doesn’t belong to you or that is on someone else’s land can end up becoming a medium-sized legal nightmare, especially if you reside in a state with strict laws on contractors and who may or may not make improvements. Your city may also have ordinances that prohibit certain kinds of removal work without permits and/or assessments by a city official prior to starting work. A visit to a real estate attorney might also be in order depending on the magnitude of the project.

Don’t Just Saw It Off

It is generally a bad idea to leave the footings for the fence posts behind. Not only are they potential safety hazards, they will be formidable obstacles if you plan to build another fence. When you have removed the footings, be sure to fill in the holes and pack new dirt level with the ground so the material doesn’t settle and produce a depression in the ground. If you are replacing the fence and plan to build new posts, it is sometimes a good idea to keep the original holes, as they are likely already spaced properly and may even already be up to code if you live in a city.


There are a number of ways to dispose of the old fencing. Contacting your local garbage hauling company is a good first step if you are looking for advice on the best way to get the old materials off your property inexpensively and legally. Some companies will recommend an on-site dumpster, while others can schedule a truck to arrive on appointment and load the remaining material for removal.

Fence removal doesn’t sound like a complicated thing until all the details are considered. Even so, with the right amount of planning, the elders will be proud when the job gets done right the first time.