Have you ever been tasked with putting up a fence? It may seem simple, but it’s no easy feat. Especially when you’re outside in the heat, cold, and / or humidity. In reality, there’s never an ideal time for a fence installation—it’s back breaking work no matter how you cut it. Luckily, there are tools to speed up the process of fence building. The primary tool in your fence erecting arsenal is the post driver. What is a post driver? It’s a tool used for sinking your fence posts deeply and securely into the earth. It’s an integral part of the process and it comes in a few different forms. And knowing how to use a post driver is the difference between a fence that stands tall for a century versus one that falls in a year or two.

The Main Types of Post Drivers

Post drivers come in many shapes and sizes depending on the job. But most people categorize them by their power source. And with that said—there are three common varieties of post drivers out there. You’ll commonly find manual post drivers, pneumatic post drivers, and gas powered post drivers. The differences in their engineering go hand-in-hand with how to operate them.

The Manual Post Driver:
Converts Falling Energy into Striking Force

The manual post driver is an age-old tool that uses simple engineering and physics to capture the downward force of a heavy object and convert it into striking energy. It’s the simplest type of post driver around and also the most exhausting type to use.

The Pneumatic Post Driver:
Air Power Lifts the Pounder So You Don’t Have To

The primary difference between pneumatic post drivers and its manual ancestor is in how the pounder is lifted. Naturally, with a pneumatic post driver, you’re using an attached air compressor to bring the pounder into the air. In essence, a pressurized pocket of air stands between the pounder and the top of the post.

The Gas Post Driver:
Human Ingenuity & the Power of Combustion

Gas powered post drivers differ the most from the rest. As you can imagine, they’re fitted with a gas motor. But rather than lift a pounder into the air and letting it drop, the motor vibrates the hollow shaft that is fitted snuggly over the post. Much like a jackhammer, these minute and extremely fast vibration pack a lot of penetrative power. As the combustion motor vibrates the post, it sinks it right into the ground at your feet. The advantage of gas power is that it removes the manpower element—just like its pneumatic cousin—but its ultra-portable. For example, ours come in two sizes: a 35cc version and a 50cc version. Anyone that’s had to climb a ladder just to reach the requisite height for a tall fence installation will understand the advantage of being able to bring a gas-powered post driver up the ladder with you. Best of all—no cords and no air compressor to monkey with.

How to Use a Post Driver

Skip steps 4 and 5 if you’re using any variety of powered post driver. However, the principles of driving a straight post are the same, no matter what you use.

  1. Cut a piece of wood or some doweling to the intended height of your posts.
  2. Secure the end of the pounder around your post.
  3. Do this while the post is horizontal, so you do not need to lift the heavy pounder into the air.
  4. Bring the entire post and pounder vertical.
  5. Raise the driver about a foot into the air.
  6. Drop the pounder, while still holding its handles and pulling down slightly.
  7. Use some of your own muscle as downward motion, but let the pounder’s weight do most of the work—save your energy.
  8. After every third hit, rotate your position around the post about 90 degrees to ensure the post is driven squarely and does not lean.
  9. Compare the driven post to your pre-cut doweling to ensure its been sunk to the right height.
  10. If your post will not stay straight, consider that there may be an underground obstacle (like a rock) and reposition the post.
  11. Repeat this process for the rest of your fence.
  12. Post Drivers Are a Necessity, But Back-Breaking Work Isn’t.

Whatever choice you make; ensure you’re using a post driver for your fence installation. Without it, you’re simply not going to drive your fence posts deep enough to keep your fence up through the seasons and in spite of the elements. And most of all, remember that manual post drivers are not always the most easily accessible solution for your job. Yes, you can buy a manual post driver at your local hardware store. But more often than not, you can find a gas-powered variety as well. And best of all, you can usually rent one for a nominal fee at an equipment yard. For as many times as you’ll be pounding posts (we hope it’s a rare thing for you!) you may find it easier to rent a gas-powered model and get the job done in a fraction of the time.