Demo 1-2-3: How to Remove a Fence

Old wooden fence

Is it time to bid your fence its final farewell? Maybe it’s served its purpose over the years and has reached the end of its rope, or perhaps previous owners put it up and you’re not a fan. Whatever the reason—when it’s time for a fence to go, it’s time for it to go.

Just like anything else, there’s more than one way to remove your fence, and there are a number of factors that affect which route you’ll want to take—do it yourself or hire a professional.

Wait! There is such a thing as 'fence etiquette,' so make sure this fence is yours to remove. Double check your property lines to confirm none of the fence is on your neighbor's property. If the fence is yours, then you may proceed to remove it as you see fit.
 

Consider the facts before deciding how you'll remove your fence.

Location:

If you’re located in an area where the soil has a high clay content, then digging in the dirt deep enough to be able to pull up those cement footings may be serious work...possibly more work than it's worth.

Similarly, if your fence is in a tight or narrow space, then removing it could be a serious pain, and you may want to leave it up to a professional.

Type of fence:

The most common types of fences are wood, vinyl, and chain-link. But there are many other kinds, too, like aluminum, PVC, wrought iron, and even bamboo.

The removal process is different for each fence type, and they vary in difficulty to remove, too.

Your attitude:

To be frank, removing a fence isn't a fun job, and your attitude is just as important a tool as any.

It takes time and a strong back to lift fence posts out of the ground, and if your fence is quite large, you may not have the necessary manpower and patience required to get it done.

Honestly ask yourself whether or not you've got the consistent can-do attitude needed for the job.

Consider your location, the type of fence you have, and your physical (and mental) ability. If you like your odds, removing your fence yourself is a great way to save money. If you'd rather hire a professional to do the dirty work, then Hometown can help you with that, too.
 

Learn more: 


Route 1: Do it Yourself

DIY fence removal is an excellent way to save money (and build some muscle), but the removal process is different for each fence.

REMEMBER: Safety first! Always use caution when working with heavy posts and sharp tools, and wear the proper safety gear (i.e. gloves, protective eyewear, etc.). Having an extra set of hands during the removal process can make a world of difference, too.

Wood fence removal

wood fence diagram

1. First, you'll want to remove the fence pickets and gates, which is as easy as unscrewing some screws or pulling out some nails, and removing the panels one-by-one. 

2. Once everything but the posts is removed, you'll then want to attach a 'cleat' to your fence post. This involves stacking two short-length 2x4s on top of each other, with one 2x4 extending beyond the other at the bottom, and securely nailing them to your fence post.

3. Then make a 'fulcrum' next to your fence post using anything sturdy. Try stacking some bricks or cinder blocks. 

4. With your cleat firmly attached and your fulcrum in place, position a 'lever' over your fulcrum and under the cleat. Then, push down on the lever in order to pop the post up and out of the ground. A longer 2x4 or San Angelo bar would serve as a good lever. Repeat this step for each post.

5. Although it's not strictly required, if you'd like to remove the cement footings from the ground, consider using a firm, sturdy prop and a jack (or come along) as shown in the video below.

If your fence posts sit directly in the dirt rather than concrete footings, they will be quite easy to remove. You'll likely be able to simply wiggle them loose and then pull them out of the ground.
 

Vinyl fence removal

vinyl fence diagram

1. Determine whether your fence is held together by brackets and screws or through a simple tab-insert system in which the panels are inside the posts.

  • If you see brackets, begin by unscrewing the screws and removing the brackets from both sides of each rail, starting with the top rail. From there, you can then slide the fence panel out from between the posts. Repeat this step until nothing is left but the posts.
  • If your fence uses notches, pull up on the top rail of the fence as you apply pressure to the post in order to force the notches out of the groove in the post. A rubber mallet or small sledgehammer can help make the process a bit easier by tapping the post as you pull on the rail. Repeat this step with the bottom rail, too, then slide out the pickets.

2. Once the posts are all that's left standing, dig a small hole in the ground adjacent to the post. It should be roughly the width of the concrete footing and go down deep enough to reach the bottom of the footing as well.

3. Once the hole is deep enough and mostly clear of dirt, firmly push the post in the direction of the newly dug hole so that it tips over slightly and leans against the side of the newly dug hole.

4. You'll then use a similar technique to that of removing a wood fence—a fulcrum and a lever. Place your fulcrum on one side of the post, then stick your lever through the hole where the bottom rail used to be so that one end is resting on the fulcrum. Then pull up on the other side of the lever until you pop the post out of the ground. Carefully and slowly swing one end of the post to the side so that it doesn't fall back into the hole. Repeat this step for each post.

Chain-link fence removal

Chain-link fence removal is easily the most dangerous due to sharp metal and the potential for flying shrapnel. Take extra care during chain-link fence removal, and always wear protective gear (i.e. gloves, clothing, eyewear, etc.)

1. Start at the end of the fence or a corner post, and remove the clamps holding the tension bar in place by removing the nuts and bolts and sliding the clamps up and off the post.

2. Remove the tension bar by weaving it out of the chain link.

3. Measure out each section of chain link you're going to cut and remove as you go. The size of the sections you want to cut will depend on how much space you have available to work with. Follow these guidelines as a good rule of thumb, and once you know where you want to cut, mark it with a piece of tape or string.

  • If you have plenty of space, an assistant, and you're no stranger to manual labor, removing the fence in 50 ft. sections is a safe bet.
  • If there are some obstacles in the area, you're working alone, and you're not a pro at manual labor, limit your sections to 20 ft. or less.
  • If you have very limited space, you'll be forced to cut it frequently in order to roll the fence vertically along the fence as you go.

4. Once you have your sections measured out, cut the fence ties along the top rail, allowing the fence to fall flat as you go. You can use fence pliers or wire grippers to cut the ties, or use simple heavy pliers to bend the ties back.

5. Once you get to the end of your marked section, detach the chain link from the rest of the fence.

  • At the top of the fence, locate a wire forming part of the chain link, and use pliers to straighten out the hook it makes over the next wire.
  • Follow the same piece of wire to the bottom of the fence and straighten out the bottom hook so that it no longer is hooked to the adjacent wire.
  • Grab the straightened wire at the top and twist it around, removing it from the fence as you go, until the two sections are completely separated.

6. Roll up the newly detached section of chain link, tie it securely, and move it out of the way.

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until all of the chain link is removed and only the top rail and posts remain. 

8. If the top rail is fastened to a "cap" at the corner or end post, remove the nut and bolt holding the rail and cap in place.

9. Once the end cap is detached, twist the sections of rail apart at their connecting points. If the rail is welded, you'll need to cut it into workable sections using a reciprocating saw and a metal-cutting blade.

10. Once the top rail is gone, remove the posts by digging a hole around the cement footings, all the way down until it reaches the bottom of the footing.

11. Then position a chain underneath the cement footing, and use a combination of a bumper jack (or come along) and a firm, heavy prop to lift the footing out of the ground. The video below does a good job of showing one way to remove the post and cement footing out of the ground. Repeat this step for each post.

Removing a fence yourself is time-consuming and can be hard work, but it's a huge money saver. If your materials can't be reused or sold to someone else, consider renting a dumpster to dispose of the debris. Hometown can help you choose the right size and make sure you get the best price, too.
 

Route 2: Hire a Professional

fence help

Admittedly, this is the easier route to take. If you'd rather leave the hard work to a professional, then you'll want to find a contractor who can get the job done efficiently and for a fair price.

Hometown Demolition Contractors is a great resource to use when looking for the best contractors in your areas. We make it easy to request quotes from multiple contractors, read company bios, and look over 100% authentic customer reviews.

Get a good price.

Obviously, it's going to cost you more to hire a professional than do the fence removal yourself, but that doesn't mean you should pay too much.

The cost to remove your fence will depend mainly on the type of fence you have, the size of it, and the contractor you choose.

On average, you can expect to pay around $1 - $2.50 per foot of fence to be removed. However, some fences can reach upwards of $10 - $12 per foot. That's why it's important to get multiple quotes from various contractors—so you're certain you get the best possible price. Refer to our Deck and Fence Demolition Cost Guide for examples of project costs from real projects around the country.

When hiring a professional to remove your fence, don't base your decision solely on the price quoted. Also consider the company's reputation (online reviews can help), customer service, flexibility in accommodating your time schedule, and other factors that are important to you.