How We Brace Fences for Stability

Think about what happens when we’re stretching tight wire fence across the farm. You can probably imagine that the wires create a tremendous pulling force on the fence posts at each end of the line.

Here’s video I shot a couple weeks ago as I was fencing the back pastures, showing the practical steps we take to brace the fence posts. As with most things, the little details matter. Failing to brace a fence properly, especially in a location with strong seasonal frost heaves, results in posts that work their way right out of the ground within a few seasons.

This sort of fence brace is called a floating brace. Traditionally, high tensile fences are braced with “H-braces”, an arrangement with two vertical posts, one horizontal post, and a diagonal strainer wire. But I’ve come to prefer these floating braces because they use less wood and only require one post at each end or corner. And, of course, because they hold up over the years!


Hi, I’m Dave your Farmer from Wrong Direction Farm. Today I’m working on bracing some fences. I’m building some electric fence out in the back field. This is the farthest part back from the house and it’s the last area of the farm to be fenced. We still have quite a bit of fence that needs to be put up here. Until now we’ve been using temporary fences every time the cattle come back here, but we’re trying to add every year. We add a little more fence to the farm and we’re getting towards the back now. So we’re getting close to being done.

One thing to be aware of is when you are fencing with any of these high tensile wires, you need to have considerable tension on the wire in order to keep it from sagging between each post. We put each post about 75 feet apart. And so unless the wire is tensioned you could have the wire sagging down. When you tension, it tends to pull on the end post. So this is my end post. It’s also being used as a support for a water hydrant. But when we pull on the post, especially as a season changes you get frost heave. This post will start to creep backwards and eventually be pulled out of the ground. So what we want to do is to brace it so it resists that pull.

I’m using something called floating brace. This is what I really like. I’ve talked to a bunch of other farmers who have used a more traditional approach of an “H brace” and I’ve gotten some of them to try this. And everybody I know of who’s tried it hasn’t gone back to the H braces. I think it’s a superior method. It only requires one post to be driven into the ground, not a second one over here.

What I do is I place a block on the ground. In this case. I usually can find some flat rocks. So I placed this on the ground. And then I drill a hole in the post. Put a peg in the end. I can just slide it right in on that peg.

Now it’s pegged in there, and I’m going to place some high tensile wire right along the ground. I’m going to it wrap all around the base.

And then I’m going to tension it with this tensioner. This is cogged so it only ratchets in one direction. And it allows me to put the wire in this and to tension up the wire. And I just go till it’s good and tight. I’m not sure the exact torque specs on that, but “good and tight” seems to work.

And that pushes at this end up into about the middle of the post. And the ground resists at the bottom, the post is resisted by this brace in the middle. So that provides all the bracing that we need to tension this fence.

As we’re fencing this pasture for cattle, we’re going to be just using a single strand of high tensile wire. This is an interior subdivision fence and I prefer to use as few wires as possible. One. I mean, it costs money to string out every wire, but also I find that if I have a lot of wires close to the ground the cattle don’t do a very good job of eating right underneath the wire. And then I get trees and brush growing up right under the fence. So instead of having to mow that, I just let the cattle graze it out.

So a higher wire: I usually go about 30 inches high. The way I know is I’ve always got a mark on my pants where my pocket knife wears a hole in the pocket. And so that’s the spot where I string the wire. Deer can jump over the fence, but the cattle stay in.

6 thoughts on “How We Brace Fences for Stability”

  1. Would this be suitable for a welded wire fence, and would the high tensile wire that holds the floating brace be safe for a dog? Also, does the brace go along side of the fence?

    1. Hi Joy,
      I haven’t tried it with a welded wire fence. These corner braces are for tensioned fences, but I’m not sure you can tension a welded wire fence, or at least I doubt you could tension the material enough to make it stable without breaking welds. But that’s just my impression without having tried it, so I’d be interested in hearing more if it actually works.
      As far as safety for dogs, our livestock guardian dogs live near these sorts of fence braces and I can’t think of a way they’d get hurt on them, other than running full speed and crashing into a fence post. And yes, the brace runs parallel with the direction of your fence line.

  2. That’s the engineer in you coming out. Great idea. With the price of wood posts right now or anytime for that matter that’s good stewardship. I love that kind of elegance, especially on the farm. It’s a matter of survival: conserving energy, resources and time. Engineering backgrounds of any type would come in handy as a farmer. Of course, so would any other skill. God bless & enjoy the weather and the newly revivified farm!

    1. I have a friend who has adapted this idea for building large scale trellis bracing for the rows of tomatoes on his farm, so it seems to have wide applicability.

    1. Thanks Phil. Yes, they are easier than the full braces. Some of the first floating braced corner posts I’ve set are now 10 years old, and they are still holding true, so it has proven to be a long-term solution.

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