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When I first moved into the UDH, one of the very first projects my dad and I ever tackled was adding a small fence and gate to close off the back yard. In fact, it was the second blog post that I ever wrote — it was that early!
Since then, quite a lot of things have changed, including other improvements to the fence: replacing part of the chain link on the other side of the house, adding better gate hardware, planting garden beds next to it for added foliage (and to hide my neighbor’s fence that’s falling apart, which you can see more of in the pics below), and more. I’d like to think I’ve actually learned quite a bit about fences during that time. But last fall, there was a bit of an accident to this little section:
It happened during that awesome, sweaty week last summer when I rented a backhoe, ordered truckloads of dirt, and filled in the sink hole in a brutally humid August. My friends stopped by one night to help (truthfully, they really just wanted to play with the backhoe for a bit)…
…but as usual, it was my dad who helped out the most. Look at him go!
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Even though we got a huge amount done in that week, there’s was just one little step in the wrong direction: during one of the return passes through the gate to get more dirt…
…Dad turned the wheel and crashed directly into my fence. It wasn’t enough of a collision to take out the fence as a whole or for him to be injured in any way (and it was kind of funny since all bets would have been on me to be the one with a runaway backhoe), but it did just enough damage to loosen the concrete and make the whole thing unstable. The post had been bent to an angle that could not be repaired, so I would have to replace it in order for the gate hardware (actually, the newly-installed gate hardware) to close properly.
I took the fence panel off and came up with a game plan to fix it, but I wasn’t in a huge hurry since I was busy working on lots of other projects all winter. In years past, I’ve used a bag of quick-dry concrete to set posts, so the plan was to buy a new 4×4, set it, reattach the hardware, and done (you actually don’t even need to separately mix the concrete… you literally pour the bag into the hole and water it down, poke it a few times to make sure the water mixes well enough, and stabilize the post so that it’s level — not a difficult DIY at all, just heavy). But as I made one of my usual supply runs to my local Orange, I spotted this little display:
According to the product’s packaging:
- This new product could fix my fence without the inconvenience of carrying around 50 pound bags of concrete through the store — “effectively replaces two 50 lb. bags of concrete mix.” Since I don’t like carrying heavy stuff unless it’s part of an obstacle course race, this was a selling point for me.
- The two components that are separated in the bag, once popped and mixed for about 20 seconds, form an expanding polyurethane resin that you pour it into the hole; in just 3 minutes, the product expands around the post and stabilizes it.
Given that I also love trying out new DIY products and being the guinea pig to see if something *really* works or not, I figured it would make for a really cool experiment. For around 3x the price (online it says it’s now cheaper, but I remember spending a little more in person, so hopefully that’s just an indicator of it becoming more price competitive), it was more expensive than the bag of concrete I’d initially planned to use, but I liked the idea of trying it out and picked it up anyway. Could it really work?
The short answer: no. Not for me. But hey, I have cool pictures!
With the weather warming back up (and dry), the temperature was right to finally give it a try. I started by cleaning out the existing hole that contained the original post (any softer dirt, debris and such — Georgia’s red clay is pretty hard to begin with, but spring rain had caused some mud at the bottom of the hole). It may not look it from this photo, but the hole I started with was deep enough for the usual concrete that I would have poured otherwise (probably two-ish bags). I didn’t see the same details specifically on the bag, but an online video that I found for this product says the hole should be 8 inches in diameter and one third of the length of the post should be in the ground (which is a good bit deeper than I was used to digging if I were using concrete, so it was a little more prep work given how hard Georgia clay is).
I popped the bag and did a quick shimmy to get the two components to mix (note: there’s a very short window of time for this, about 20-30 seconds), then snipped a corner with some scissors and started pouring it into the post hole. The goop almost instantly started foaming up before I could snap a few pictures with my phone, which was pretty cool to watch. Over the next few minutes, I monitored the expansion and made sure the post stayed level (a post level would have been even better to use, but since I didn’t feel like making another trip to the store, two levels measuring both directions worked in a pinch).
I stood around for another ten minutes, watching the foam expand even further and even above ground (according to package directions, you can just trim off excess after it’s hardened). You’re supposed to let things cure additionally for another two hours before attaching anything to the post, but I had other things to tackle the rest of the afternoon, so I let it be for the rest of the day.
I gave it a few test wiggles that evening (well after the 2-hour “fully hardened” window on the packaging), which proved disappointing. The product wasn’t super stable around the post, and as you can see in the photo above, had even pulled away from the post while it expanded. I was still outside working on a few other things, and I could clearly see the post swaying slightly in the wind. I chose to leave it overnight and decide whether or not to re-attach the fence panel the next day.
The next afternoon, I pushed on the post. While it didn’t fall over, it still wiggled at the slightest nudge — nothing like the secure stability of setting the post in concrete that I was used to. I guess one could argue not to expect they’d be exactly similar, except that the video I watched about the product literally had a guy climbing onto and hanging off the post as a demonstration of its strength. In my case, it took just a few more strong nudges, and the whole thing came right up out of the ground. Womp, womp.
Reasons Why It Might Not Have Worked
As with most product reviews, there are always two elements at play when things go wrong: either the product doesn’t live up to expectations/advertising, or user error (or well, I guess they’re not mutually exclusive, so both). I pick out products like these to avoid needing more time or effort, so I considered the other possibilities for why it might have failed. Perhaps the hole I dug was still not deep enough (the foam only came up out of the ground a little, similar to what I’d seen in the video, so it looked plenty deep enough for the equivalent in concrete that it’s supposed to replace). Perhaps the ground around the hole wasn’t dry enough (the product’s packaging didn’t really say much about water except to remove any standing water in the hole, and any loose soil had already been cleared out). So, while I’m sure I’d learn even more from trying it a second time, I’d had enough of my experiment. I certainly think it’s cool when new products come out, and I’m willing to try them, but if the original way was both pretty much fool-proof and cheaper, I consider this product disappointing, but at least I now know.
UPDATE: Since there seems to be an issue with a (small) handful of commenters not reading the paragraph above where I acknowledge the possibility that not all outdoor conditions are created equal and why the product might have worked for others but not worked for me, I’m going to repeat myself a little (sigh — to the rest of you awesome readers, I’m sorry that people like this ruin everyone’s good time… I have zero patience when spammy, mansplain-y commenters would rather talk over me than read the information in the post that directly addresses their point): products sometimes don’t work for everyone and in every scenario. It sucks, but it’s also okay — it’s kind of what I’m used to with DIY (and it’s sometimes fun). If it works for you, I think that’s awesome. Continue buying whatever products work for you. There are a few different expanding foam products out on the market like this, so your results might actually vary depending on the manufacturer too (I linked to a video of the product I used, but just note that there are a few I’ve seen listed online). Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this product based on this experience. And for what it’s worth, I had an experienced helper trying this out with me who had the same opinion as I did after seeing it come loose.
The foam is easy to remove — I just hacked at it with a reciprocating saw and dumped the pieces. I noticed while removing it that the air pocket around the post was actually more than I thought; somehow, the resin didn’t stick in one spot around the post, which probably contributed to its lack of stability.
With the foam shorn off, I grabbed an ol’ reliable bag of concrete and reset the post. Even though it took about fifteen minutes longer (well, a day of trying the other product and then fifteen minutes) to set enough to feel comfortable walking away, for me, concrete is the way I’ll go from now on.
This post has gone on long enough, but there’s more that needed to still be done to get my fence and gate fixed up, so I’ll save that for part 2. And if you saw on Instagram, even more was accomplished elsewhere over the same weekend (remember this project?). More of that is coming as quickly as I can edit the photos!
P.S. In case you’re wondering, this wasn’t a sponsored post or anything, merely something I saw in store and wanted to try out. I know how it is when you see a new product and wonder if it’s worth the extra cost compared to the alternative — which is often cheaper, but more labor intensive — so from time to time, I let my house test things out. In years past, manufacturers have even reached out later to let me know these posts have helped them improve products that don’t work out, so I hope you found this helpful too!