A proper silt fence installation is much more complex than people think – and more than manuals specify.
In the past and in many areas today, silt fence is spoken about in one or two sentences and a couple of bullet points. Since it is rarely installed properly, people don’t give it due credit nor understand its potential.
Properly installed silt fence is the most effective temporary sediment control device available. It can withstand concentrated flows (not to be confused with continuous flows), heavy winds, and potentially retain 18 inches of sediment – often times 10-20 tons of sediment per run of fence. It is relatively fast to install so it can go in on short notice, inexpensive, and the posts are recyclable.
However, it is somewhat better utilized for open construction and residential development sites than individual home lots under construction. For maximum effectiveness, any sediment retention device must filter sediment contained in runoff or pond water for deposition/sedimentation to occur, and that is harder to achieve on an individual lot with busy construction traffic.
A proper silt fence installation is like a log chain, if one link is broken, the whole system is ineffective. Silt fence installation has 6 links to be effective: placement, quantity, installation, compaction, posting, and attachment.
And that is one of the two most common problems of silt fence: 1) improper placement where ponding cannot occur, and 2) installation issues such as lack of proper backfill and proper compaction.