How to build a fence
If you want to build a fence or other kind of garden separation, it’s a good idea to first think about what you want:
- What requirements do you want the fence to meet?
- What influence will the fence have on your garden or house?
- Look carefully at the effects on light entry and shadow
- Will the fence need to be strong enough to resist impacts, for example from children or dogs?
- Do you want the fence to be closed, or should it allow light entry?
- It’s always a good idea to consult your neighbors, and find out what they think. You might even be able to share the costs!
You may need to apply for a permit before you can build a fence. If you’re unsure, then check first with your local authority
Types of fence
A wire fence can be installed quite quickly, and is one of the lowest-cost and easiest-to-maintain fence types.
Baskets of stones
Using metal baskets filled with stones or bark is an increasingly popular method for making garden separations. It’s easy to make this kind of fence yourself, but a strong foundation is essential if you intend to fill the baskets with stones.
Fence with a hedge
It’s simple to install a natural hedge, although it needs to be pruned regularly. These plants and shrubs make an idea hedge: for example ivy on wire mesh, conifers, buxus, beech and pine. However it offers less protection against unwanted visitors than other types of fence.
Wood is a natural material in a garden environment, and is well suited for making fences. You can choose from different kinds of wood; from European wood to exotic grades. The cost and the installation method depend mainly on the desired height and construction of the fence.
Decide where you want to place the fence and make the ground surface as flat as possible. Measure out the length of the fence and where the center and end-posts need to be placed. Divide these into equal sections. The end-posts are placed at the ends of the horizontal planks, which have lengths of 4 meters. First make an overall drawing, and then decide which materials you will need and of which lengths. Once you know where the fence will be placed, you can mark out the height of 1.80 meters. Use a cord to ensure all the posts are in a nice straight line.
Standard garden fences
You can find a choice of different types of fence section and materials in garden centers. Most of these have fixed lengths and heights, and vary in quality and price.
Double vertical planks
A fence made of double vertical planks gives a spacious effect together with good privacy, and lets wind pass through freely. Choose planks and posts made of planed and impregnated pine or other garden wood. The horizontal planks are 1.8x14.5x400 cm, and the vertical planks are 1.8x14.5x180 cm. The posts are 6.8x6.8x270 cm.
Spacing of the planks
Place the fence posts at gaps of 4 meters, with intermediate posts every 2 meters. Remember that all the vertical planks should have the same spacing and also have a lengths of 4 meters. Then fit the planks on the other side of the fence to fill the open gaps. To secure the vertical planks, fit 3 horizontal cross-members to the posts on one side (bottom, middle and top). You can use planks of the same size as the vertical planks, only the length differs. You then screw the vertical planks to these horizontal cross-members.
How many planks do you need?
For example: you’ve decided to make the fence 180 cm high. If you use 1.8 x 14.5 cm wide fence planks with a spacing of 7 cm, you’ll need 5 planks per meter at the front, and 4 plants per meter at the rear. That makes a total of 9 planks per meter length of the fence. So if the length of the fence is 12 meters. for example, you’ll need 9 x 12 = 108 vertical planks of 180 cm. For the 3 horizontal cross-members (bottom, middle and top) you’ll need 3 planks of 4 meters for each section. A fence of 12 meters long consists of 3 sections, so that makes a total of 9 horizontal planks of 4 meters.
Allow a few extra vertical planks for waste or to cover any unexpected requirements. Use 4 x 30 mm stainless steel or galvanized screws to fix the planks. The number of screws that you need for the horizontal cross-members is: 3 x 3 screws per plank x 9 = 81 screws. And for the vertical plank you’ll need: 108 x 3 = 324. Total: 81 + 324 = 405 screws.
To indicate the positions of the fence posts, mark out along the outside of the cord (for example using small marker posts). This is because the markings that you originally made on the cord will no longer be easily visible when you dig the holes for the posts. Fitting the fence posts is a lot easier and quicker if you have someone else to help you. That makes it a lot easier to fit the long horizontal cross-beams, for example, and to drive the fence posts into the ground.
Digging the holes for the posts
You start by placing the corner posts. Dig a narrow hole of 60 to 80 cm deep with a narrow spade or ground drill. To ensure the post is firm, you should dig right down into the solid ground. If the ground is dry, it’s a good idea to first moisten it to make it easier to dig or drill the holes. You can also get galvanized post holders which you can drive directly into the ground.
Preventing rotting of the posts
The posts should be treated to a height of 10 cm above ground level to prevent rotting of the wood. You can get different kinds of preservatives or bitumen to protect the wood. Or you can use acrylic resin, which is completely waterproof after hardening. Another alternative to prevent rotting is to place the posts in a PVC pipe of a larger diameter.
Placing the posts
Place the post in the hole on the centerline of the markings. Using a step-ladder, carefully drive the post into the ground with a sledgehammer until the top of the post is at the same height as the cord. Check with the spirit level that the post is still vertical after each blow of the hammer. If the post goes out of alignment while you are driving it in, so it is no longer properly square, you can correct it using an adhesive clamp at the center of the post. Always wear working gloves to protect your hands from splinters.
You can fix the post in place using concrete mix. Prepare the mix and pour it into the hole. The proportions are: 1 kg of course sand, 1 kg of gravel and 0.5 kg of cement. You can also use pour quick‑drying dry mortar out of a bag into the hole, and then add water. Make sure the post remains vertical and properly aligned. Check this with a spirit level or a plumb-line. Finally, stamp the fence post firmly into the ground with the handle of the sledgehammer.
Place the intermediate posts along the center of the fence, following the markings as indicated. If necessary you can run a cord between the two end-posts and make sure that the tops of all the posts are in line.
Horizontal spirit level
To make sure the tops of all the posts are in line, use a pipe level or transparent garden hose filled the water. Make sure there are no air bubbles in the garden hose. If this doesn’t work, you can always saw the tops of the posts to the right height afterwards.
Fitting the horizontal planks
Start with the bottom horizontal plank and screw it into place just above ground level. Check that it is properly horizontal with the spirit level. Pre-drill the screw holes first to prevent splitting of the wood. Use 3 screws per joint. Then fit the top plank, followed by the center plank. Make sure you fit the planks accurately, and check that they are all horizontal with the spirit level.
Using adhesive clamps as an ‘extra hand’
It’s easier to fit the planks if you first secure them with adhesive clamps before you screw them in place. It’s best to fit the fence sections one at a time, because there’s always a chance that you’ve made a mistake with the measurements.
Fitting the vertical planks at the front
Start with the first vertical plank on the most noticeable side, for example next to the house. Always use the spirit level or plumb-line to check. It helps if you make a few wooden spacers of about 7 cm long and place these between one plank and the next. Check the spacing between the planks regularly, because the width of the planks can vary.
Fitting the vertical planks at the rear side
After fitting the planks at the front, start back at the beginning and draw out a centerline in the space between the already installed front planks and the new row of planks at the rear. This determined the position of the center of the first plank at the rear side of the fence. It’s a good idea to draw out all the center points of the planks as a check. Then check that everything is straight and properly aligned with the spirit level or plumb-line.
It can be useful to install a gate in the fence. The standard width is 90 cm, and the height is the same as that of the fence. For extra strength and to prevent flexing, fit two diagonal planks at an angle of 45°. The posts for the gate are fitted in the same way as those of the fence itself. You’ll need: hinges, a latch or lock with a key, and nuts and bolts. If necessary use two longer posts at the left and right, and fit a connecting cross-beam to divide the weight of the gate.
Finish the posts with end-caps to prevent the entry of rainwater which leads to rotting of the wood. As an alternative, use a piece of roofing felt fixed with nails, or saw the top of the post an angle.