Building a garden fence

Posted: Monday 11 March 2013
by James Alexander-Sinclair

There is something very satisfying about a sturdy, well-built fence.

Cedar fence

A fortnight ago I wrote about paving and terraces - thank you to all of those who commented. I am following up with another subject which has nothing at all to do with plants, but affects many of us: fences. Most people have a fence or boundary somewhere in their garden.

There is something very satisfying about a sturdy, well-built fence. Many years ago, when I was a contractor in London, we put up a lot of fences and it was a process that I very much enjoyed (except when it was raining and miserable).

If your fences are a bit ramshackle, held up by bits of string or leaning exhausted against a convenient tree, then early spring is a good time to sort them out.

First you need to establish who owns the fence. If you are lucky there will be some indication on your house deeds. Failing that, the general rule is if the posts are on your side of the boundary, the fence is yours. However, it is best to have a chat with your neighbours before you start laying into the thing. They may have precious plants on their side, or vicious dogs that will not take kindly to you wandering into their garden.

Fencing is quite hard work, but relatively straightforward. Here are some important points to remember:

  • Make sure the line is straight - you don’t want your fence to be weaving down the garden like a drunk at closing time.

  • Dig your post holes deep enough, at least 60cm for a 1.8m-high fence. Make sure the concrete is well tamped down all around the posts.

  • Try not to use too much concrete. Bear in mind, if you have too much it cuts down your planting space. This is particularly important in a small garden.

  • Don’t attach the panels to the posts until the concrete is properly dry.

There are a number of different sorts of wooden fence. The most readily available are larchlap panel fences, which you can get in pretty much every garden centre and DIY shed. They vary in quality, so pay as much as you can afford and try to avoid the very orange ones (that look as if they have been dipped in fake tan). Personally, I prefer closeboard or featheredge fences to larchlap - they are more robust and require fewer posts.

There are, of course, many other choices of fence, from rustic-looking hazel or willow hurdles, to more modern styles. The fence pictured is made of cedar slats, it not only looks good, but smells lovely too. However, if you spend too much time sniffing fences your neighbours may get a bit concerned and stop talking to you.

It may just be a fence, but it takes up a lot of space in the garden and is worthy of a bit of thought. I promise I will return to plants next time we meet.

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Talkback: Building a garden fence
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Lynn3 11/03/2013 at 17:33

Also, don't forget that if you live in a Conservation Area or in a Listed property the fence you put back must be the same as the one you take out other wise you will need planning permission.
The same applies to height. You can't make a fence taller without applying for planning permission. See my post on the Independent property blog:

Chris 43 26/03/2015 at 18:01

You mention about not using too much concrete, especially in small gardens - but you need to use the recommended amount to ensure the fence holds firm. Another option that requires no concrete at all, are Fence Fins. They're a new invention - metal braces that are simply hammered to the post and sit under the ground holding the fence against the force of the wind due to their unique shape. They're invisible after installation and you can plant right up to the fence. Have a look on the website.

nutcutlet 26/03/2015 at 18:22