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How To Install A Wooden Fence

by Martha Simmonds
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If you’re replacing an existing domestic wooden garden or perimeter fence, the chances are you will be working with either Closeboard or Overlap fencing panels, the most commonly used wooden fencing types in the UK. These are widely available from a variety of reputable suppliers with Closeboard, constructed of overlapping vertical slats being the more robust option and Overlap, made from horizontal overlapping slats offering similar levels of privacy but with slightly less robust construction. Either option can be installed in similar ways as our following guide shows.

Planning, Planning, Planning

As with any major DIY task, a successful, cost-effective outcome is always preceded by effective planning and this is certainly true of such a potentially complex and expensive undertaking as building a new fence.

Firstly, you need to ascertain exactly which type and size of the fence you require. Is it a like for like replacement of an existing fence or are you looking to beef up security and privacy? In which case you might need to check with the local council if you need planning permission or even whether the fence is yours to replace in the first place.

If you need to demolish an existing fence, how quickly will you be able to replace it? Will you need to provide interim security or a makeshift fence to protect either you or your neighbours’ animals or children or to maintain security? And when it comes to discarding the existing fence waste, will you hire a dumpster from your local area or pay someone to collect it?

And once you have decided which type of wooden fence you require you also need to decide how the fence will be supported. Do you go for wood or concrete posts and how will these be fixed? You will need to measure the perimeter correctly to ensure you order the right number of panels, posts and all the other materials required for construction such as concrete post mix or U shaped panel fixings.

Get The Right Tools

There’s nothing more frustrating than deciding to embark on a task, only to discover you have the wrong or inadequate tools to complete the task properly. Trying to improvise invariably leads to jobs taking additional time to complete or the quality of the tasks themselves being compromised.

If you are planning on erecting a wooden fence, you are likely to need to use the following tools:

A spirit level will ensure each of the posts you place into the ground is level as well as the fence panels themselves. This simple tool is one of the most important to use to ensure your final fence looks straight and level across the whole run.

Digging tools. If you’re putting up any fencing, you’re invariably going to need to dig some holes for the posts or the post supports and the good news is there’s a variety of great tools available for this purpose. Picks, spades and forks are the obvious choices and most of us have these somewhere in the shed.

If you don’t, make sure you invest in the best quality implements you can afford as strong, sharp tools will make a massive difference to the amount of time and effort you will need to invest in making the post holes. In addition, there are specialist fencing tools also available that might prove a worthwhile investment especially if you have a lot of fencing panels to install. These tools include post hole diggers and specially shaped post hole spades.

A tape measure and some string and small pegs will help ensure you mark out your run of fencing correctly and that you are able to properly space out your posts.

If using wooden posts, you will also require a saw or power saw to trim post heights as well as some additional all-purpose exterior wood preserver, as even if your posts and panels are already protected when you saw posts the ends will be re-exposed and require additional protection.

For attaching U-shaped stainless steel clips to the posts and panels you will also require a hammer as well as a screwdriver or electric screwdriver, with electric being a preference (and sound investment) as manually screwing in screws can be very time consuming and hard on the hands, especially if you have a few dozen to put in.

Getting Started

First off, use the string and pegs to mark out a straight line where the fence will be going. Also, use to mark any bends accurately. Now it’s time to dig the first hole – either to house a concrete or wooden post or to support a metal spike-type post holder.

For post, holders make a pilot hole first then place a piece of appropriately sized scrap timber into the socket of the metal spike and drive into the ground with a sledgehammer. Do this until the socket is level with the ground and check with a spirit level.

If you are fixing posts in concrete, the holes for your posts should be around three times as wide as the post and each hole needs to be at least 2ft deep. Following your string line, dig a hole for each post with a post spade or a post-hole borer and so you don’t have to lift a heavy, bulky panel into position each time when you move to the next post, cut a simple piece of wood to the same width as each fence panel to use as a guide.

When the post is in place, line the base of the hole with hardcore or stone to support the end of the posts. Then you can either mix your own concrete or, better still, use a bespoke post concrete mix following closely the instructions on the bag. When it dries concrete shrinks so make sure the concrete is just above ground level, troweling the surface smooth and at an angle so rainwater simply runs off.

Make sure each post is vertical on two adjacent sides using a spirit level, then make sure you prop it up securely with wooden battens whilst the concrete sets. Be careful you don’t knock or disturb the setting post in any way. The good news is that premix concrete sets really quickly – in just a few minutes – so if you work quickly you can get several posts into the ground without having to wait around much.

As the posts are set, make sure they are all aligned as well as being fully upright and the spirit level is invaluable here. The concrete needs to harden for a least 60 minutes or so before you should attempt attaching any panels.

Remember to ensure fencing panels are kept at least 10cms from the ground to prevent rot, alternatively, you can use gravel boards under the panels to achieve this. For wooden posts, you can attach panels to the posts using an appropriate amount of U-shaped post clips.

Make sure the post clips and screws are all made from stainless steel or galvanised to ensure there’s no threat of rust. With concrete posts which are usually slotted, you don’t require fixings as the panels are simply inserted into the slots (which is another reason why the spirit level and proper planning are so important!).

If you’re using wooden posts, trim the top of each one when in place so they all end up the same height and finish with a decorative and protective screw-on post cap.

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