Erecting a Wooden Panel fence (also known as close board fencing) along the boundary to your property is not only good for privacy and security, if done properly and maintained well, it can also add to the appeal of your home. Wooden panel fencing is one of the easiest types of fencing to install, as long as you follow some basic planning and fitting rules.
Before erecting any type of boundary fencing, check that you know where your boundary runs and only erect the fence inside the boundary of your property.
Measuring and Marking Out the Fence
The first thing you need to do is to mark out the line of the fence. Drive a wooden stake into the ground at each end of the fence run and tie a taut string between them. You can now work off of this string to ensure that the fence runs in line. If your boundary is not straight, break the run down into smaller straight sections and repeat the marking out process for each section.
Digging The Post Holes
You can dig out post holes using a narrow shovel or a small hand trowel, but if you have a lot of holes to dig it is a good idea to hire or buy a Post-Hole Auger. This circular-bladed tool is twisted into the ground at the point where the post will sit, and then pulled out to remove a neat circle of soil. It is best to drive it in about 150mm before pulling it out and repeating until the hole is deep enough.
Using a post-hole auger has the advantage of keeping the sides of the post hole quite solid, adding support to the post and concrete placed in the hole.
The depth and size of the post holes depends a lot on the height of the fence. As a general rule, try to make sure that the post holes are at least as deep as a quarter of the height that will be above ground. E.g. if the fence is 1.6m high, the post hole should be at least 400mm deep.
If the soil surrounding the posts is not tightly packed, you should consider increasing the depth slightly. The holes also need to be at least twice the width of the post to allow a good footing of concrete. The first and last holes can be made slightly bigger so that you have a larger lump of concrete around them, especially if the end posts are not going to be fixed to a wall or other solid structure.
Erecting The Fence Posts
Ram a layer of hardcore into the bottom of the hole (broken bricks, etc) to give the post some extra support. Slot the post into the hole and brace it using lengths of wood driven into ground at an angle and clamped or nailed to the post. An extra pair of hands to hold the post while you do this is helpful. Ensure the post is upright and not twisted in the hole before securing the braces.
Ram some more hardcore around the bottom of the post and then get ready to add the concrete. Quick-setting post mix is best, as this can be tipped into the hole dry with the water added afterwards. Always follow the manufacturers instructions carefully when using post mix.
If you don’t have post mix, make a general purpose concrete mix and add this to the hole. Always build up the concrete above the level of the surrounding ground and shape it to slope away from the post. This helps water to run off and not pool around the post, which will speed up rotting of the wood. Let the concrete harden properly before removing the supporting braces.
Measure the width of your fence panels and measure that distance from the first post. Make a clear mark on the ground to show where to dig the second post hole. It is best to measure the first gap, get a post in place, and then measure to the next post position.
Working along like this rather than measuring out all in one go will reduce the risk of mistakes in post distance. As each post is positioned and braced in its hole, make sure you check the distance to the previous post both at the top and bottom, and also check that the tops of the posts are level by holding a length of wood across the top of the posts and checking with a spirit level.
Fixing the Fence Panels
When fixing the panels to the fence posts, you need to make sure that the bottom of the panel does not directly touch the ground. Having the panels touch the ground will mean that they will rot far sooner and you will quickly start to have problems, even with treated timber. Either fit gravel boards to the bottom of the panel or leave a 50mm gap between the bottom of the panel and the ground.
Use a couple of 50mm thick offcuts of wood to prop under the panel as you hold it in place between the posts (which should always be left to set properly). Again, an extra pair of hands here will make things a lot easier. When you have it in place, nail through the end of the panel into the fence post.
Use 90-100mm galvanised nails driven in from both side of the panel if possible. Always remember to check that the panels are level along the top and upright and in line with the middle of the posts.
If Working On a Slope
If you are working on a slope, you will need to take a couple of things into account when working out how the fencing will run. The posts and panels still need to be upright and level, but both the posts and the panels will need to be stepped to follow the slope of the ground.
This can be tricky to work out, so the easiest way to deal with a slope is to use slightly longer posts which can be cut off at the top once everything is in place. Try to keep the steps in the posts and panels even if possible.