A fence is of course, a very popular way of marking a boundary and compared to a wall, it’s a lot cheaper to erect too. Here’s a little tip before you start. What we did here, was remove any small plants and put them in containers so that they wouldn’t get flattened as we put the fence up. With that in mind, best time to erect a fence is in autumn or in early spring. Oh, and do talk to your neighbors as well because it’s inevitable that you’ll be jumping from one garden to the next. It’s just good common courtesy.
Let me talk you through what we’ve done first. First up, we strung out a string nice and straight to determine where our fence is actually going to go. Then, using these bamboo canes, we’ve marked out where our posts are going to go. The panels that we’re using are a standard 1.83 meters wide, or 6 foot. The canes are that far apart plus 10 cm to allow for the posts. With our canes in position to determine where our posts are going to go, time to start digging.
Fencing really is a 2 person job. We’ve already done 4 posts and we’re now working on the 5th. Let me explain how it works. Quite simply, we’re digging to a depth of 450 millimeters. That’s a standard depth for most fence panels, (which you’ll get from any good fencing company in your area) although on soft ground you might want to dig deeper and use a longer post. You can use a post spike like this which you simply bang into the ground with a hammer, but on stony ground, which is what we’ve got here, it tends to go a little bit skewed, so we’re going to concrete ours in.
We soaked the base of the posts overnight in a bucket of wood preservative. Obviously the posts are already treated, but doing this extends the life of them even further. You might need to use gloves when handling the wood preservative, so always check what the manufacturer suggests on the label. To make sure that we get the posts level all the way along the run, not only are we digging to the same depth, 450 millimeters, but sometimes it can be a little difficult to get that bang on. What we really are using here is a guideline across the top of the posts. We’ve attached it to the 2 end posts over the top, then we’ve made sure that it’s level using a spirit level, then when we put our post in the whole, we’re checking that the top of the posts finishes just below the line.
To make sure that our posts are bolt upright, and that’s obviously important, here’s where our spirit level comes in again. Working on two sides, that’s really important. You just check it level and this is where your partner comes in now, hammering pegs into the bottom to support the post temporarily. We’re not concreting yet. All we’re doing is using these support posts to keep the post in the position that we want. We work like this all along the run. Then, triple check your measurements. Go along checking the bottom. It’s in line, checking that it’s level on the top. That each post is completely upright, all the pegs are in firmly. Once you’ve done that, time to get your panels on.
What we’ve done to hold the panels in place is fix these neat little fencing clips on. We’ve got one at the top and one at the bottom of both side where our panel’s going to go. 150 millimeters down from the top of where we want our panel to finish at the top and 150 millimeters up from the bottom. These make a really neat job and they’re so much better than just hammering in a nail which could split the wood. They’re also useful because if you accidentally break a panel, you can slide it out and pop a new one in. That’d be your side.
Slide it in. Don’t forget, some fencing panels and posts are made with roughly finished timber, so wear protective gloves when you’re handling them. Brilliant. You may find that you need a third pair of hands when it comes to putting the panel into position and screwing it to the post clips. That’s when a brick comes in. Simply, drop it underneath and it will hold it for you temporarily like that.
Before fixing the panels, you’ll need to raise them about 50 millimeters from the ground so they don’t rot. You could fix in a gravel border at the bottom of the fence. This is a treated piece of timber which is again used to raise the fence off the ground. If a whole panel won’t fit the space that your left with at the end, you’ll have to cut one down to size. At the side edge of the panel, carefully remove the framing buttons on the front and the back then slide them along to the required width. Re-fix them on both sides of the panel and use the edge of the buttons as a guide to saw down the panel to the right size.
Because Loretta and I can’t stand here holding these posts for 5 hours or more, we’re using rapid setting cement which will set in about 5 to 10 minutes. Now, it does kick up a lot of dust, so you will need to use goggles and a face mask. Before you put the concrete in the hole, go around again. Sorry to be pedantic to check that everything is okay. Check that the posts are in line with the guidelines, both top and bottom and the posts are upright. Once you put the concrete in, there’s no going back. Different products call for different techniques, but ultimately most post mixes are mixed in the hole, not on a motor board. Okay, pop these two on, then a little bit of water please.
If you probably about half fill the hole with water. Now we’ll put our first bit of post mix in. Got your goggles on? I found it easier to actually to empty the post mix into a bucket, because doing it from the bag often means it just ends up everywhere. Then, just like you’re making a cake, you go and you mix the water and the post mix together. You’ll probably find that each post needs about 3/4 to a full bag. Might want a little bit more in there, then once it comes up to about an inch below the soil line, we’ll wait for it to dry a little bit then, we’ll trowel out ever so gently so that we put a little slop on it to the post so that water runs away from the post and it doesn’t rot. Do you want to get me some more post mix?
Thanks. I’ve left the base of this post clear, so that I can show you what I mean about troweling out to the post. As you can see, the concrete is now set hard and I’ve just got in with a trowel and created a little sort of mountain you might say, so that the water doesn’t collect down by the base of the post, it just runs off into the soil in double quick time. We left our fence posts a lot longer than our fence panels and now you can see why, because we’ve got these strips of trellis along the top. They’re perfect for climbing plants. The final finishing touch we’re going to do is put a post cap on. These aren’t 100% essential because these are treated posts after all, but a post cap will prolong the life of the wood. Loretta has put a nice blob of brown sealant on the underside. We’re going to then put that on top to get a really good, watertight seal, then simply screw it down.
We’ve just used a standard treated fence panel here, which we’re going to allow to weather to a lovely light gray color. You could use wood preservative or even some fence paint for a contemporary look.