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    Erecting a panel fence

    Summary: Learn how to erect a panel fence, install fence posts and attach fence panels.

    Fences can be used as a decorative boundary or to give security and privacy. Fences can be 2m (6ft 6in) high without planning permission unless you are in a listed area. Planning permission is also needed if the fence is above 1m (3ft 3in) and faces onto a public highway or pavement. You may choose to build a traditional post-and-rail fence or a solid timber wall. The most popular fence is made from panels consisting of overlapping boards fixed between vertical posts. It is the construction of this type of fence that we cover below.

    Installing fence posts

    Posts can be made from timber, concrete or metal, but as timber is the most popular choice for a garden, we will focus on fitting timber posts.

    • To make sure your posts are in a straight line, run a string along the length that the fence-line will follow. Ensure the string is taut.
    • Dig the hole for the first post. If you are fixing posts for 1.8 m (6ft) fence panels, dig the holes 600mm (2ft) deep and about 300x300mm (12 x12 in). If the first post is situated up against a wall it can be bolted to the wall. Use a spirit level to ensure it is vertical.
    • Cut a batten to a length that corresponds to the width of fence panels and use this to measure where each fence post will be located. Fence panels are generally 1.8m (6ft) wide. Mark the position of each fence post.
    • Dig each post hole. Compacted hardcore should be added to each hole to a depth of 100mm (4in).
    • Apply wood preserver to the cut ends of the posts before putting them in the holes.
    • Place the first post in the hole and carefully address the front of the post to the string line without pushing the string out of position.
    • The concrete mix needed to secure each post should be of a stiff consistency.
      1 x cement
      2.5 x sharp sand
      3.5 x coarse aggregate 
    • Fill the hole up to the surface with the concrete to secure the post in place. Force the concrete into the hole with a piece of batten. If you wish to conceal the concrete with gravel or turf later on, do not fill right up to the surface with concrete. Slope the last layer of concrete to allow rainwater to run away from the post.
    • Once the post is in position, nail a batten on either side of the post to support it. Continue with the next post in line until all the posts are in position. When using concrete to fix the fence posts in the ground, it is advisable to delay attaching the fence panels for a week to allow it to set.

    If erecting a fence on a slope, you may need to lengthen your fence posts to ensure the top remains level.


    Attaching fence panels

    • Attach the bottom of the panels to the posts roughly 100mm (4in) above the ground to prevent rising damp. You can either nail the panels to the posts or use panel clips fixed to the top, middle and base of the posts, which you simply slide the panels into.
    • Whichever method you use to fix the panels to the post ensure the top of the panel is level.
    • If the fence is built on a slope, step the panels at regular intervals to accommodate the falling ground.
    • To finish, nail post caps to the top of the posts. If the panels do not have integral capping strips, fitting these will prolong the life of your fence.

    You can use nails to attach the panels but remember to ensure the top of the panel is level. 

    If using panel clips, fix them to the top, middle and base of the posts and slide the panels in. Ensure the top of the panel is level.

    Post caps and capping strip will prolong the life of your fence and give a neat finish.

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    Tools Needed
    • String line
    • Spade
    • Spirit level
    • Shovel
    • Claw hammer
    Materials Needed
    • Fence posts
    • Fence panels
    • Batten
    • Hardcore
    • Wood preserver
    • Cement
    • Sharp sand
    • Coarse aggregate
    • Nails OR panel clips
    • Post caps
    • Capping strips
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