Summary: Learn how to erect a close-board fence, install fence posts, fix the arris rails to the posts and fit the featherboards.
Fences can be up to 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.
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. Fence posts can be secured in the ground with concrete or metal post spikes. Here we are looking at how to construct a close-board fence with the posts concreted into the ground.
- 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.
- Generally the posts should be positioned 1.8m (6ft) apart. Cut a batten to a length that corresponds to this length and use it to measure where each fence post will be located. 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. Use a spirit level to check that the post is vertical.
- 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. Leave the posts for a week to allow the concrete to set hard before fixing the arris rails in place.
Fixing the arris rails to the posts
An arris rail is a triangular shaped beam that fits horizontally between the fence posts. In the past close-board fences have been constructed with the arris rails mortised into the posts. Today it is much easier to use metal arris rail brackets that are screwed to the posts. For a 1.8m (6ft) high close-board fence you will need two arris rails. One should be fixed about 300mm (1ft) from the ground, the other a similar distance from the top of the posts.
- Before fixing the arris rails to the posts screw lengths of gravel board to the bottom of the fence. Gravel board is treated timber about 180mm (7in) wide and 25mm (1in) thick and is used to keep the bottom of fence panels and featherboards off the ground.
- Screw the gravel boards to the front of the posts using a spirit level to ensure they are level.
- Fix two arris-rail brackets to the first post – one at the top and one about a foot from the bottom. Make sure that when the arris rails are slotted into the brackets the face of the arris rail is flush with the front face of the post.
- Slot the end of an arris rail into the lower bracket. Use a spirit level to check that the rail is horizontal and mark the position of the bracket on the second post.
- Fix the lower bracket on the second post and screw the end of the rail into the bracket. Do the same for the upper arris rail.
- Continue until all the arris rails are fixed to the posts.
Fixing the featherboards
- Fix the first featherboard to the front of the first post with its thick edge square with the end of the post. Nail it to the top of the post and use a spirit level to check that it is vertical before nailing it at the bottom.
- The featherboards should overlap by 15mm (5/8 in). To measure the correct amount of overlap you can make a simple width gauge from a small piece of wood cut 15mm (5/8 in) shorter than the width of the featherboards.
- With one end of the width gauge held in line with thick edge of the first featherboard, position the second featherboard against the end of the gauge. The thick edge of the second board should overlap the thin edge of the first.
- Check that the tops of the two boards are in line and nail the top of the second featherboard in position, driving the nail through both boards and into the arris rail.
- Check that second board is vertical and nail it at the bottom.
- Continue along the fence in the same manner until all the featherboards are in place.
- To protect the end grain nail post caps to the top of the posts.
- String line
- Spirit level
- Claw hammer
- Fence posts
- Metal post spikes
- Arris rails
- Arris rail brackets
- Gravel boards
- Post caps
- Wood preserver
- Sharp sand
- Coarse aggregate
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