Erecting Fences For Beginners

Posts in holes

The traditional way to put up fence posts is to dig the holes for them. The best way is to use a post-hole borer which makes a smaller and neater hole than digging with a spade. Post-hole borers can be hired and in this case it is a good idea to make all the holes before setting in any posts, in order to keep the hire period as short as possible. Use a piece of wood the length of a panel as a gauge to ensure that the holes are the correct distance apart.

Make the holes slightly deeper than actually necessary so that each post can be stood on a brick as this will help to reduce rotting. Hold each post so that it is square to the line of the fence and vertical in both directions. Put a straight batten across the post tops to ensure that all posts are set into the ground an equal amount. Put additional packing pieces under those which are too low. Hold each post in place by ramming bricks and rubble into the hole. While the rubble is being added, the posts can be temporarily strutted with lengths of timber at an angle.

Post supports

To save making post holes metal post supports can be used. Some types have a tilt-and-turn adjustment which is useful for getting the posts exactly vertical after the post support has been driven into the ground. With the non-adjustable type great care has to be taken to ensure that the support is driven accurately into the ground. There is a driving tool with a tommy-bar handle which makes this task much easier. When the metal post support is in the ground the post is dropped into the socket and the clamp bolts are tightened.

Erecting panels

Once the first post is positioned, the panel is lifted into place and is wedged up on bricks so that its top is perfectly level. With a helper supporting the free end, the panel is fixed to the post using 75mm galvanised nails. Drill holes in the panel end-rails to prevent the nails from splitting the wood. Drill three holes on each side of the panel, and at each end. Alternatively, the panels can be fixed with panel clips which are simply screwed to the posts and panels.

The next post is then placed in its hole and held against the fixed panel. It is wedged vertically and then the panel is nailed to it before another panel is positioned. The process is continued to the end of the fencing run.

Grooved concrete posts

More permanent, but perhaps not so attractive in a garden setting, are grooved concrete posts. The panels simply slot into the grooves on top of gravel boards. The posts should be spaced at centres equal to the length of the fence panel plus the thickness of the post between the bottoms of the grooves, and should be set in concrete. One disadvantage is that the posts are very heavy to handle.

Maintaining fences

Prevent attack and prolong the life of a fence by treating it at least every other year with a good quality, branded wood-preservative which will be more effective than the cheaper creosote. Treat the fence when it is dry. Cover the ground beside it with plastic sheets and also cover any nearby plants to protect them from the preservative which is harmful to them. There is a new, water-based preservative stain which is harmless to plants, but this is only suitable for treating wood which has been previously treated with preservative. Apply the preservative with a brush in a good, flowing coat, taking special care to treat end grain, or use a garden pressure-sprayer with a coarse spray. Work on a calm day to avoid spray drift and cover the soil with polythene sheeting.

Loose posts

Posts which have come loose have probably rotted at soil level. They can be repaired without dismantling the fence by using concrete spurs. The loose posts are bolted to the spurs with two coach-bolts long enough to pass through the post and the spur. First dig a hole alongside the broken post so that the bottom part of the spur can be dropped into place. Then hold the spur against the post and use the bolts to mark where the bolt holes are required in the post. Remove

the spur and drill the post for the bolts. Pass the bolts through from the other side of the post and bolt the post and spur together. Use struts to hold the post upright and then pack rubble round the spur, topping off with concrete. When the concrete has set, remove the struts.

Broken arris rails

Arris rails are the triangular rails fixed between posts to which feather-edge boards are nailed. They occasionally snap where they slot into the posts. Again there is no need to dismantle the fence; you can repair it with a galvanised-steel arris-rail repair-bracket. There are various types of these and some are ‘handed’ so make a note of which end of the rail has broken before buying the bracket. Fix the bracket to the rail and the post, using zinc-plated screws for the strongest repair, or galvanised nails.

Loose or broken boards

If feather-edge boards have come loose or need replacing, the new boards are simply nailed in place with the thick edge covering the thin edge of the adjacent board. The galvanised fixing nail should pass through the thick edge into the thin edge of the board it overlaps, and into the arris rail.

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