Building a Wooden Closeboard Fence

In this article we show you how to build a traditional closeboard fence, where overlapping vertical featherboards are nailed to two triangular horizontal arris rails.

Tools and Materials

  • square-section fence posts - either 7.5 x 7.5 cm or 10 x 10 cm. You will need a post at each end of the fence plus one every 2-3 m run of fence. Buy posts that have been pressure-impregnated with preservative.
  • metal spikes of a size to fit posts or hardcore and concrete
  • wooden caps for each post
  • arris rails
  • arris brackets (if your fence posts do not have mortise slots)
  • 2 short wooden battens per post
  • featherboards
  • gravel boards
  • coping strip
  • galvanised nails and screws

1. Erect the Fence Posts

Put up the first fence post making sure that it is straight using the method described in Erecting a Panel Fence. Wedge the first post firmly in place with hardcore, and then prop the next post loosely in position.

2. Fit the Arris Rails

Cut two arris rails to fit parallel to each other between each pair of posts. Shape the ends of the arris rails so that they fit into the mortise slots cut into the sides of the posts and treat the cut ends with preservative. The rails should be horizontal and level, one 30 cm above ground, the other 30 cm lower than the posts.

Insert the first pair of arris rails in the mortise slots, pulling the second post into position. Alternatively, nail on arris brackets to the arris rails and to the posts. Attach the arris rails so that the flat backs face the correct side for the panels.

Insert the arris rails into the mortise slots (or attach with brackets) as you go. Check with a spirit level that the rails are horizontal and that the second post is vertical. You may need to raise or lower it a little. When satisfied, ram hard-core around the base to secure it.

Erect the remaining posts and rails in the same way and nail them together for added strength. Cement round the bases of the posts to make permanent foundations.

3. Fit the Gravel Boards

As a base support, lay gravel boards along the bottom of the fence. At ground level, screw in a short support batten (no more 2 cm wide and 15 cm high) to the side of each post - recess them so they are 2 cm or so back from the front of the posts. Nail gravel boards to these short battens with a couple of nails at each end, make sure the gravel boards are level and flush with the posts. Alternatively, nail the boards to pegs driven into the ground.

4. Attach the Featherboards

The featherboards are wedge-shaped with a thin and a thick vertical edge, designed so the thick edge of one overlaps the thin edge of the previous board.

Cut the boards to length. Starting at the first post, position one featherboard with its thick side against the post, resting on the gravel board. Secure in place by nailing through the thicker edge it to the top and bottom arris rail.

Then lay the thicker edge of the next board over the thin edge of the first, overlapping it by about 1.2 cm (1/2 in). Secure it by hammering nails through the boards into the rails.

Cut a spacer from a piece of scrap wood to ensure that the overlap for all the boards is uniform. Add more featherboards, nail in place and check boards are level with a spirit level.

5. Secure a Coping Strip

To prolong the life of the fence, fit a coping strip to the top of the featherboards, and nail on post caps to top off the posts.