How to Erect a Panel Fence

Wooden fences are much quicker and cheaper to put up than brick walls and are a popular choice for boundaries. There are a number of different styles, and the range of coloured wood stains and paints available means a fence can be part of the style of a garden as well as forming a secure boundary.

All fences have supporting posts; these are usually treated timber but concrete posts are sometimes used where a site is very wet or waterlogged. Wooden posts can be bolted on to metal fixing spikes or concreted in. You will need to buy longer posts if you intend to concrete them in (up to a quarter of their length needs to be below ground), whereas only about 10 cm of the post will need to be attached to the metal spike.

One of the simplest forms of fencing is a panel fence, which may be erected using wooden or concrete posts.

Using Concrete Posts

With concrete posts, the panels are simply slotted into grooves on either side of the post; this style of post has the advantage that it will not rot.

  1. Dig a hole 75 cm (30 in) deep and pack a 15 cm (6 in) layer of hardcore in the base.
  2. Insert the first concrete post and check the height of the post against the fence panel.
  3. Pack hardcore around the post and pour in concrete. Tamp it down. Add more concrete and tamp again. Remember to keep checking that the post is vertical.
  4. Run a string line along the ground at right angles to the fence post, and lay a fence panel on the ground along it to position the next hole accurately.
  5. Having marked where the next post will be, dig a neat hole 75 cm (30 in) deep.
  6. Fit a gravel board between the post holes. This is a length of wood (or concrete) fixed between fence posts at ground level to prevent panels from coming into contact with the soil and rotting. Level the ground until the board lies horizontally. Check with a spirit level.
  7. Slot the fence panel into the groove in the first post. Insert the next post and pack into position with hardcore.
  8. Repeat from step 3 until the fence run has been completed.
  9. Secure moulded wooden coping to the top of the panel.

The Pros and Cons of Fences

* Quicker and easier to erect than walls
* Useful if only needed as a temporary barrier
* Cheaper than walls
* Can allow a view while still providing a physical barrier
* Can provide a useful windbreak if built with a gap between each slat

* Less capable of reducing noise and pollution than walls
* Less durable than walls
* The need for ongoing maintenance may require an access path at the rear of a border

Using Wooden Posts

If you would rather use timber posts, the fence panels must be screwed or nailed into position. The bases of the fence posts should be protected by using either concrete spurs or metal post supports. Concrete spurs are short posts that are embedded in a firm concrete foundation. They are bought ready made and have two holes through which the timber posts are bolted to the spur just above ground level.

  1. Dig a hole for the first post - this must be deep enough for about a quarter of the post to be underground. For a panel 2 m (6 ft) high, you will need 2.75 m (8 1/2ft) lengths of timber for the posts and the post holes should be 75 cm (30 in) deep.
  2. Stretch a string line from the first hole along the run of the fence to ensure that it will be straight.
  3. Fill the base of the hole with a 15 cm (6 in) base of hardcore, then stand the post in the hole and pack it round with more hardcore to hold it in position. Check that it is upright with a spirit level.
  4. Using the panel as a width guide, dig a hole for the second post, making sure that it is aligned with the string line.
  5. Level the ground between the hole and the post and lay a gravel board. This should be secured to the first post with galvanized nails.
  6. Attach a fence panel to the first post by screwing them together with metal fixing brackets or by using 75 mm (3 in) galvanized nails driven through pre-drilled holes.
  7. Place the second post into its hole, making sure that it is vertical and fits closely against the fence panel.
  8. Fix the gravel board and panel as before.
  9. Repeat with the remaining posts, gravel boards, and panels.
  10. Wedge the posts firmly in position with hardcore and scrap timber, checking that they are vertical with a spirit level. Pack a stiff concrete mix around the base of each post. Use a trowel to create a slope away from each side as a run-off for water.
  11. Saw the tops of the posts to an equal height above the panels if necessary. Treat any sawn surfaces with wood preservative and finish each post with an overhanging wooden cap that deflects rainwater.