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Fences, Walls And Gates

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 3 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Property Renovation Renovate Walls Homes

Putting a border around your property, or maintaining an existing one, makes good sense and there are a variety of options. The main ones are fences and walls, although hedges can be used as well.

The choice rests on three criteria; cost, looks and speed of erection. Walls are more expensive initially and slower to erect, but they should require a lot less maintenance than a fence. You also have more of a chance of making your boundary blend in with the house if you build walls, as you can choose blocks, bricks or stone that will match or complement your property.

Good Foundations

Foundations for a boundary wall don’t need to be as deep or strong as for a wall that will take a load, but you should go at least 30cm deep for a light wall and half as much again if it’s going to be any heavier.

Fences don’t need foundations but the stronger the anchorage for the fence posts, the longer they’ll stay upright. For a lightweight wooden panel fence you can simply anchor the posts to the ground with a steel spike that holds the bottom of the post and can be driven into the ground. These also protect the posts, to some extent, from rotting away below ground level.

Otherwise consider digging holes for each post, about 60-75cms deep and about three times the diameter of the post. Then place the post in the hole and fill it with rubble and top of with rammed earth or concrete.

Fence Panels

The choice of panels or materials that you put up between the posts is completely up to you. If you just need to contain animals, consider a wire mesh fence, but if it’s for an urban garden, woven wooden panels are likely to be the best bet; they’ll blend in with neighbouring fences. When mounting the panels, be sure to leave a gap of about 5cms at the bottom to allow water to drain away, which delays rotting from rising damp.


Fence maintenance is simple but most people find it tedious, even though it can prolong the fence’s life considerably. If you have painted it, then the fence will probably need sanding down and repainting every once in a while, probably every two or three years. If you prefer the natural look of the wood, treat it with a preservative and renew this every two or three years as well.


Gates are a matter of choice too. For a pedestrian gate in a garden fence it makes sense to pick something that matches the fence. You may want to consider security; would you prefer to be able to look through the gate or is it better to keep prying eyes out? This will govern your choice of a slatted gate, with gaps, or one without.

Driveway gates can be a useful security aid and electric closing mechanisms are becoming more popular as they drop in price. With these mechanisms you can open the gate either from a switch inside the house or garage, or from a remote control in your car. These mechanisms certainly prove their worth when you come home in the pouring rain, but make sure there’s a way for people to get to your front door on foot. Put in a pedestrian gate somewhere or a switch on the gatepost, otherwise you’ll be wondering why you’re not getting post any more!

Planning Issues

If you are replacing an existing boundary wall or fence you are unlikely to need planning permission, unless it’s more than 1m high where it borders the road and 2m otherwise. But the Party Wall Act requires you to discuss most works on boundaries with your neighbours and if you are unsure, it’s best to talk to them about your plans in any case. With garden fences and walls, if you have neighbours, you need to consider who is responsible for which boundary, or whether it’s shared responsibility.

If your neighbours won’t agree your plan, then you’ll have to resort to the appeal process where a surveyor (or one surveyor for each of you) will look at the situation and make a recommendation that is fair and impartial. The work can then go ahead but must conform to the recommendation, known as an ‘award’. In practice, this is more likely to happen when people are building extensions and are close to the boundary, and won’t affect a simple wall or fence, unless it is very large or very different to what was there before.

One final matter is that you need to be careful with gates and walls close to the road, and particularly at the end of a driveway. You will be required to consider the ability of drivers to see pedestrians, and vice versa. Although the planning department aren’t usually involved with walls and fences, if you construct something that they consider dangerous, you can be forced to change it.

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