The most common type of fencing in Australia is timber, with closely spaced palings being among the most popular choices. Many timber species are suitable for fencing including the naturally durable mixed hardwoods, preservative treated radiata pine, Californian redwood and western red cedar. Other species of timber can be used if you plan to paint the fence.
If in doubt as to the kind of timber to use for fencing in your area consult your timber supplier or the timber development association in your area.
All fixings such as nails, screws, hinges etc must be rust-resistant, preferably hot dipped galvanized, stainless steel or copper. Pickets, slats, cappings, mouldings and gate members should be seasoned.
Because of the variety of soil conditions found on different properties, the Timber Development Association of N.S.W recommends that three trial posts be erected and load tested to establish the correct depth in the ground. Usually around 90Omm is suitable for a fence about 1m high- Where posts are erected in soft clay, sand or silty soil, they should be embedded in 150mm of concrete on a layer of gravel for drainage. The concrete should not go underneath the post.
It is also recommended (for timbers other than pressure treated radiata pine) that the part of the post below ground level be given a coating of timber preservative.
Council regulations vary from area to area so check with your council FIRST about what building materials and heights they prescribe for fences where you live.
Erecting the fence.
No matter what style of fence you choose, the key to durability and proper installation is in the posts. These hints will help you install the posts properly.
1. Mark the position of the postholes. They are usually 2 to 2.5m apart. Align them with a piece of string stretched from the corner posts of existing fences. If there are no existing posts you will have to find out where your property boundary is and begin from there. It is usually marked by white pegs driven into the ground.
2. Dig holes to the required depth. This is easier if done with a post hole digging tool. About a third of the posts total length will be in the ground. For example, a fence 1 m high may have posts set 0.3m deep. A fence 1.8m high may have posts set as much as 0.6m deep.
3. Put a layer of gravel into the bottom of the hole for drainage and to prevent the post wood rotting.
4. First insert the corner post and check that it is level in the hole, using a carpenter’s level or plumb bob, then brace it temporarily in place with timber. Then place other posts in holes checking levels as you go, and lining up with string line.
5. Mix enough concrete at a time for one post. Pack this into the hole around the post, working well to eliminate air bubbles. Fill the hole to just above ground level and slope the concrete away from the post for drainage.
6. When all the vertical posts are in place, let the concrete cure for up to 6 days before finishing the fence. The palings can then be set close together or with a slight gap between the boards, left plain at the top or capped with a horizontal bar of timber. As an interesting change, the boards may be nailed on horizontally with the palings nailed to vertical battens fixed to the posts.
The fence may be painted or stained using an oil or water based stain designed for fences. Depending on the style of fencing and the type of timber used, you may decide to obscure the grain with an opaque finish or to enhance it with a stain which emphasises the grain of the timber.
Materials you’ll need:
- Fence posts and palings
- Timber preservative
- Galvanised or rust resistant nails
- Timber for bracing
- Fence paint or stain
Tools you’ll need:
- Post hole digger
- Carpenters level or plumb bob