How to put the fancy into fencing

Kya deLongchamps offers some advice on the various options available to good neighbours.

There is no statutory obligation to fence off your third of an Irish acre, but good fences, good neighbours make. Whether you need a full physical barrier to corral your kids and dogs, or to indicate the retention of your boundary — an enclosing system just feels comfortable.

The type of fencing you use at the front of the home, where it abridges a road or estate street, will serve a different role than privacy fencing to the rear, especially in a huddle of housing where your garden is surrounded on all sides. So do you need to raise the drawbridge? Here’s our guide:

Pickets and panels:

Honest, extremely cost-effective, easy to work, and with a spray unit, a breeze to paint or stain — timber fencing is the go-to solution for a quick privacy fence front or back.

If your skills are up to designing and installing a fence, there are a range of vertical or horizontal plank profiles in cedar down to larch.

Get rid of sugary and quaint picket fencing with crisp horizontal compositions of skinny plank/fat plank panels — or narrow, hard-wood laterals on top of a hip-high wall, for the designer garden look.

Pre-made panels from €30 for a 1.83m product, offer superb value for money, but remember that ornate posts, skewered with final balls and lattice top sections, will stick up the price by as much as €40 a piece.

Closed board panels are the most expensive so use galvanised fixings and rot-resistant timber or concrete ‘gravel boards’ to lift that wood clear of the ground.

To replace that old feather-boarding framed in concrete rails invest in quality mortise and tenon-jointed frames with slim and smooth planed slats on both surfaces, (termed hit n’ miss).

Dual-sided boarded fences (horizontal or vertical) allow the wind to pass through but blind the view — great for close neighbours bald of hedging.

On average, 1.8msq panels cost from around €65-€85 each from fencing manufacturers nationwide (add 20% for pressure treatment over cheaper dip treatments).

Retain their pale colour or go for a coloured stain, and layer up with tall evergreen planting in containers or raised beds to soften the look. For structurally sound fencing, consider attaching a lattice section to the top of the panel — this can increase height and support climbers to the general 2m height rule.

Top tip: Add arbours, screens, planters, gates, and other zoning elements in the same modern, narrow-slat style for a relaxing, chic unity. Fencing elements can delineate function areas and invite specific journeys through the garden just as screens would in an open plan room indoors.

Stone me:

Stonewalling has become highly accessible in terms of price with the arrival of stone veneering in everything from cut stone fakes to proud castle-style, ledge-stones. These products come in aggregate moulded on real stone, or in real stone ‘slips’.

Ideal for areas where the width and heft of real stone won’t work, get the foundations dug and poured and the block-work up and the wall can be dressed up from €65 a metre (DIY, ex-installation, plus cement/sand and Band-Aids) in a fair imitation of a mason’s work.

Cladding, however, is useful for everything from raised beds, and dwarf deck walls, to steps, timber fence and green screen staging, homemade benches, and even BBQs.

There are no wall ties or footings required for the finish and with a reasonable inclusion of 15% for breakages and snafus, there should be very little wastage skinning one or both sides of an existing wall, it’s just a matter of budget.

If you have existing walling that has been painted, budget to have it scrapped and/or have a diamond wire mesh installed to allow the slips to take (€20 an hour of anyone’s time).

Be extremely careful to match the product to any existing stonework colour and patterns on the house or porch, and try to go with a quarry colour something typical to your area — a non-local colour can twitch in the wrong setting.

Suppliers for stone styles (and brick slips) include: fernhill.com, keltstone.ie, decostone.ie (Cork) and roadstone.ie.

Quality stonework, by a proper mason, will cost in the region of €150 per square metre and that excludes stone, sand, cement, and other ancillary requirements for the job, but the end result soars over the pretenders.

Composite:

Deemed by many gardeners an ugly inclusion to natural surroundings, PVC has gained territory for its ease of installation (A 1.8m² PVC board weighs in the area of 5kg and with a dual-face, you may be able to convince your neighbour to fund a replacement project jointly.

It’s always a good idea to have a chat to your immediate neighbour if a new plastic fence is facing into someone’s else’s garden. It’s not just mannerly — it’s essential.

Plastic fencing systems remain oddly pricey, comparing with quality softwood modular fencing (€175- €250 plus a finished panel) but the best part is that most brands can replace the former wooden elements, slipping straight into standard vertical concrete ‘H’ post and stacking into a blind fence.

Acres of plastic screening seems counter-intuitive in the garden, despite suppliers suggesting cheerily they will ‘fade’ to mimic wood — no, that’s lack of UV resistance — nothing to brag about. And you cannot successfully paint or repair this fencing. However, the right colour choice and PVC can look quite well, (see illustration right).

Consider using solid plastic elements at the base of your plank fencing for their rot resistance, then perhaps, continue up into view in real timber. DIY? Caltech at Ballicurreen in Cork do a T&G quality, versatile recycled wood look plank from €12.80 for a 2.4m 28mm board, talitech.com.

Metal combination and moderns:

For a modern outdoor room, opaque panels and slim slat timbers suggest solid walling with their regular finish.

B&Q shows the way in something contemporary and starkly alternative. Its Bloom Neva modular collection offers powder coated aluminium uprights, wood, and/or reinforced composite boards, pierced decorative screens and quarter top-panels. Dramatically delivered in matte jet-black. planting looks great against this tailored style.

It’s a simple weekend groove and slat assembly, cool as a Silvermint, and no maintenance for anything but your chosen touches of timber. The addition of clear acrylic quarter panel ‘windows’ to the top of the fencing is inspired — €85 for 1.5m sections.

Venturing into metal components can jettison finished fence prices per metre to around three times that of a middling wood fence (Bloom Neva’s matching 1.8m gates are a whopping €330).

Still, if you want to infuriate the Jones’s — bespoke architectural hardwood panels in cedar, iroko, or heat-modified Durawood (suppliers include wood component.ie), together with new residential styled imported steel fencing — are the boundary materials of the moment.

Southern Fencing Services stocks Australian-made, powder-coated and coloured steel fencing, windproof to 100mph with handsome top trellis elements — all completely maintenance free. Take a look over the fence at southern ending.ie. POA.

Robust and seriously handsome Zincalume high tensile colour bond steel, made in the UK, is now available to order here in Ireland. Prices from €120.60 2m panel ex.installation, colour fence.ie.

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