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Fencing Panel Guide

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 Fence Panel, Posts and Gravelboards - Practical information.

Traditional UK fencing panels come in various designs and heights but most UK made and supplied fence panels are traditionally 6’ long. It is rare to find fencing panels longer than this but I have come across a local manufacturer who once made panels 6’6’ long. It caught me out once when I counted panels rather than measured the fence!
 
European fence panels are made 180cm long. In layman’s terms this makes them about an inch short of 6’. This is relevant if you decide to retro fit European fence panels in to previously installed UK fence panel spaces. When fitting these euro panels into existing fence posts the problem is overcome by the addition of two battens fitted to either end of the fence panel. The fencing supplier should be able to offer these battens to you.

Overlap, Interwoven and Closeboard Fencing Panels....
Traditional styles (and the most common) fencing panels are made from timber and are Overlap, Interwoven or Closeboard types.

Overlap fence panels are made from waney edged slats that overlap each other and are made up with a batten frame with additional battens to offer strength and to stop the slats from warping.  Some fence panel manufacturers will put battens on both the back and front of the panel. 

Interwoven fence panels are made from fully cut slats, usually about 3” wide and interwoven around narrow slats that are put through on the vertical. These panels again have a batten frame but may only have a single vertical batten in the centre.

Closeboard fence panels are made up using feather edged boards with heavy batten attached to the back. They should have batten at the top, bottom and both ends and one middle batten for low panels or two equally spaced battens if the panel is over 4’ high.

European Fence Panels....
At the risk of confusing you these are not always ‘European’ now. I am using the term to relate to the many decorative types of fencing panel that are now available. These are often made up using fully machined and occasionally patterned timber fitted into a framework.  These panels have a much higher level of work involved in the manufacturing process and thus usually sell at a premium price.
 
Fence panel selection....
The two most commonly found panels now are the overlap fence panel and the closeboard fence panel.  Overlap panels are usually the least expensive panel and closeboard panels the dearer.  Interwoven fence panels are less common than they used to be. The production cost is a lot higher due to increased timber machining and assembly cost.  They also offer a little less privacy than the other options as they will open up slightly when the wood shrinks in the drying process.
 
Installing Fence Panels....
The integrity of any fence is usually in the supporting posts. If these are not installed well and to the appropriate depth the fence will simply fall or blow over when the first high winds come along. Fences up to 6’ high should have fencing posts set into the ground a minimum of two feet deep.  So if you have a 6’ fence panel you need an 8’ post. 
 
Fencing Posts....
Fencing panels can be installed on timber or concrete posts. The most economic option would be overlap fence panels fitted to 3” timber posts.  The strongest fencing would be Closeboard panels fitted onto concrete gravel boards and slotted concrete posts.
It is important to realise that wood will go rotten when it gets wet and cannot dry out; this applies to fence posts and timber gravelboards alike.  Manufactures are consistently improving the chemical process for timber treatment.  Most commonly found treatment for fencing timber is now Tanatone or Tanalith preservatives.  
 
Fencing Timber....
Most commonly found fencing timber is sourced through correct environmental sources, from managed woodlands and meet all the criteria for certification.  The basic problem is that these timber species tend to be fast growing types (required to keep up with demand) and thus have large grain that hold lots of water.  This is OK when the tree is growing and often not problem during the processing.  The problem arises when the timber has been machined and assembled and is left to dry out.  At this point badly made fencing panels have a tendency to shrink, warp and split. Fencing posts are also subject to occasional warping and splitting as well.
This is a natural process and beyond the control of the supplier and installer. Take care when selecting timber posts to ensure they are straight and contain as few spits and problems when taken from the pile.
 
Gravelboards for Fencing....
Gravelboards are the bottom board that are designed to protect the fence above from sitting in wet ground or holding back soil or gravel!  They are occasionally referred to as kick boards or base boards but 'gravelboard' is the industry norm. 
 
Fencing gravelboards are available for most types of panel fence system.  If you are going to the expense of installing concrete posts and closeboard panels not putting a concrete gravelboard under these does not make any sense.  The gravelboard will stop the panel sitting on the floor and will increase the life expectancy of all fence panels. 
 
Concrete gravelboards are usually available in different face finishes, recessed is the most common, and then you can get smooth faced or stone faced. They are usually always grey concrete in colour though!  These and the posts can always be painted with exterior masonary paint for aesthetics.
 
Gravelboards should also be fitted (when possible) under traditional closeboard fencing.  Again these are available in timber or concrete types. 

Fencing Maintenance....
I have touched on this elsewhere on the site.  However it is very important to maintain fencing and all exterior woodwork will benefit from an annual application of preservative treatment.  This is also important when you are installing the fence. Any cut ends or on site machining of the fence timber will need an appropriate preservative applied, many timber warranties will insist upon it or will be invalid.

 
PS.  In case you are interested my own fencing in my garden consists of closeboard panels on concrete gravel boards fitted to slotted concrete posts.  I must get around to the treatment this year though.......
 
Mark Brooks Fencing 2014 

 

 Practical advice and information for choosing Fencing Panels.

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