Justin Newcombe erects a fence to make the most of an under-valued area.
A hoary old saying that springs to mind is "there's more than one way to skin a cat" - although I can't speak from experience. There are also many ways build a fence and perhaps I'm a little more qualified to talk on that topic. I am currently renovating the side of my house. To most visitors this seems like the least likely area you'd want to do anything with. For a start, it sits right beside the neighbour's driveway and is a weird wedge shape, like a long triangle of cheese with the tip cut off. In most landscaping situations this area would be consigned to a utility area or path through a landscape garden. I have plenty of room, out back and in the front, for outdoor living, so why bother?
Well, this side of my house is north-east facing and has the most amazing micro-climate. When I spend time there I just want to stay. Even on a relatively cold day this little slice of heaven is positively balmy. I also think some of the best landscaping ideas come from some of the most difficult problems.
The first step is removing the old decapitated hedge and building a fence. Because I don't want a big, dark, intrusive wall, I have built a slat fence. The slats will run on the outside of the posts, giving an uninterrupted line running from end to end. Unlike the pre-made trellis bought in sections, which usually sit between the posts, this won't give me the vertical interruption every two metres or so, which chops up the line.
Besides pulling out the hedge, the biggest job in this project is painting the fence. I highly recommend painting everything before you assemble. I've used two coats of British Paints PrepTech, which is lovely to use and doesn't need priming.
Overall I'm really pleased with the space I've created by building the screen. The gap between the house and the new screen is an odd shape. While I get a bit of a sea view from my front patio and my back patio looks out on to my kitchen garden, this new space is definitely a rough diamond, which with a little spit and polish, will sparkle. Even though there are a few things working against it, it's a great location and you know the other hoary old saying when it comes to property - the three golden rules are location, location, location.
Clear and mark the boundary. If you are unsure, employ a surveyor to find the boundary for you. Check your local council regulations about boundary heights and talk to your neighbours about what you are planning. If you are lucky, they might even give you a hand.
Set up a string line and dig post holes. In most fencing situations my rule of thumb is one third in the ground, two thirds out. Because this is a taller screen fence, I've moved the posts a bit closer together than I normally would and put them 1500mm apart.
Using pegs (which you can buy by the packet at Bunnings) and props (I usually use fence palings for props) set the posts to the line and check with a level. I use screws instead of nails to attach the props to the peg, which is driven into the ground and the post. This makes both setting the post correctly to the line and removing the prop from the post once the concrete has set, much easier if you are working alone, plus the screws are reusable.
Pour the concrete for the posts re-checking each one with a spirit level as the concrete sets.
Paint everything twice, that's posts, rails and slats. I paid my son Jasper to do mine.
On the back of the posts set a string line to mark the top of the screen and check that it's level using a string level. I used blocklayers' string line pegs to set the line so I can easily move the line up and down the posts. Mark where the string touches each post using a pencil and set square then cut and nail up a fence rail. To make the fence stronger you can cut the rails to fit in between each post but this is a lot of extra work and because in this case its not a solid fence, it is unnecessary. Repeat this step for each row of rails. I've installed four rows, 500mm apart.
Using a string line level, reset the string on the front of the posts mark out each post for the slat.
Hang the slat using clamps then mark the end of the slat so it ends right in the middle of a post. My slats spanned approximately five posts. Cut, then hang the slat. If all your slats are all the same length you can set the posts accordingly, which will reduce the amount of cutting needed. The slats should be staggered so they don't all end on the same post. So start at a different end each time.
Repeat the previous step, working your way down the posts until the screen is finished.
Trim post tops and touch up any exposed timbers with paint.