Weekend Project

Justin Newcombe's tips on outdoor DIY projects

Weekend project: Beneficial barriers

By Justin Newcombe

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Never mind building bridges, fences are where it's at, writes Justin Newcombe.

Justin Newcombe insists that a fence can actually bring neighbours together. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Justin Newcombe insists that a fence can actually bring neighbours together. Photo / Steven McNicholl

They say build bridges, not fences and I get it, I do, but from where I sit all this anti-fencing is out of hand. Back in the day, (for me that's the 70s and 80s) fencing was something you did with your neighbour. Those were the days of social fencing, hands reaching across from one family domain to another, settling into a firm shake. It was often fencing which brought two families together so they could discuss the finer details like who got the good side, how deep the holes should be, should it be stained brown or green (it seems everybody settled on brown), who was doing most of the work and who wasn't, where the boundary actually was, who owned what shovel, where the gate should go, which side the lock should be on and finally who had paid for what. After the fence was completed the little round, three-legged barbecue was erected, started with accelerant and a sacrificial sausage was hastily incinerated, iceberg lettuces were shredded, tomatoes wedged, cucumbers diced and the feast was hurriedly gobbled down with thick white doorstop slabs of bread and tomato sauce. The gate was then slammed shut, padlocked and eventually forgotten about. No one spoke for four years until the dust had settled and you finally forgot about the half a bag of cement still owed to you.

Of course we've all grown up a lot since then, eh? If you've wanted to get among it on the carpentry front but have never quite managed it then this is the achievable, rewarding project you've been looking for. If you're a bit unsure of your capabilities then let me assure you, a trained monkey could do it. Look at me.

Step 1

Establish the boundary. Often there is a fence that is already there but be aware that if it's in the wrong place the fence may have to be moved at some point. You may need to have the boundary surveyed to make sure.

Step 2

Clear the boundary then set up a profile at each end to set the string line on. I clamped a straight piece of timber to an existing post and levelled it but in the past I've erected the two end posts and set them in with quick set concrete. The other option is to construct a temporary profile. Make sure the string line isn't sagging and is not obstructed by tree branches.

Step 3

Mark the holes for the posts. I've set my posts two metres apart. To get the holes directly beneath the string line I used a plumb bob. Dig the holes to at least 25 per cent of the length of the post. My posts are 2.4m long so my holes are 600mm deep giving me a 1.8m fence post out of the ground.

Step 4

When you pick up your timber ask Bunnings for a pack of pegs. These come in 400mm and 600mm lengths. Set the post in the hole and level it up to the line. Don't push the line as this will move the line's position for the next post and the fence won't be straight. Using a drill, screw a paling to the post and the other end to a peg in the ground. Using screws instead of nails makes removing the post supports later much easier as the concrete is often still quite green and can crack easily.

Step 5

Mix and pour concrete into the holes making sure the concrete goes right the way around the post.

Step 6

Once the concrete is set, remove the supports and set a string line at the height of the top rail. Mark it out then clamp the rail to the line and nail or screw. If the concrete is still green I recommend screwing. Make sure you use galvanised or stainless screws. Repeat for the middle and lower rail.

Step 7

Hang the palings, checking each one with a level.

Step 8

Trim the top of the fence with a skill saw if necessary.

- NZ Herald

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