Tips For Building Your Fence

Timber fences are a classic DIY project that can effectively provide privacy, shelter, safety, screening and noise reduction - while defining an area or property boundary.
Plan Carefully

Take the time to consider the function of your fence before starting, to ensure it will provide you with the results that you are after. It is also necessary to reach an agreement with your neighbours regarding the fence type, height and costs.

Check the location of your property boundary thoroughly, to avoid potential conflict and unnecessary costs / hassle. If there is any doubt, professional advice should be acquired from a surveyor.

Check for any electrical lines, plumbing or gas services before digging (there are a number of low cost services available).

Also consider the access that you will need to your yard, lawn mower, vehicles etc. Measure and plan your gates - how many and how wide do they need to be?

Timber posts need to be treated to Hazard Level 4 (H4) or better. Rails and palings need to be treated to Hazard Level 3 (H3) or better, and any fixings should be hot dipped galvanised or stainless steel - to ensure durability in the elements.
Fence Posts

Fence posts should to be set into the ground as follows:

  • 450mm deep for fences up to 1200mm high
  • 600mm deep for fences between 1200mm and 1800mm high


Post holes should be a minimum 300mm in diameter, and the base of the hole needs to be filled with a minimum of 100mm of gravel (to effectively drain moisture).

Use a level and timber braces to ensure the post is vertical while filling the hole. A rapid set concrete is ideal for setting posts. Each post hole will need about 30kg of dry-mix concrete.

Fence Rails

Typically, posts are placed 2.4m apart (between post centres), and rails extend 2 spans (4.8m long).

The number of rails is dependent on the fence height:

  • Fences up to 1200mm require two rails
  • Fences 1200 to 1800mm (and above) require three rails

It is important to consider shrinkage and movement in fence palings - which can create gapping. Palings can be butted or spaced, or for total privacy they should be lapped.

Capping will improve the life of your fence. These must be fixed flush and shaped for water runoff, while fully covering nails and palings.

Apply a Coating

If the timber is not protected in any way, it will fade to grey and break down over time. Good quality, light coloured timber paints provide the best level of protection. Clear finishes typically provide shorter-term protection and require frequent maintenance (re-application). Stain coatings provide reasonably good protection, but this can depend on the pigment and level of exposure to the elements.

Paints, stains and clear finish coatings must always be applied in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.