A good fence isn’t just good for privacy and security - it can improve the appearance of your property, too. You may want to build a new fence or replace an old one that’s done its dash. In this article we’ll dive into some common things you need to think about before building a fence and hopefully offer some inspiration, too.
Hirepool has supplied high quality tools to thousands of Kiwis’ fence building projects for years, so if you don’t already own the tools you need, get in touch with your local branch. Remember to also check out our job hub Fencing, Decking and Retaining for some specific fence building advice.
Okay, let’s talk fences.
When someone says fence, often the first thing that comes to mind is the classic wooden picket fence surrounding the outside boundary of a property. But fences can be built from many different materials, and can be used to partition off a property such as around a pool or terraced garden.
Here’s some of the most popular types of fences you’ll come across in New Zealand:
The great thing about aluminium is that it’s lightweight yet durable. There’s a reason it’s one of the most popular product materials in existence. Aluminium fences are available in a number of different formats, such as a screen style for heightened privacy or tubular fences that are perfect for poolside safety.
Installing an aluminium fence is often easier as entire sections of fencing come welded and are light to move into place. You’ll still need to dig fence post holes if the fence is going onto grass or dirt, but may only need to screw in the posts if it’s on top of an existing wooden deck.
Probably the most classic of Kiwi fences is the reliable timber fence. Timber fences are sturdy, look great and offer a lot of flexibility when it comes to design and layout.
You’ve got a few options when it comes to timber fencing - standard vertical or horizontal boards (like tongue and groove), pickets (gaps in between each board) and even pre-built paneling from a factory. Timber is great because it’s easy to paint and palings are often straightforward for the DIYer to maintain.
Because of the material, timber fences give you the ability to achieve exactly the height, width and look you’re after, from 6 ft boundary fences to waist height white picket fences.
Steel fencing is a good option if you’re living in conditions that require highly durable material. While aluminium is reasonably good, steel is heavy duty and will be more resistant to wind and damage.
This type of fencing often comes in prebuilt sections but it is heavy so make sure you find out the weight and shipping costs early on. Steel fencing is quite popular as a decorative boundary giving a premium look. If you’re concerned about securing the boundary from people or vehicles, steel is definitely worth investigating. Some steel fencing is made from solid panels (no gaps) which can be excellent for soundproofing against noisy roads.
Most steel fencing products will be primed and ready to paint but make sure you do your homework here.
A trellis is a criss-cross lattice style wooden structure that’s commonly used to section off patios or decking areas. A trellis will often have crawling plants like ivy placed at the base, so they grow up and cover the trellis over time. This can provide a nice ‘green wall’ feature.
Trellis’ aren’t always criss-cross and they’re often used for boundary fences too. What really defines a trellis fence is the light, thin boards that make up the fence. You’ll find that you’ll buy trellis fencing in sections and install them with fence posts.
Painting these fences can be a bit more finicky than larger palings but can make for a great look around the property. A paint sprayer can make light work of this job and give you an even coverage, getting into all the nooks and crannies.
Wire fences are usually pretty resistant to the weather due to the large gaps in between the material. Chain link fencing like you might see surrounding a playground can work well as a gate or other boundary, just remember this doesn’t offer much privacy.
Hex or chicken wire fencing is certainly not heavy duty but does the job for sectioning off parts of the garden for pets, plants...and chickens.
Wire fencing can be purchased in rolls which are cut to the length of your project’s needs. You will still need to put in post holes for the posts and probably fit timber across the top of posts to act as your frame to staple in the wire fencing.
Glass ‘fencing’ or barriers around a property can make for a luxurious, premium look, especially surrounding a pool or deck. The glass that you’ll get for an outdoor application will be very tough and have to pass stringent NZ regulations to be sold into the market.
But you are dealing with glass panels, and for that reason it’s often a good idea to get professional assistance installing these.
You’re spoilt for choice of material and design, so how do you know what’s right for you? Making this decision can be easier by considering some factors:
Remember to consider your entire garden and any planned landscaping as you decide what fence to build. The combination of fence, lawn, plants and garden features should all work well together. A classic victorian garden aesthetic might be jarring with modern glass balustrades for example. That’s up to you to decide!
You might need to decide what part of your property should inform the rest of the landscaping and fence design. The best idea is to go online for inspiration to help you dream up a good combo - more on this in a bit.
When building a fence, you need to consider the current views you may be blocking - especially if you go the solid panel or timber fence route. It may be tempting to fence out the neighbourhood entirely, but don’t do this at the cost of a nice view or reducing light coming into your property.
You will need to decide how high your fence needs to be to give you the privacy, security and look you’re after. In most cases you can build a fence up to 2m tall without consent from the council, but you’ll need to clear this with your neighbour first.
A common reason Kiwis build a fence around their home is to keep pets and kids inside the property. If you’ve got an escape artist dog, you’ll want something reasonably high without large gaps in between palings. If you’ve got a garden full of ball sports, you might want something that can contain that backyard cricket six.
If you want to keep it straightforward, a large timber fence will do the trick for pets and kids in most cases.
Much like the landscaping consideration, your actual home’s style and decade can clash or compliment your fence. Look, there’s no hard rule here, and if you want uber-modern steel panel fencing in front of your 1970s atrium, we’re not going to tell you otherwise.
If you do want a fence that continues the design of the home, we’d suggest jumping online in places like Google search, YouTube or Pinterest to find examples of ‘[period] house fence’. You can build an idea of what looks good for your home.
Building a fence costs - tools and materials if you’re doing it yourself, and labour if you pay someone to build it for you. It’s hard to give you a ballpark figure as material cost varies wildly depending on the type, size of project and quality (e.g. different grades of timber).
Having a modest budget doesn’t need to be a bad thing - in fact it can help narrow down your options a bit. If you build your own fence, then you can save a great deal of money. You don’t even need to own the tools for the job - simply hire them instead.
Do you want a fence that lasts the distance with very little attention? Or are you happy fixing the odd bit of timber or throwing on a fresh coat of paint?
A timber fence will need some TLC after a number of years from sun and weather damage. Sometimes trees can grow over and break fence palings, requiring repair. Painting a fence for Kiwis is almost a rite of passage and gives you an opportunity to change up the look of your outside property. A wire or aluminum fence can also be susceptible to damage over time, especially from poor weather.
If you’re not keen to add fence spruce up to your summer project list, you might want to think about one of the more heavy duty options we covered earlier.
If you live around others, getting a fence built on your boundary line is going to need a conversation with a neighbour first. You’ll need to agree on the type of fence, the height, and cost. Usually you’ll split the cost evenly with your neighbour as the fence will benefit both parties being on the boundary. Speaking of boundaries, make sure you confirm exactly where this line is - properties will often have markers, otherwise your Land Information Memorandum (LIM) will detail this. Chat to your local council if you’re still unsure.
You may have different tastes to your neighbour, and they may have a different view of what’s adequate. The preferable option is a considerate, friendly discussion on what fence to build. If you can’t agree, there are ways to resolve the dispute officially and have a final decision. Ideally you want to stay on good terms with neighbours and work together avoiding any lengthy ‘wars’.
If you’ve decided that you want to build the fence yourself with little or no outside help, we can recommend timber or aluminium as good materials to work with for the reasons covered earlier - versatile, lightweight and durable.
You’ll need to do your measurements and plan before you do anything else. Getting this right will make the whole building process much simpler. Next you’ll need to work out what tools you need. You could buy tools although if you aren’t using these every week then it could become very expensive. And if you look for cheap tools the finish of your fence project might not be as good as it could be.
That’s why many Kiwi DIYers like to hire tools from us - we choose only quality equipment for our range. You can hire excellent tools, get the project done and return them without the big financial commitment of purchasing.
Building a fence is made up of a number of steps. If you’re looking for help using tools to get the job done, check out our guides:
We suggest contacting a number of building supply stores to get multiple quotes for materials such as timber, concrete, screws, nails and paint. The more information about your project (size, design) the more accurate a quote you’ll get.
Getting back to the topic of ideation and inspiration, there’s a bunch of ways you can gather up images to guide your own design.
Being a social media channel centred around images, you can pretty much search any topic and find thousands of images. Simply go to the search section > tags > _____ type in your topic, for example #fencedesign. If you see something you like, simply screenshot and add it to your phone/tablet’s camera roll where you might even want to make a folder. Otherwise you can save the image on instagram and see it on the platform too.
A trusty image search in the most popular search engine can bring up images from all sources - blogs, magazines, commercial websites and more. Again, save any images for the shortlist!
Pinterest was pretty much made for this purpose. An online scrapbooking tool, Pinterest is one of the largest repositories of quality images online. The idea is you put together collections of images around a theme - for inspiration. For home and garden ideas you’ll be spoilt for choice. Just search for fence ideas and the rest is simple.
These are just 3 places you can find inspiration. You might even come across the perfect fence design driving or walking around your neighborhood. With the considerations covered earlier you can whittle down your shortlist and hopefully land on a design that is good to go.
We’ve got a massive selection of tools to get your fence project done. You can browse our range or contact your local branch today. If you’d like to learn a bit more about some of the main jobs required to build a fence, head over to our Fencing, Decking & Retaining section for more information.