Fence and gate repairs
Your guide to reinforcing, repairing and replacing your fences and gates.
Wooden gates and fences are prone to rot or attack by insects. To prolong their life, treat them regularly with wood and preservative. You should also avoid piling earth up against a fence and where possible install grabel boards at its base.
Wood Preservative: A coat of preserve will drastically extend the life of a fence or gate. Most treatments will keep fungi and insects at bay for several years. The wood needs to be completely dry, so the best time to apply it is in late summer after a dry period and when no rain is expected for a day or so. Paint it on with a block paintbrush or use a garden pressure spa.
Before putting up a fence discuss the plans with your neighbours. You need to check the exact line of the boundary and make sure the posts are positioned on your side. Before you take down an old fence first make sure it's yours. If it belongs to a neighbour and they won't allow you to take it down, you can erect another alongside provided it is on your side of the boundary. There is an unwritten rule that a good neighbour puts up a fence with the post and rails facing their own property, but this is not a legal obligation. Unless the boundary line meets a highway, you generally do not need planning permission for a fence less than 2m high.
The part of a wooden fence post most likely to rot is the section buried underground. If not reinforced in time, it will eventually collapse and pull down the fence. Support the fence with lengths of timber on either side. Dig a hole around the base of the post, cut the rotten part away and remove any concrete. Coat sound wood with preservative. Place a concrete spur in the hole against the remains of the post. Then drill holes through the post at the marked spots. Push the bolts through the post and spur side. Put on the nuts and tighten with a spanner. Brace the post with lengths of timber, checking it is vertical with a spirit level. Fill the hole with concrete, leaving the timber supports in place for 48 hours while it sets.
A broken arris rail can be fixed with an arris rail bracket, a length of galvanized steel specially shaped to fit the rail and ready drilled with holes through which you secure it with galvanized screws or nails. If the arris rail is cracked near the post use a flanged bracket and fasten the flanges to the post.
1 Lever back the side frame of the panel with a nail bar to expose the nails joining it to the post.
2 Saw through the old nails with a hacksaw. Hammer in protruding nails or pull them out with pincers. If removing a panel, repeat at the opposite end. If the new panel isn't an exact fit, plane it a little each side, or close any gap with a thin fillet of wood. Drill six evenly spaced pilot holes horizontally through the framing batten at each end of the new panel, front and back, and fix it to the post with 75mm galvanized nails.
3 To remove a post, detach the panels on either side and pull them away from it. Dig out the base of the post and remove any concrete. If this proves difficult, cut a notch in the old post and lever it out with a long bar. Ensure the replacement post is the same size as the original and place it in the hole. Support the fence with timber props while you renail the panels either side (see step 2). Check the post is vertical with a spirit level and concrete it in place, sloping the surface of the concrete away from the post to drain off rainwater. Leave the props in place for 48 hours while it sets.
If your gate sags, first check whether the hinges are loose. If not, the problem may be caused by the timber joints having worked loose at the corner of the gate.
1 Force waterproof adhesive into the loose joint and press it together with a sash clamp
2 When the glue is dry, leave the sash clamp in place while you screw a metal bracket to the front of the gate to hold the joint.
Old metal gates and railings will quickly deteriorate once rust gets in, but you give them a new lease of life with special rust-inhabiting metal paint. One coat should be enough over a previously painted surface but always read and follow the guidelines on the tin.
Small patches of rot on a wooden gate are easily treated without having to replace the whole gate.
Tools: wooden mallet, chisel, sanding block, wood preservative, outdoor wood filler, abrasive paper.
1 With a small wooden mallet and a chisel, chip away the rot back to sound wood. Coat the area in preservative and allow to dry.
2 Fill the cavity with wood filler, which sets in about 15 minutes. Then sand it flush with the timber.
A gate may sag if it has no diagonal brace or if an existing brace is not strong enough. Lift and wedge the gate into its proper position before measuring a new brace. The brace should fit snugly between the cross-rails on the back with the top pointing towards the latch. Cut it from a length of wood the same thickness as the cross rails. Take the gate off its hinges, drill pilot holes, and fix the new brace to the pales with countersunk galvanized screws.
1 Remove loose rust and paint with a wire brush or abrasive paper. Wear safety goggles, especially on a windy day.
2 Wipe down the surface with a cloth soaked in white spirit.
3 Apply one coat of rust-inhabiting metal paint.
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