How Do I: Choose Fabulous Fence Panels

Is it possible to love a wall? I mean really love a wall. Not like members of the Black Watch loved their Wall, which was all about respect and duty, but love it with a little heart flutter and a lot of giddiness. That’s how I feel about my new wall, built with old bricks, new ideas and a lot of of passion. When you make something yourself it’s always filled with soul, whether it’s a freshly baked cake or a plumply upholstered chair, and let me tell you, walls are no different. So once we’d completed our blocks, mortar, pillars and very own wildling walkthrough, a serious amount of thought was focused on fencing.IMG_6541.jpgI’d originally considered using timber along this whole length, partly for financial reasons: brick is much more costly than fencing, and partly for aesthetics: we’d used brick for the main house extension so I fancied a change. But somehow I couldn’t bring myself to order it. No matter how much I tried, a little design voice kept saying nope, Si, this wall needs Something More.

IMG_5044.jpgAn old brick wall had once balanced precariously along this boundary with our neighbours property, half fallen down but with fairly solid foundations (you can just see it in the background above from a month ago), plus we still had several piles of different reclaimed bricks bought during the main build. It seemed daft not to use what we had, although that sentence doesn’t begin to describe the work involved in taking down the 8m long leaning wall you can see behind me above and hammering all the mortar off the bricks! You can see more images of the wall construction process HERE, but let’s focus on fencing for this post.

I had six gaps to fill. Six spaces which needed gorgeous timber fences, 6ft wide and 3ft high, which had to work with and enhance the new wall, but also compliment the main house and particularly this garage below which links to the new wall on its left side.

So that’ll be greys, pattern, a linear feel and a definite old/new hybrid vibe going on.DSC01930.jpgWHO KNEW there was so much choice in fencing??! Oh my days, it’s a fencing minefield out there. Horizontal, vertical, straight, curved, concave, convex, herringbone, solid, gapped…… and mostly online too, so you can’t really *see* the actual panels unless you go to a DIY shed and their choices are pretty limited.

Here are some tips designed to give you the confidence to both choose your panels online and maybe even choose something a bit different x

  • Traditional or Contemporary?

The general look of your outside space is dictated by house style, planting, pathways & local area and there are fencing options for not only both styles but everything in-between. Take a look at the two extremes below. The one on the left is super contemporary: potted grasses, minimal greenery, hard flooring, linear timber and what looks like steel sheeting. C0mpare that to the classic trellised-top treated timber fencing on the right, providing a back drop to a lawned garden with a packed bed of plants. You just wouldn’t put the trellis fencing in the garden on the left, and if you did, it would totally changed the look of the space. Think carefully about the look you want to achieve and choose the appropriate panel.2016-07-08_0001.jpg

  • Stick To Your Budget

Measure how many panels you need. Most are a standard 6ft or 183cm long. Then divide your total budget by that number to give you the amount you can spend per panel. Remember to include posts if you need them, and paint or stain if finishing them to a different colour than treated timber. Going over budget on panels means having less to spend on gorgeous plants, so that would be a very silly thing to do.

  • What Is Waney Lap?

2016-07-08_0002.jpg

Waney lap fencing is probably the most common type of fencing in the UK. It’s cheap to make as the wavy edge of the board is left on thus getting the maximum timber out of the tree, which gives it a big tick sustainability wise. It’s rough to the touch as is left non-planed and comes in various shades of brown, golden brown or green, generally.

Super affordable but has been, well, a bit boring. That’s not to say waney lap per se is boring though, it’s actually hugely on trend as more designers opt for natural timber, but of course using oak or cedar like the (sorry a bit poor) images below for garden fencing will rocket your costs sky high. Specify luxury timber wavy edge when you win the lottery 😉2016-07-08_0003.jpg

  • Anyone For A Flat-Top?

I’d say that flat topped fence panels (below) have a more contemporary feel than ones with curved tops. They’re generally at the more affordable end of the market as the construction is more straightforward. The ones with extra vertical posts are more sturdy and rigid, and some have extra details like the woven in and out slats bottom left below. There suits most gardens and are the ones you’ll see the most often. If you want something a bit different, keep reading…

Simple horizontal slat fence panels

  • Rough or Smooth?

Panels made from rough sawn timber are less expensive than those made from smooth planed timber and often the same style fence panel comes in both of the two options. I chose smooth for my garden walls as it’s so much easier to paint and to achieve a good finish. I have stained rough timber in the past and it’s hard going, takes much more paint/stain and looks that bit less refined. However if you’re not going to be painting or staining it, that doesn’t really matter!

  • Go Curvy Baby

Moving on to the more traditional  garden, curves are where it’s at. Whether the panels are solid with convex/concave top or have open trellis style upper sections, the curves give a softer feel and suit more traditional houses. Cottage gardens often have this style, maybe to encourage climbing plants such as wisteria or honeysuckle. Slightly more expensive than flat tops, but generally not by much, unless you also go for a planed, smooth timber and patterned lower section too.
Trellis top fence panels

  • Vertical Vibes

Vertical slat fence panels

To create a sense of height, vertical slatted panels feel very modern and usually have flat not curved tops. Most people go for horizontals to make the garden seem longer but if that’s not a design consideration, vertical slats look elegant and also fabulous when painted. They’re a tad more costly than waney lap (which looks odd when done vertically in my opinion) but similar to other mid-range panels.

  • One Step Further…..

For gardens with a slightly bigger budget or if you only need a small amount of panels, its definitely worth considering  a higher end finish. Very slender linear fencing started popping up around ten years ago and now can be bought quite easily as panels online. We made some fencing, using roof lats, like this one on the top left in around 2005 and it took forever. I remember having to paint all those thin strips, what a nightmare! Far easier to buy it now ready made. In black or dark brown it looks quite oriental, especially with white gravel, but less so in natural timber and even less so with thicker depth linear lengths like the one bottom right.

Contemporary horizontal slat fence panels

  • Blow The Budget

Contemporary gorgeous fence panels

These need no budget explanation do they really? You know that if you buy fence panels like these, that new bathroom can wait another 2yrs 😉

So, after all that research and fence panel analysis, what did I plump for?!

IMG_6558IMG_6555These! Five 6ft high, 3ft high American Lap smooth vertical panels and hand made in Yorkshire by the Saw Mill team to a fantastic finish. I found them on-line and actually couldn’t find a local company to Manchester who made a similar style so popped across the Pennines to pick them up, though they do deliver. It was fantastic seeing their saw mill hard at work making panels, sheds and garden furniture. Made me very happy I’d bought from them 🙂IMG_6565The vertical design picks up the finish of the steel dormer cladding, the flat tops give a more contemporary look and the smooth planed timber finish made them all the more easy for me to fill, undercoat & paint 🙂

IMG_6569IMG_6573Phewf, that’s another decision made!!

I’ll blog the finished wall and panels very soon, just need to get the lighting in first x

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