Garden Boundaries Q and A

Should I incorporate a damp-proof course and coping into a garden wall?

A damp-proof course (DPC) prevents dampness rising up a wall, while coping protects the top. Both will prolong the life of a wall. A DPC should be about 150 mm (6 in) above ground level; a strip of bituminised felt is easy to lay and effective. Bricks on edge make an effective coping for a brick or concrete-block wall; so will stone if it is widely used locally, and precast concrete slabs or strips also provide a neat finish.

The joints of my old brick garden wall seem to be crumbling away. What can I do about this?

This wall needs repointing; it is very likely that lime mortar was originally used, which deteriorates after prolonged exposure. Rake all the old mortar out with a pointing chisel to a depth of about 13 mm (½ in) and brush the wall down to remove dust. A pointing mixture is made up from 1 part cement, 6 parts soft sand, and 1 part plasticiser. Don’t make up too much at a time, and dampen approximately 1 m2 (103/4 sq ft) of the wall before you start. Point in the vertical joints first and, if you are patching only part of the wall, match the type of pointing profile to the rest: it may be weathered, flush, or rubbed back, the latter providing emphasis to each brick. A board laid along the bottom of the wall will catch pointing waste.

I have a long, narrow garden and I wish to divide it into sections to alleviate the effect. Walls would be too expensive and hedges need too much maintenance. Are there any other solutions?

Why not use a screen of old scaffold poles that would act as support for a variety of climbing plants? The poles should be cleaned with a wire brush and sandpaper, and painted with metal primer; the tops should be plugged with a timber bung. Mark out the line of the screen and dig a trench 450 mm (18 in) deep and 300 mm (12 in) wide. Set the poles 150 mm (6 in) apart and hammer them about 200 mm (8 in) into the bottom of the trench, carefully checking their alignment. Then fill the trench with concrete, and finally gloss-paint the poles, bearing in mind that white or a pale colour will make the screen harder to see through.

My front gate keeps on binding. I have planed it off but the problem soon recurs. What should I do?

Although you do not mention the type of post, I suspect it is timber; and almost certainly it is the hanging post rather than the gate that is at fault. First check the part of the post at and below ground level. If it is rotten it will need replacing. If it is simply loose, remove both the gate and post, separating the two. Concrete the post back into position, following the same procedure as for fence posts . Take this opportunity of checking the hinges, and rub the gate down prior to repainting, paying particular attention to the bottom, which often gets missed. Rehang the gate, if necessary using longer screws into the post

I have bought a panel fence to replace an old, untidy privet hedge. How should the fence be erected?

Panel fences are quickly erected and should last a long time if they are maintained with regular coats of timber preservative (not creosote, which is poisonous to plants). The most important job is the firm positioning of fence posts.

Mark out the fence run with a line and dig the first hole just over 600 mm (2 ft) deep. Fill the bottom with broken hardcore and ram this down. Concrete will make the most durable fixing and should be worked in around the post; check the latter frequently for height and vertical alignment.

Use reasonably substantial battens to buttress each post while the concrete is drying; this will prevent the post from moving when the fence catches the wind. The top of the concrete should be brought just above ground level and sloped off to prevent water standing around the post bottom, which would allow rot to set in.

As the lengths of the panels may vary slightly, mark each one separately and offer up the first to determine the exact position of the second hole and post, the erection procedure being repeated.

Allow at least a week for the concrete to set before fixing the panels to the posts with galvanised nails. Concrete posts, which have a groove on either side into which the panels can quickly and easily be inserted, are a more efficient but less attractive alternative to timber ones.

Although my fence is basically sound and well maintained, a number of the posts have rotted. Can I repair these?

First of all, prevention is better than cure, so give all fence panels, boards, and posts an annual coat of timber preservative. If the base of the post is rotten but that above ground level is sound, a ready-made concrete spur can be fitted. Saw off the bottom of the old post (making the cut through sound timber) and dig the rotten section out. The spur should overlap the retained upper section by at least 300 mm (12 in), and is concreted into the already prepared hole. Bolt the spur to the post when the concrete has set, using nuts and washers.

If the entire post is rotten, remove the panels or boards on either side, cutting through the arris rails flush with the post if the fence is close boarded. The old post should then be removed and the replacement positioned at exactly the same height, preferably set in concrete. If the arris rails are rotten, cut them back to sound timber and fix new sections with scarf joints.

I want to build a boundary wall about 1.8 m (6 ft) high. What would be the best material to use and what foundations will it need?

New structures in the garden should match or complement existing ones in design and materials. Brick and stone may well reflect the character of a house, but so too will concrete if it is sensibly used; smaller cottages often look better with a fence or hedge. The depth of the foundation (footing) for a wall depends on site conditions and should be dug down to solid ground, usually to a depth of 450-600 mm (18-24 in). The width of the footing should be twice the width of the wall. Any wall over 1.5 m (5 ft) high should be 225 mm (9 in) thick for brick and rather more for stone.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.