Fencing and screening buying guide

Fencing and screening buying guide

Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Guide written by:

Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff

134 guides

Whether used to mark a boundary, provide more privacy or just improve the look of your home, installing new fencing can be a great idea – that is, if you make the right choice! From mesh to wood, PVC to composite materials, there are plenty of options. Follow our guide to find the right fencing for your property!

Important features

  • Flexible mesh
  • Rigid mesh
  • Panels
  • Traditional fences
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10 points to consider before buying a garden fence


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There are many different types of fencing and each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. To find out exactly what you're after, weigh up the following points:

  1. Planning permission - before making any decisions, find out about any local restrictions that might affect your plans.
  2. Material - it's up to you to choose the right material based on your tastes and how much maintenance you're willing to carry out.
  3. Type - flexible or rigid (bearing in mind that flexible fences are easier to fit around the shape of your garden).
  4. Height - be sure to check whether you need planning permission before making your final choice and it's always best to consult with your neighbours out of courtesy.
  5. Installation - depending on the type of fencing you go for, you may need to bury your fence posts or buy a supporting surface for your wire mesh.
  6. Lifespan - this varies depending on the material of the fence and how well it is maintained. Choose your materials wisely to ensure your fence lasts.
  7. Use - think about why you need a fence; to set apart land, provide more privacy, etc.
  8. Length - it may seem obvious but there's a big difference between installing a 20-foot fence and a 90-foot one in terms of both aesthetics and installation (which all comes down to how much determination and ambition you have!). 
  9. Budget - to calculate according to the full length of the fence plus all the tools and accessories required.
  10. Design - based on any planning restrictions, budget, material and installation.

Find the solution to all these points and you'll be perfectly poised to pick the right fence for your space!

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Types of fencing

Different types of fencing

Flexible mesh


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Flexible mesh is ideal for rough or uneven terrain, and is also the fastest and cheapest solution to set up. The size of the mesh should generally be pretty small (50x50, 100x50 mm, etc.) to prevent any animals from passing through. The mesh can also be covered with additional screening if desired.

Metal or wooden poles are embedded directly in the ground to serve as a support for the mesh, making installation relatively simple. If you go for wood, be sure to choose an exotic variety for better resistance to rot. The wire mesh is held taut by tensioned metal cables and staples. Bear in mind, however, that flexible mesh is easy to cut making you vulnerable to intruders. Furthermore, it is not very sturdy and is less attractive than other options.

Rigid mesh panels


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Rigid panel mesh offers higher quality than flexible mesh. However, unlike flexible mesh, it doesn't mould very well to sloping ground or winding edges.

Installing the posts for this type of fencing requires precision and great attention to detail to ensure that the panels align properly. The fence posts can be embedded in the ground or fixed to a low retaining wall.

Though tougher and more resistant than flexible mesh, you will still be able to see through this type of fencing; if you want to reduce visibility, you will have to grow a hedge around it. Like any mesh, hard mesh will keep animals out or in but is relatively easy to cut (and therefore doesn't provide protection from intrusion). While it is more complex to install the fence posts, this solution provides good value for money. It's worth noting that, these days, you can choose from a range of panel and post colours.

Metal railings


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Metal railings are a top of the range fencing option. Installed by a specialist, you can choose from a variety of shapes and colours. Whether installed straight into the ground or mounted on a low wall, this type of fence enhances the appearance of your home and guarantees a long service life. It also requires limited maintenance as the bars are given rust-proof protection that only needs to be topped up every ten years or so. Its construction boasts unparalleled strength. On the other hand, the cost can be high compared to other solutions.

Traditional board fencing


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Traditional board fences are attractive, available in a variety of shapes and colours and highly robust. Made of wood, PVC or composite materials, this type of fence adds real value to your home. Installed on the ground or on a low wall, these fences are, however, a little trickier to put up than basic mesh fences. If your fence is made of wood, it will require regular maintenance (staining or painting) though you'll avoid these tasks if you go for PVC or composites.

Between vertical and horizontal boards and traditional or modern designs, you'll have no trouble finding a model and colour to suit your tastes. Highly robust, this type of fence acts as an effective windbreak, and depending on its height, can also be effective against intrusions (especially if mounted on a low wall). On the other hand, installation requires care and experience and the cost will be higher than a mesh fence.

Solid fencing panels


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These fences are usually made of wood but are also available in composite materials. An attractive option, these solid fences enhance the look of any surrounding land and provide good protection against animals and the wind. Installation is relatively simple (buried poles or fixed onto a low wall).

Depending on the height you choose, these fences offer a varying amount of protection against potential intruders. They also require regular maintenance (stain or varnish if made of wood). In general, this type of fence is best kept for enclosing smaller areas, such as terraces and pools.

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Fencing posts

How to choose the right fence


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Of course, the design and colour of your fence will purely come down to taste. However, the technical specifications of your fence must be selected with care. In order to choose the most appropriate type of fence for your garden, you must take  various criteria into account.

Terrain type and surface area

Is your garden flat and even? Or is it rough and sloping? What kind of surface area are you hoping to fence in?

Proximity of neighbours

Do you want protection from prying eyes or simply to mark off your property? Are you planning to plant a hedge or is there one already?

Role of the fence

Think about whether you want to add aesthetic value to your home or simply keep out animals and enclose your property.

Maintenance

Maintenance is an important factor to consider. Are you prepared to paint your fence on a regular basis? Or, on the other hand, do you want to having nothing more to do with the fence once it's installed?

Cost

From the most basic mesh fence up to high-end metal railings, the cost of fencing varies substantially. Check the cost per metre to compare the different options.

Planning permission for installing a fence


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Generally speaking, you probably won't need to get planning permission if you're thinking about installing a new fence. Nonetheless, it is important to enquire about any rules as there are certain height restrictions (usually 2 metres), as well as certain rules for conservation areas and listed properties.

Garden screening

If you're looking at mesh-type fences and you want to add an aesthetic touch to your garden – or simply add a bit of privacy – there are a number of garden screening options available to you.

Hedges


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There's nothing much to it: simply pout some hedge plants in the ground and wait for them to grow to provide extra coverage.

Laurel and box are particularly popular hedge varieties, but you can choose from many types including privet, beech and yew.

Natural screening


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Natural screening creates an immediate effect but ages rather badly. Screening comes in a variety of natural materials (reed, bamboo or even willow) to match its surroundings and your flowers. Synthetic materials are also available for those looking for a more modern feel.

Brushwood


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Brushwood offers a more natural look and provides some noise insulation. It doesn't hold an awful lot of heat so your soil won't dry out as quickly as with a wire fence.

Windscreens and privacy screening


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This option isn't the best option aesthetically speaking but it does have the advantage of being highly effective!

Whatever option you choose, be aware that screening does not provide any protection against intrusion. In terms of longevity, natural hedging is the best option (even though you usually have to wait for it to grow). Reed screening tends to stain and break down over time, so it's better to go for brushwood if you don't want to start over every year – especially if you live in a particularly windy area. If you want to enhance the security of your property, install an alarm.

Quick tip: you may have come across wood or plastic free-standing fence panels which are mounted on feet and can be adapted to any size of garden. Despite the apparent advantages, this type of barrier is not recommended for use in the garden. These panels are generally unstable, lightweight, are not windproof and should only really be used as decoration. They can, nonetheless, be used effectively indoors, as a divider for wind-protected restaurant terraces or to close off doorways for small, well-behaved dogs! In any other context, it's best to give these free-standing panels a miss.

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Screening

Final tips for choosing your fencing

You don't want to be changing your fence every two years, so take the time to consider all the different options carefully. Feel free to do a 'test-run' over a small length to see how it looks.

Also consider the more modern PVC or composite options. These materials are very easy to maintain, they have an impressive lifespan and are also pretty easy to install in the first place. Nowadays, imitation wood can be very convincing or even indistinguishable to the untrained eye!

Don't forget that you can mix different types of fence. A sleek full metal balustrade to the front will really enhance the appearance of your home, while a simple mesh fence may be enough to enclose your garden at the rear!

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Guide written by:

Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff, 134 guides

Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Electrician by trade, I first worked in industrial estates where I installed, wired and fixed a large number of electrical installations. After this, I managed a team of electricians for this type of work. 10 years or so ago, I turned to building and construction. From the modest family home, to gyms and theatres; I have been able to coordinate, audit and organise all sorts of construction sites. for 4 years now, I am restaoring and bulding an extrension to a bungalow in the heart of the welsh countyside. My experience in manual work and my knowledge means I am proud to be of service. Terraces, interior design, roofing, plumbing, electricty, anything goes! We have, my wife, daughter and I, built almost everything we have from scratch! So to answer all of your questions, and to orientate and advise you on coosing your tools? Easy!

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