Average Labour Cost/Price of Putting Up a Fence/Fencing

Job 1

Replace one timber post, (concreted in), one 6’ (1800mm) high, interwoven fence panel and gravel board.

Two men to buy the materials, do the job, clear up and go to the tip. One day…..

Job 2

Supply and replace all the fencing on one side of a 50’ back garden.

This will take 3 days …….

A Price Guide and Information sheet on Fences/Fencing

There are basically two types of fences; panels (which are ready made) and composite, which have to be constructed as work progresses.

Both types share a common requirement, they have to be supported and that’s where the posts come in. Once again there are two types of post, concrete and timber. Concrete are more expensive, heavier and are supposed to last longer than wooden ones.

Each will eventually fail, timber because of rot, concrete because of frost and carbonation leading to rusting of the reinforcing rods. Though I have seen 8’ concrete posts snapped off (well badly bent) at ground level after a bad old storm, never mind wooden ones which can snap like matchsticks.

Panel fences

Panels are almost always wooden and come in several heights though they are usually 6’ (1800mm) long, which will be the distance between the posts. There are different varieties from lightweight, cheap and cheerful “interwoven”, to attractive and more expensive “waney edge”. The panels are fixed to either wooden posts or dropped into slots at the sides of each concrete post. There are also concrete sections, which can be slotted between concrete posts. It takes about 5 of these to make up a height of 6 feet.

Composite fences

These are fabricated on site and comprise the posts, which can be wooden or concrete, with horizontal wooden stretchers between them near the top and bottom. With a fence height of 6’ or more (1800mm), there should also be one in the middle. The fence itself is made from individual vertical 4” or 6” (100-150mm) wide boards, which very often are a thin wedge shape called “feather edging”. The distance between posts with this type of fence can be as much as 10’ (3000mm / 3 metres).

The Horizontal Stretchers (Arris Rails)

Traditionally these have always been triangular in design to allow rainwater to run off them and prevent rot. These are called “arris rails” and they have always been morticed into the posts. To do this, a hole (or mortice) roughly 3” (75mm) square is cut into the post and one “sharpened” end of the arris rail is wedged into it. That means two mortices on each side of each post are required, rising to three if the fence is 6’ (1800mm) high. This takes time and costs you money, though the arris rails can be secured with galvanised or better still stainless steel, brackets thereby doing away with the mortice hole but these are visually very obvious and to some eyes, spoil a good job!

The exact positioning of the front face of the arris’ (the one the featheredge boards are to be fixed to) is very important. This should be about 1¼” (30mm)
in from the face of the posts. If this is done, the featheredges will be set just back from the post faces and the job will look right. If you really want to make an impression and you are having a long run of fencing, alternate the way each adjoining 3m section of featheredges are “pointing”, that really shows someone is on the ball!

I notice today that normal square edged boards are being substituted for the triangular “arris rails”. These are fixed across the front of the posts leaving only the post tops visible. Also the problem of whether to mortice or bracket, is removed. This is progress I suppose but it might be prudent to get the fencer to plane each rail to give it a rain shedding sloping top, a bit like the old arris design, then treat the newly exposed wood.

Fence Posts

All concrete posts are about 6” (150mm) square and have to be concreted into the ground.
Wooden posts can be 3” 4” or 6” square (75, 100, 150mm) depending on fence height, exposure to high winds and how long you want them to last. These are best concreted in as well but they can also be slid into the sockets of “metposts” which are pointed metal stakes driven into the ground. “Metposts” are quick and easy but the posts will be no where near as firm in the ground and with a high fence it will soon be leaning all over the shop!

There are also metal brackets to fix wooden posts directly onto a concrete slab.

Fence Treatment

According to my wife, the back fence is about the only thing that’s ever had a treat in our house!

All wooden fencing materials are now (pressure) treated against rot during production. However it may be a good idea to get the posts a week in advance and soak the bottoms in creosote, it will double their life!

Make sure the posts and panels/vertical timbers, are treated with the same colour preservative, particularly if they may be coming from different suppliers.

Gravel Boards

These are an often overlooked, aspect of fencing. A gravel board is simply a 6” (150mm) wide, length of treated wooden board (or better still concrete), which is laid on the soil at the base of a wooden fence. It is effectively a “sacrificial timber”, designed to rot away over time. The fence itself sits directly on its top edge away from the ground. It’s cheaper to replace rotten wooden gravel boards, than the whole fence.


Fences tend to have a good and a bad side (this is definitely apparent in featheredge fencing). It is usual to be responsible for only one side fence in your garden (you usually argue over a communal fence at the bottom of your garden) and it is common practise and a courtesy to your neighbour, to have the bad side facing you, when you replace any fence.

Replacing a Fence

So, your fence is rotten and its time for a new one. Choosing the right
time to re-fence is sensible. Working blokes don’t tend to be too delicate and fencing can make a right mess of your borders and those of your neighbours, so you should inform them well in advance.

The best time is in winter when everything’s dead or seriously cut back. You can even put inverted buckets over small plants to give them a fighting chance, but expect to loose some of them to worker’s clodhoppers!

Remember, the old fence will have to be dug out first and the new posts probably won’t go into the same holes so a lot of earth can be disturbed.

What type of fence do you want? Have a walk around the neighbourhood to pinch ideas regarding design, type of materials and height. This might just transform your lives, particularly if you live around London. You might find yourself in an inescapable situation where you have to actually speak to a neighbour. There’s a slight chance that this will lead to a friendship of some sort, you might all go out for a drink together or maybe have a jolly BBQ……. No! don’t be ridiculous…. get the car out.

It's no use asking the fencer, he couldn’t care less and will possibly try to flog you the most expensive, or the one he makes the most profit on.

He definitely won’t appreciate you asking for a quote on 5 or 6 different types. There’s a limit to everyone affability even if he’s pretending to be nice to you to get the job!

Questions to ask the fencer during his quotation visit.

What thickness posts will he be using?
3” square ones are really not suitable for a 6’ high fence. Best use 4".

How will he be securing the posts?
Concreting them into the ground is best.

How deep a hole will he be digging?
A post for 6’(1800mm) high panels, on top of a 6” (150mm) gravel board must be 8’ (2400mm) long, with 18” (450mm) below the ground.

How much concrete will he use?
Ideally, each hole should be dug in “virgin” ground. If this is the case the hole only has to be as wide as necessary to get down to the required depth. He may use a specialist double spade digger for this. If the soil is loose, or he has to dig out right next to an existing hole, he should dig back to firm ground all round. The space around the post should then be completely filled with concrete to about 1” (25mm) below the surface, packing down as he pours. That can be a lot of concrete!
Concrete, is made by mixing “ballast”, (a mixture of small stones or aggregate, and sand) with cement powder, together with water. The correct proportion of ballast to powder should be 5:1.

How long will he leave the posts to set?
Ideally this should be no less than overnight.

How will he fix panels and gravel boards to posts?
The best method is with galvanised or stainless “U” shaped brackets, but if he uses nails anywhere on a fence, they must be galvanised.

Does he use triangular “arris” or square edged, horizontal fixing rails? It's a cosmetic detail, but it is best to ask - triangular are more popular/traditional.

How will he fix “arris” rails to posts?

Morticed in, or galvanised or stainless brackets?

How will he finish the fence top?
Panels and “featheredge” boarding tops should always be horizontal, though on rising ground, each section between posts may step up in relation to its neighbour. Posts should be cut approx. 1” (25mm) above the fence top and be fitted with a wooden “sacrificial” capping piece.

Will he clear the site completely on completion?
Will he remove all the old and unused materials and clean off the tons of black clogging mud he’s left all over your new driveway?