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Designing and building the perfect fence with Shannon Vos

 Any major element in and outside of a home needs to be carefully considered before any trades can be called. Such a defining feature needs to compliment the home and the surrounding space, as well as stand out as a hero on its own. That’s exactly what we wanted for the front fence and balustrade of our now all-black home.

Coming from the green beast that the home was, the decking and the handrail were very dated and a total eyesore of a first impression. The previous owners, seemed to not take the front of their home into consideration, so we needed a makeover.  As we are creating a black home, with black trim and black windows, we need a fence and balustrade to contrast the all-black aesthetic but to also bring some warmth to the frontage. As this was also the front of the home, even though we are down a battle-axe driveway, we also wanted the fence to offer a level of privacy for the kid’s playroom and office. A lot to ask for from a humble fence, but we needed a versatile hardy product and a plan.

So that’s where we started, with a plan and made sure it was airtight. I wanted a seamless look, without the need for exposed fixings so we set up a framework of posts and rails to hold and support our fence and screen. We fixed the posts into regular saddles set in concrete, and the rails into the sides of the posts simply fixed with small aluminium angles that we hid with in the square tube rail. This gave us a framework with only a couple of visible screws. I didn’t want the rails to stand out too much, as I wanted the majority of the fences’ aesthetic to run up/down. We could set the posts quite far apart as we didn’t have the weight or the flexibility constraints of timber, this went for the rails as well, and we really built a minimal framework. It’s astonishing to see how rigid and strong the framework was, considering what little there was of it. Considering aluminium comes in close to three times stronger than most timbers, we are already winning. 

With the posts and rails set, we got on about constructing the batten panel that we could simply lift and fix into place in-between the uprights posts, in one easy (fingers crossed) lift. We made these in the garage on a level floor and set a giant make-shift square. Once we had a measurement of the distance between two posts, we set the 50mm battens down at a distance of around 40mm (each bay we constructed was slightly different) and fixed them to an angle that would run between the two posts and sit on the corresponding rail. Each batten was fixed from behind to two angles that would span the bay and then be hung onto the rails. Essentially, we were making giant batten panels that we lifted and fixed onto each rail of the fence. These were different in width as the post widths all varies, and also in height as we followed the slight undulation of the ground. There was a lot of planning into the build of each panel, but once we had our measurements right, it was a surprisingly easy process to construct.

The panels were fixed into place with three small metal screws, from the top of the angle that was attached to the span of battens, to the top of the rail framework. These are out of sight, and you would have to search hard and wide to see an actual fixing on the fence. This creates a seamless look, something that would be much more difficult to achieve with timber.

The biggest win apart from the sheer architectural presence the fence has, is the fact these battens are virtually maintenance free. I’ve been a painter for over twenty years now, so I am somewhat versed in protective coatings and in an Australian environment, most timbers just don’t last. Timber swells and contracts under the heat, the cold, and the rain, so much so that most timbers need a coat every six months. Twice a year, for the rest of its life. I can think of better things to do.

Deco lasts, literally a lifetime, and that’s the biggest win for me. No oiling, no sanding, no splinters. No weekends spent on the sander and brush, which frees up time for the more important things in life. 

 

 

 

 

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