Function and form: how to get the best out of your new fence

Here, Antony Reed from Birkdale compares different fencing solutions and looks at how to achieve the best possible results – with both long-term function and aesthetics in mind.

When it comes to fencing, traditionally, two materials have dominated the market: timber and concrete. However, there are now steel and composite products available that provide an affordable, lightweight and long-lasting alternative.

Function First

Keeping costs under control is key for many homeowners and so timber fence posts are often selected for a quick fix, especially after storm damage. However, timber solutions are prone to rot and have a limited lifespan of approximately 10 years with regular treatment. In comparison, steel posts are far more cost-effective thanks to their durability and long lifespan. 

While concrete is also popular because of its durability, it is only superficially more durable and concrete fence posts often fail to deliver the longevity required by homeowners. This is because poorly made or damaged posts can be susceptible to freeze-thaw weathering, which causes cracking and compromises structural integrity.

A steel post, on the other hand, will not warp, twist, rot or crack, meaning steel posts are guaranteed for a worry-free 15-years, or 25 years for powder coated options. What’s more, untreated steel posts are now available at a similar price point to concrete. 

Ease of installation is also crucial for a self-builder. Weighing in at 50kg for a single 8ft post, concrete posts are impractical for most self-builders to consider installing by themselves. In contrast, a steel fence post can be up to 80% lighter than concrete, with some products weighing in at just 8kg per 8ft post. This results in an easier installation and can save you money on installation costs.

As a natural material, timber solutions often spring to mind as sustainable; but this isn’t guaranteed and instead depends on the method used to treat the timber. Many councils will not accept varnished or painted timber at recycling centres due chemicals present in the finish. Timber’s lack of longevity also means that a household could go through a significant number of timber fence posts and panels during a lifetime.

Concrete is almost never recyclable and is infamous for its negative ecological impact – its production alone produces an estimated 8% of global emissions. Instead, by selecting steel products from a carbon neutral manufacturer, like Birkdale, you can help to lower the embodied carbon of your fencing installation. 

Fencing in all its forms

A new fence doesn’t always have to be purely practical, there are plenty of options available to those looking to utilise their fence as a complementary design element to their home.

Just as there are different materials to consider when it comes to fence posts, so too are there a wealth of options when it comes to the panels: the main two being timber or composite. Traditional timber panels are popular because they are often inexpensive and can be easily over-painted to change the finish. That said, rot is a common problem and the lightweight structure of timber panels can be susceptible to wind and impact damage. If paired with concrete posts, timber panels can also be easily removed, affecting the security of your property.

Composite panels, on the other hand, provide all the advantages of timber without the drawbacks. Composite solutions can also be shaped and textured to emulate the finish of a timber panel, as well as being available in a number of different colour options, giving you the same traditional aesthetic as timber without the need to regularly treat it.

This aesthetic element is crucial, as often your fence is the first impression a visitor gets of your home. As a result, selecting a fence that complements the look of your home or the surrounding area is a great way to enhance your project.

That said, an attractive fence can be used for more than simply establishing your property’s boundaries. It can also be utilised within your garden. Panels can be used to partition different spaces, separating one flower bed from another or cordoning off an outdoor kitchen to make it feel more enclosed. Similarly, high-quality fencing can also be used to hide potential eyesores such as bin stores or heat pumps.

Whether you are working on a project or still in the planning stages, it’s always best to make sure you consider all your options and don’t leave your fencing as a potentially costly after thought. Whether you are in need of a timely repair or a large-scale fencing system, making an informed choice about the material you choose and the potential design possibilities is the best way to get the most out of your fence.