Replacing or repairing a garden fence

Replacing or repairing a garden fence may seem like the most mundane task there is – and often it is. The law surrounding boundaries is quite lax, meaning it’s tricky to force a neighbour into taking care of a shared fence or to hand over some money for work done. It’s hardly surprising that so many neighbourly feuds start at the fence.

japanese style fence

Image source: Wolfgang H. Wögerer, Wien

Garden fences are also uninspiring in terms of design, with most people driving to the nearest DIY depot to pick up the cheapest option. That’s because any unusual design choices will need to be cleared by two households.

Fencing issues can be a positive experience. They encourage you to foster relationships with neighbours so that bigger issues can be dealt with more easily down the line. With the right neighbours too, there is some fancy fencing to be had while stubborn neighbours can be made to go out of sight, and therefore out of mind.

Boundary dispute

If you’re wondering whose responsibility it is to replace or repair a fence, then the answer is probably: nobody’s. Some deeds do state that a certain boundary is someone’s responsibility (look for a ‘T’ drawn on your side of the boundary on any plans you might have), but this is rare.

fence with bike

Image source: Pixabay

There is no legal obligation to fence the boundaries of your land in the UK, unless you happen to be one of the very few that lives next to a railway, mine or motorway, or if you hold livestock. Because there is no duty to erect a fence around a boundary, a stubborn neighbour can simply refuse to stump up the cash for a shared fence.


Likewise, there is no common law dictating that the left fence in a garden is your responsibility. This is pure urban myth, though many seem to find it an adequate way of divvying up responsibilities.

But whatever the lax legalities, everyone wants fences, and while there is no duty to have them, there are certainly plenty of rules telling you what you are allowed to erect if you choose to fence your garden.

designer fence

Image source: pb3131, San Franccisco Fence Installation

Anything higher than two metres will require planning permission. This includes trellises, so for those thinking that they can go taller with thick climbers, think again. However – and quite confusingly – the law doesn’t forbid a plant grown along the top of a fence. Sneaky green fingers can make a difference.

How to resolve boundary quibbles then? Communication. There is no avoiding the fact that any work involving fences means you need to talk to your neighbours. Think of it as a good trust-building exercise for when you inevitably want that party, paintjob or even extension. Be friendly but firm, making sure you’re very clear on height, style and payment before proceeding.

Pushing design boundaries

The garden fence is seldom an exhibition piece but this doesn’t mean you have to erect the most mundane materials you can find.

Grey fencing is particularly popular right now, mirroring the indoor fad for grey being seen in homes. The dark colour works wonderfully with bright green plants, providing a sophisticated backdrop that accentuates natural colour.

dark grey fence

Image source: London Garden Design, flowergardengirl

Fencing with spaced panels is also on trend, though gaps in panelling should be dark with an interior piece of wood running inside to block off the view of the other side. Consider changing the direction of your panels at different points so that the fence at the back of your garden runs vertically while your side fences run horizontally. Doing so creates a dramatic effect.

You can also play with fencing by alternating panel width, colour and wood type. Keep the panels relatively consistent though without going too patchwork. A great look is to have the same differing panels for decking, flower boxes, raised vegetables patches and other areas.

If design and price can’t be agreed on, you can resist an unbecoming neighbour by turning your side of a new boring fence into a vertical garden. Plant climbers, creepers and other bushy vegetation. This is a great way to get more greenery into your garden; better yet, plant some tall crops such as tomatoes or beans to run along the length of your fence.

If you need help with repairing or replacing fence, post your job in our carpenter or gardener categories and up to three local tradesmen will get in touch.

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  1. OK so, I’ve just moved and now am refurbishing my new home and have builders on site. The neighbour (on my right) drew to my attention the boundary fence is rotting and said it was my responsibility and he wants it doing soon “did the previous owner tell me it had to be replaced”..NO!
    However, to keep equilibrium with my new neighbour, I have spent almost £1000 on 15 panels, 15 concrete gravel boards and three extra concrete posts – I purchased 5ft high by 6ft long panels. He is not only moaning because I’ve not purchased 5ft 5″ high panels but he has also deposited all his rubble/tree/branch debris on the pile at my house which the grab lorry will not take! I see no benefit from these panels as they are on his side of the green hedgerow. I’ve also got to dispose of the old rotting panels. Please can you tell me – should I have purchased 5ft 5″ panels???

  2. I think having alternating panels for the deck would be really easy on the eyes. We have some flower boxes that we want to redo and make a little more colorful. Maybe we should hire someone to come out and take a look at our decking situation to see what they can do.

  3. My fence problem is slightly different. The previous owner of the house I have just bought. For reasons best known to himself. Replaced a perfectly adequate ( Ministry provided ) heavy duty chain link fence. The replacement of choice was standard 1.8m panels. Held by slotted concrete posts and supported beneath by concrete gravel boards. Panels are not robust. Inevitably they are weakened by constant exposure to heavy rain and fierce sun. Become loose between the posts and blow away in gales.
    I estimate that in twenty years. Replacement costs have almost equalled that of initial construction
    My house is surrounded by vertical boards. Which can if necessary be replaced individually and fixed to arris rails. In forty years I have yet to have one ‘ blow away ’.
    So my first instinct is to manufacture replacement sections comprised of four arris rails an 16-17 vertical boards.
    But I am mindful of the fact passers by used to enjoy viewing the garden through the chain link fence. Does anyone have any useful suggestions which would enable me to maintain security but allow ‘ transparency ’ ?

  4. My sister has recently passed away and her estate is going to probate. However, I have the responsibility of her house, which she has rented out for the last 9 years. The next door neighbour wants to erect a new fence (as the previous one blew down with recent winds) and is expecting me to pay half of the cost. A dwarf wall is currently there, on which the fence panels sat on, I believe. It is approximately 80feet long and they have a quote for £825.00 to renew the fence panels, which they want done in the next week. I currently have no income and cannot afford to pay any part of a new fence and the house is not legally mine, yet. How do I stand with this?

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