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How To Fix Fence Panels

2 August 2023

Garden fences are great, aren't they? They define our personal spaces, provide a sense of security and privacy, and they make our gardens look good.

They can be plain but sturdy, and they can be elegant but robust. Either way, they're not just boundary markers; they're also ornamental.

Why Do Fence Panels Break?

While most modern fencing is hard-wearing, it has to withstand British weather, which means strong winds, heavy rain, and blazing sunshine (sometimes all on the same day!). Although they can last for around 20 years, long-term exposure to extreme temperature changes, moisture, and strong winds can eventually cause a wooden fence panel to warp, crack, or rot.

Poor installation and inferior-quality timber can cause fence panels to fail earlier than expected, as can rusty nails and screws. Insects are also to blame, as they can attack untreated timber, ending its life early.

They are also vulnerable to accidental damage, such as a falling branch or the result of a football kicked with more enthusiasm than accuracy!

Our post "What Is The Strongest Type Of Fencing" maybe interest you. You can check it out.

Getting Prepared

Your first task is to gather the right tools for the job. While you might not need all of them, it's best to know what to expect and to be prepared for all eventualities:

  • Crowbar
  • Screwdrivers
  • Claw hammer
  • Club hammer
  • Spirit level
  • Pliers
  • Hacksaw
  • Tape measure
  • Safety gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Postcrete
  • Spade
  • Shovel
  • WD-40

Removing & Replacing

If you decide to replace the entire panel, check first to see how it is attached to the post. With concrete fence posts, this is pretty easy: loosen and remove the fittings, then lift out the broken panels.

Timber posts are usually a bit trickier as the panels will often have galvanised nails holding them securely in place.

Screws are fairly easily removed, provided you have a powerful drill driver or electric drill. Otherwise, you'll need to do this by hand, and that can take a bit of effort. To make things easier, spray it with WD-40 and leave it for 15 minutes to soak in.

If the panel is fixed in place with nails or U-shaped fence clips, these will need to be removed. The clips can be unscrewed, but nails can be a pain! Rather than struggle with them, you could cut through them with a hacksaw. If not, then you'll need to persevere with a crowbar or clawhammer.

Once all the fittings are removed, the damaged fence panel should lift away. Use safety gloves to avoid splinters or catching yourself on protruding nails.

Slot the new panel into place (on concrete fence posts), or get someone to hold the new fence panel in position while you use nails or screws to attach it to the posts.

Fixing A Fence Panel

Minor damage can sometimes be fixed, but it's still easier to remove the damaged panel so you can work on it. Follow the directions above and lay the panel on the ground so you can examine it carefully.

If the slats have slipped, you can reposition them and affix an Arris rail bracket to keep them in place.

However, if rot has caused the damage, it might be wiser to replace it completely.

Otherwise, individual slats and struts can be replaced, but this may involve dismantling the panel in order to remove the broken sections and get the new parts into place.

How difficult this is will depend on the style of fence you have, but take care not to damage any other parts of the fence panel.

Measure up and head to the DIY store to get the lengths of timber you need, allowing for a bit of extra length (you may need to cut them to size, but it's better than them being too short!).

Carefully fix them into place and treat the new timber with a wood preservative.

Re-attach the repaired panel to the fence posts.

Broken Fence Posts

Replacing a broken fence post usually presents more of a challenge: wooden posts often rot and break sooner than the panels as they are exposed to moisture more frequently.

Start by detaching the post from the panels on either side and brace the fence panels to prevent them from falling. Join two pieces of wood in a T-shape and use this as a brace.

Before you replace timber posts, you need to dig out the concrete holding the old one in place. In a way, it's easier to dig new post-holes (especially with a post-hole digger!), as the old concrete will be difficult to shift. But, unfortunately, this is where the hole needs to be, so you'll need to soldier on. Use a club hammer if necessary to break it up, but try not to widen the hole too much.

Put a handful of gravel in the hole and stand the new post inside. Use your spirit level to check that it's straight. Add postcrete according to the manufacturer's instructions and use wooden props to support the post while the concrete sets.

Once it's dry, attach the fence panels.

Handy Tip:

Concrete posts last longer! While they're not always as attractive as wood posts, they will usually last a lifetime. Fit gravel boards, as these form a removable section between the fence and ground level that prevents the wooden fence from rotting. You can have concrete or wooden gravel boards, but concrete has a much longer lifespan.

For more information, you can check out our post "How To Install Concrete Fence Posts".

Fixing A Broken Arris Rail

Some fences have an arris rail (also called fence rails). These are triangular or rectangular lengths of timber that run horizontally across the upright slats and are attached to the posts.

If one of these snaps, you may not need to replace the entire panel, as you could use an Arris rail bracket. These are made of galvanised steel, and some have a flange so you can attach them to the post. Be sure to use galvanised screws or galvanised clout nails. Decking screws are perfect for the job, but if you don't have these, you might want to drill pilot holes to make life easier.

Call The Experts Or Do It Yourself?

As a professional fencing company, Fence Forge can handle all kinds of fencing installation and repairs, and we're here when you need us.

But we also understand that you might want to cut costs by doing the job yourself and that millions of people get satisfaction from DIY projects. If you're among them, we're here to offer some guidance.

All we would say is that you should be absolutely sure before starting the job. You should be reasonably fit and healthy and able to lift fairly heavy weights. You can find some more safety advice further along.

You can also check out our post "How Much Do Fencers Charge" for additional insights.

Repair Or Replace?

When you discover a broken fence panel, do you try to fix it, or is it time to replace it? Knowing the difference could save you money!

Start by checking the panels carefully to ascertain the extent of the damage. If the damage has affected more than around 20% of the entire fence, it's wise to replace the whole section of fencing.

If you have a small amount of damage, it's probably worth fixing that section or maybe just replacing a single panel. Bear in mind that unless you are staining or painting your new fence panel, it will stand out from the other sections that have weathered over time.

Legal Technicalities

Before you repair or install fence panels, make sure you know who they belong to. You can do this by checking the title deeds, which will show a T on one side of the boundary or the other, indicating who it belongs to.

Planning Permission

If you're in a conservation area or your property faces a public highway or footpath, there are certain rules you must follow to avoid the need for planning permission.

For example, if your boundary faces a public footpath or boundary, your fence can't be more than one metre high. As a general rule, it can't be more than two metres in height.

Safety Advice

Around 200,000 people are injured each year in the UK due to DIY accidents*. While you might not end up in the hospital, you could sustain an injury that prevents you from working for a while or gives you considerable pain.

*There are also around 70 fatalities every year, often due to failure to use adequate safety protection.

When fixing fence panels, you should consider the following:

  • Wear protective gloves when handling fence panels and posts
  • Wear safety glasses and a facemask if you are mixing cement
  • Wash your hands after handling cement, as it can cause burns
  • Wear steel toe-capped boots if possible
  • It takes two people to replace a fence panel - do not try to do this by yourself!
  • Don't fit a fence panel in high winds

With a bit of planning and common sense, you could avoid a potentially painful and unpleasant experience.

Fence Forge - The Fencing Professionals

While it's possible, and understandable, that you might want to do this yourself, it's rarely worth the hassle and frustration.

If your fence is damaged, we can examine it for you and advise on the best course of action. It may need a simple repair, or it may be better to replace it. Whatever the case, we can offer common-sense advice that you can trust.

And if you are concerned about the cost, have a chat with us, as it will probably be more reasonable than you imagine!

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