A Comprehensive Guide To Closeboard Fencing

An Introduction to Closeboard Fencing

Closeboard fencing remains the most cost-effective way to build a solid boundary that will stand the test of time. Closeboard fencing can also be incorrectly described as shiplap or feather board fencing, but essentially these descriptions refer to the same type of construction.

Due to the versatile nature of the product, it is important to bear in mind what size fence you would like to erect and whether you will require planning permission. Generally you can erect a fence of up to 1.95M high without planning permission, except where your fence is adjacent to a public highway. In this instance, the fence can only be up to 1m high, before planning permission is required. (We recommend you seek advice from your local council before commencing work).

Whether you are using cant rails, arris rails, timber or concrete posts the basic erection process remains the same.


Closeboard fencing is a simple construction of posts, rails, gravel boards, and featheredge. Posts should be a minimum of 100x100mm (4 x 4) section and concreted into the ground at a depth of approx 760mm (for taller fence variations) and the distance between the post centers should ideally not exceed 3.0m (10ft). Rails are then fixed horizontally across the face of the posts; usually two rails are needed on 1.2m (4ft) high featheredge and below, with three rails used on higher boundaries.

It is recommended but not essential to fit a gravel board at ground level between the posts. This serves to keep the featheredge from making contact with the ground, which will reduce future maintenance costs, because it is cheaper and easier to replace one gravel board rather than a large quantity of featheredge. The featheredge is then fitted vertically on to the front of the rails with a minimum of 25mm (1 inch) overlap.

Tip: To increase the lifespan of this closeboard fence you can erect it using concrete posts and gravel boards. Due to the long life expectancy of these products future costs of replacing the timber components will be considerably lower because only the rails and featheredge will need replacing.

Versatility & benefits of closeboard fencing

Because this particular style of fencing is constructed with individual pieces it is very versatile and offers many benefits.

1. Closeboard fencing is ideal for constructing a fence on sloping ground because gravel boards and rails can be fixed at an angle and then the featheredge can follow this level as required.

2. Closeboard has the benefit of being easy to repair. Should any featheredge start to show the ravishes of time, it is a quick and inexpensive process to replace the boards.

3. All materials that go into making this type of perimeter fencing are pressure treated, so that the longevity of the timber is at an absolute maximum.

4. If constructed correctly it is strong and long lasting.

5. Closeboard is commonly found in both green and brown as standard, making it far more versatile than most boundary options.

6. Closeboard can be used to make a fence of virtually any height.

7. Closeboard fencing is suitable for front and back gardens, as well as commercial use.

Maintenance of your closeboard fence

Timber is a living product and given enough time it will degrade. To get the best possible lifespan from the product it is recommended that the timber is treated every two to three years. This is best undertaken with a solvent based treatment during the summer months, so that it can soak into the dry wood.

Help & advice

If you are interested in erecting closeboard fencing at your property, please get in touch with your local branch. Our specialists will be happy to offer help and advice and can provide you with a free quote for the supply of all relevant materials.

Planning & Preparation

Firstly before you decide on what materials you will need it is important to understand what the final product is that you want. For any information on the HOW to erect closeboard fencing follow the step-by-step guide below. For buying any of our top quality closeboard materials click here.

There are many questions you will need to have clear answers for before erecting your own fence, such as how long is your fence going to be? How tall do you want it? What is your budget? What materials are most suited to both your needs and taste? The below topics will help you answer these questions as well as offer advice you may not have thought of!

Erecting a Closeboard fence should go in this order –

  • Peg out a string line, defining the front face of the fence line
  • Dig hole
  • Place post in and ensure the level
  • Concrete in (keeping post level as it sets)
  • Dig next hole
  • Position post and insert rails
  • Ensure level and correctly in alignment, then concrete in
  • Repeat procedures above until framework complete
  • Attach featheredge boards at each end of the bays to realise the position of the gravel board
  • Attach cleats followed by gravel boards and stumps
  • Complete attaching featheredge boards
  •  Fit the capping (optional)

An overview of the components we are going to cover is shown here:

Hole digging

If you do not have any specific fencing tools for digging holes it is best advised that you use a garden border spade (the small ones with a blade approx 5-6″ wide).  If the ground you are digging in has concrete or gravel involved you may have to use a 1.5m crowbar chisel & point or maybe a power tool with a breaker attachment.

The ideal fence post hole would be from 600mm (2ft) to 750mm (2ft 6″) deep, depending on the height of the fence, and about 200mm (8″) square with straight sides.

Fence Posts and Installation

Post length

The most common garden fence height is 1.8m (6ft) and the minimum fence post length for this height would be 2.4m (8ft). If you have a gravel board or a trellis remember to allow for this on top. A minimum of 600mm or 2ft needs to be embedded into the ground.

Concreting posts in

Concreting in fence posts can be done with either a mixture of ballast and cement, (approx. mix; 6:1) or postfix. The amount required of either product depends on the size of the hole that the post is going into.

When concreting fence posts into the ground the concrete is to be placed around the post, but not underneath. If a fence post has the concrete underneath as well as around the sides the concrete can trap water and therefore soak the post greatly increasing the chance of decay.

If the ground the fence post is sunk into is not free draining soil, then a small layer of shingle can be placed under the fence post (with the post still sunk approximately 600mm into the ground), to help drainage occur.

Back ramming

One possible method of fixing a fence post into the ground is back ramming. This is done by digging a hole only a little larger in width than the fence post you are supporting, placing the fence post in the hole and then backfilling with the removed soil and ramming to support the fence post. The soil should be backfilled and rammed bit by bit rather than all at once to ensure a good hold.

This method of securing the fence post is not suggested if the ground you are securing the post into is soft or loose.

Post types

When erecting closeboard fencing you will need to have morticed posts (mortices are the notches in which the rails sit) which can hold your rails. It is optional whether you pay for pre-morticed posts or mortice the posts yourself. We recommend that if you are not absolutely certain of what you are doing you should buy your posts pre-morticed as they are crafted by professionals in our workshops.

Post Tops

There are plenty of options, the common types of post tops.  For a standard closeboard fence without a counter rail, a half back weathered post is the norm. With a counter rail and capping, a very popular traditional post top is the round top.

What Rails and How to Install Them

Arris rails

Ended arris rails are installed by slotting them into the mortice hole in the post during erection of the fence.

Un-ended arris rails can be ended with a handsaw or adze and then slotted into the post the same way as an ended arris rail. The other method is to use arris rail support brackets. These simply screw or nail into the rail and onto the post.

Cant rails

Cant rails are installed by bolting to a concrete post or screwing them to a timber post. Another method is to buy posts which have been notched to suit the cant rail. (Available in concrete only)

Rail Quantity Guide

Common Fence Heights Number of Rails Post Centres
1050mm 2 Up to 3m
1200mm 2 Up to 3m
1350mm 2/3 Up to 3m
1500mm 3 Up to 3m
1800mm 3 Up to 3m
1950mm 3 Up to 3m

Featheredge Boards

How many featheredge boards to allow?

If this is 100mm wide we would expect that a completed 3m bay of fence would use 36 or 37 featheredge. It would be normal to allow for some wastage, so when calculating the quantity to order allow approximately 13 per metre run of fence.

Featheredge which is 125mm wide, (often used with cant rails) is available from our Peterborough Branch will require 30 boards per 3m bay.

Counter Rails and Fence Capping

Counter rails

These are an optional fixture located at the top of the fence and are always fitted in conjunction with a shaped capping. This combination of counter rail and capping gives the fence a lot more rigidity and lateral strength. The top of only every fourth featheredge is normally nailed to the counter rail, the ends of the counter rail are normally housed in mortices in the posts. The counter rail will require trimming to fit into the post mortice. Remember, when using a counter rail and capping, it is normal that an amount of post projects above the fence line. This may mean that if you have already economised with the length of fence post used, a longer fence post will be required. Concrete post options are fewer with a counter rail and capping.

A counter rail is a piece of timber that is nailed or morticed into both posts and then nailed to the featheredge. (1 nail every fourth featheredge is suggested.) It can then be used to support a capping which is nailed to it, providing not only a nice scenic finish to your fence but provides better protection against wet weather and helps make the fence last longer.

Centre Stumps and Gravel Boards

Closeboard fences should normally be fitted with a 50 x 50mm centre stump mounted under the lower rail in a mid position to prevent the garden fence sagging and improve lateral strength.

Timber gravel boards for closeboard fencing

Timber gravel boards on timber posts are installed using cleats. Cleats are a small block of wood measuring approximately 150mm x 50x25mm. The cleat is first nailed to the post at the required depth from the face of the post. This is usually about 22mm to allow the gravel board to be flush with the face of the post. The gravel board is then nailed onto the face of the cleat, completing the installation. 65mm nails are suggested for use with cleats and gravel boards.

Timber gravel boards for closeboard fence are installed using drilled cleats. Drilled cleats are a small block of wood measuring approximately 150mm x 50x25mm with two holes one above the other drilled through. The cleat is first bolted onto the concrete post. The suggested bolt for this would be M8/M10 x 180mm if a cleat is being attached on both sides of the post. If only one cleat is being attached then a M8/M10 x 160mm is suggested.

Concrete gravel boards for closeboard

Concrete gravel boards that are used with concrete morticed posts for closeboard fencing are attached using two pin push-in cleats. The cleats simply slot into the post using two holes located near the bottom of the post and then the gravel board is simply bolted onto cleats, usually using M8x80 or M10x80 bolts and appropriate washers. Some concrete posts have three holes, this allows the option to move the position of the gravel board on the fence post. This will also have an effect on the distance between the bottom arris rail and the gravel board. Other concrete posts have four holes which allows the option of using two gravel boards if required.

Because of the length of the gravel board, the centre is supported by a centre stump, which is attached by a coach screw and washer through a hole in the gravel board. The centre stump also attaches to the bottom arris rail, giving the whole structure rigidity. This is attached simply by nailing through the centre stump into the arris rail.

Fixing Concrete Gravel Boards To Concrete Posts

Specialist Closeboard Jobs

Erecting closeboard fencing on sloping ground

Closeboard fencing can be erected to follow the contours of the ground, this excellent feature of closeboard fencing gives a clean top and bottom line with no stepping. During the erection process on sloping ground, both ends of the gravel boards will require cutting. If the slope is extreme then the individual featheredge boards will also require both the bottom and top to be cut to suit the slope.

Fences above walls

Closeboard fencing is an ideal garden fence to erect above low brick walls. For best results, the fence posts are normally erected behind the wall. The traditional method of constructing the fence is modified to allow the featheredge boards, when the fence is complete, to be positioned above the centre of the wall rather than behind it.

Option 1

Nail the rails directly to the face of the fence posts. Arris rails with just the back trimmed may be used, alternatively use 87 x 38mm rectangular rails.

Option 2

Fix plain posts behind the wall and bolt stub posts to the front of these. The stub posts will be the same height as the garden fence and be morticed to receive arris rails in the normal manner. A gravel board is normally not required when a fence is erected above a wall, although if used will ensure the featheredge does not soak up any water from the top of the wall.

Fixings to walls

It is normally standard practice when a fence abuts a building or a wall to fix it to the masonry rather than sink a post into the ground.

This is because there are normally foundations not far below the ground making this a difficult job. Therefore, the solution is to fix a timber plate, normally 100 x 50mm in size, on to the wall to which the fence is connected.

Wall plates, as we call them, are normally morticed in the same manner as the fencing posts and are fixed with between two and four masonry fixings, three would be used for 1500-2000mm high fences.


Arris rail repair bracket

These are for existing closeboard fences with timber posts, where the ends of the arris rails have become weakened or broken. Easy to fit using nails or screws. The bracket is fitted to the rear of the garden fence and joined to the arris rail and the timber post.

Arris rail support bracket

Suitable for fixing arris rails to timber posts during new fence construction. Fixed to the post using wood screws and optionally a coach screw or bolt. They are not as strong as the traditional morticed and tennoned construction and are not suitable for fences on sloping ground. An ideal use for these brackets would be for producing lift out panels. Arris rail support brackets are handed requiring left hand brackets on one end of the arris rail and right hand on the other end.

Concrete repair spur

Repair spurs are designed for fitting without removing the old posts. They are used for the repair of timber posts which have either snapped off at ground level, or rotted away below the surface.

Sizes available:

1.0m long 75 x 75mm for 75mm posts

1.2m long 100 x 100mm for 100mm posts.

Frequently Asked Questions on Closeboard Fencing

How many featheredge boards do I need per 3 metre section of fence?

Allow 37 if they are 100mm wide featheredge

Allow 30 if they are 125mm wide featheredge

How many arris rails do I need per 3M section of fence?

Allow 3 for 1.80M high down to 1.35M high

Allow 2 for 1.20M high and lower

What is a cant rail?

This is a 47mm thick rectangular rail with a sloping top that is used in place of arris rails in closeboard fencing.  Two rails are produced from a 125 x 47mm rail the most common length is 3m.

What is an arris rail?

This is a triangular rail used for closeboard fencing, normally the ends are shaped into tennons in order to fit into mortices set into the fence posts. Having two sides measuring 75mm the most common length is 3m.


avs clock
12 Sep 18