There are some basic tools which are necessary to build strong, secure, reliable fences. Most of them are general household tools, which you may already have. There are some specialised fencing tools which you will need, and some which aren’t as necessary but can make the task a lot easier. They may even help increase your fencing aptitude – A tradesman is only as good as his tools!
Basic tools needed for most fences:
- Spirit Level
- Tape measure
- Brace and bit/augurs
- Small and large adjustable spanners
- Wire cutters
- Plane – not necessary, but makes a cleaner job
Specialised fencing tools
- Fencing spade
- Post rammer - used to compact soil when re-filling a post hole
- Chain wire strainers
- Winder tool – used to wind up permanent inline strainers
- Fencing pliers or Ezy pulls
- Wire tension metre
There is a huge range of fencing materials; posts, wire, hardware and many other bits and bobs. In this section I will cover posts and wire; their different sizes and uses.
First of all note that all fence posts, or in fact any timber which sits on or under the ground, needs to be treated to H4 or higher. H1 – H6 is the rating system for timber treatments which prevents rot and decay.
There are three shapes of fence posts, round, half round, and quarter round. Rounds and half rounds are the most commonly used, and quarter round posts are used in low pressure situations, such as with placid dairy cows.
Strainer posts are larger posts at the end of a fence line onto which the wires are tied. Fence posts and strainer posts both have a numbering system of No.1, No2, or No.3. No.1 has the widest diameter and No. 3 having the smallest. All posts come in length differences of 300mm. A fencepost is usually 1.8 m in length and strainer posts 2.1m and 2.4m, with deer fence posts 2.7m and 3.0m.
There are also ‘stay posts’ which are usually about the same diameter as a No.2 fence post, however are the same length as a strainer post, either 2.1M or 2.4M.
The three main factors to consider when deciding are the type of fence, ground conditions, and class of stock being contained. When it comes to the type of fence, smaller (although not shorter) posts can be used if the fence is electrified as there is minimal physical contact with stock. Ground conditions determine both the width and length of the strainer post. In wet or soft ground such as peat soils, swamp land, gully’s etc use No.1 strainers, and a minimum of 2.4m. If you are new to your block, have a look around at any existing fences or neighbours fences. See what materials have been used and how the fence is holding up. Accuracy of judgement on what size post or strainer to use will come from experience. If in doubt use a larger and longer post, as there will be less chance of having to do it again in only a couple of years. There is nothing worse than having to pull out your own work because it wasn’t done correct the first time!
The most commonly used fencing wire in NZ today, is 2.5mm HT (High Tensile) The next two are 3.15mm HT, and 4.0mm MS (Mild Steel), which is widely known as ‘No.8 wire’. They are all galvanised to prevent rust and sold in 25kg coils.
2.5mm HT has a breaking strain of 600kg/f and is most commonly used as it is considered a ‘middle ground’ wire. The price relates well to the strength of the wire and the length of a coil – 2.5mm HT is of satisfactory standard in most New Zealand situations.
3.15mm HT has a breaking strain of 800kg/f, and is often used in coastal situations. Salt in the air is highly corrosive to wire and 3.15mm wire takes longer to corrode through than the 2.5mm.
4.0mm MS has a breaking strain of 400kg/f. It is not commonly used as it will break under less strain. It is mainly used by fencers for ‘underground work’ in attaching a foot to a strainer post etc.
The lengths of a 25kg coil are approximately;
2.5mm HT – 650m
3.15mm HT – 408m
4.0mm HT – 253m
If you are in doubt about what materials you need, always look around at existing fences on your property. Even experienced fencers should always do this (provided the existing fences are adequate) as this keeps everything on your property neat and tidy. Ask around neighbours and other experienced people who know your area if you are still unsure. If you can’t decide whether you can get away with slightly smaller or cheaper materials, then don’t. Err on the side of caution, and use larger or stronger materials. It may cost a little more to begin with, but if you use inadequate materials that aren’t up to the job the long term cost will be a lot more.