What fencing should I be using when constructing on a party wall?

February 26, 2019

As more and more people consider the possibilities of building an extension the topology of gardens within London is beginning to change. Historically traditional Victorian terraced houses featured the main body of the house which is usually street facing, supplemented with a rear addition, outrigger or closet wing. This was normally between half and two thirds of the width of the main property with a passageway leading from the flank elevation out into the garden. Side extension or side infills are incredibly popular and often facilitate the installation of a much larger and much lighter kitchen; as families move away from traditional front rooms and/or dining rooms this concept of living has become more culturally prominent.

What the Building Owner gains in light and lifestyle can often impact the Adjoining Owners in ways which they has perhaps not foreseen, and quite literally. Victorian properties often have either a garden wall, timber fence or metal chain link fence separating the properties. The ramifications of building a new side infill addition is that the boundary is now delineated by the flank wall of the extension and the practicalities of building this need to be considered.

The Party Wall Act etc 1996 grants permission over the neighbouring land in order to carry out works ancillary to the Act and clearly when building a new wall either astride or indeed up to the boundary line access to the adjoining garden would be necessary. In these circumstances it is crucially important to consider what happens between the existing fence or wall being removed and the new wall erected as the two gardens will be effectively laid open until the wall is built and the garden put into its new permanent form. We rely upon the boundaries of our gardens for a multitude of things but most importantly security of both our homes and their occupants, extending from adults to children and pets.

Often approximately 1 meter of working space will be sufficient to excavate, build and point and new wall – other finishes including painted render can also be carried out in a small working space. The working space should be protected to a degree that offers the appropriate level of protection to the Adjoining Owners. For example if the garden is rarely used, or if the neighbours do not have young children or pets the installation of Heras fencing panels may be sufficient. Heras fencing will protect the site and also mitigate against an occupant potentially falling into an open excavation or allowing foot traffic to pass freely between the gardens. The fence panels sit in high density concrete feet which retain the rigidity of the fence. Whilst Heras fencing is a suitable option for site protection it is unlikely to afford the Adjoining Owner with much privacy, the Heras fence panels can be supplemented with perforated netting which can aid in simply hiding the site from view, or alternatively specific acoustic barriers are available which can hang on the fence which will act as both a screen to the site but also the transfer of noise from machinery etc.

Whilst Heras fencing is a quick and often inexpensive way of securing the garden during works it may not be appropriate depending on the circumstances. As mentioned, if the garden is enjoyed by small children or animals we would suggest that something far more secure is installed to prevent errant children or dogs visiting the building site. The most favourable, although often expensive, solution is the erection of a secure plywood hoarding which will be bespoke to the site conditions, in other words the screening can be tailored to fit around garden furniture, fencing, planters etc which ensures that no gaps are left. We normally recommend that ply hoarding is erected to a minimum of 2200mm from ground level which is tall enough to maintain privacy and also mitigate the transfer of possible dust and debris. Chipboard sheeting can also be a suitable alternative and is often cheaper, chipboard can be affected by poor weather if it is left in situ for a significant period of time. The same can be said of plywood although its external lifespan is often greater than chipboard. A third option may be the use of metal sheeting although this does tend to be more expensive and more difficult to erect.

As a Building Owner there is no obligation under the Act as to what materials should be used, each site will have its own requirements and the Surveyor should liaise with the two parties to identify a suitable solution. The Hopps Partnership have worked on thousands of schemes over the years and are well placed to advised both Building Owners and Adjoining Owners on what steps should be taken.

Posted by:

Harry Gregory

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