How to fit gravel boards
A fence panel isn't complete without a sturdy gravel board. They protect the panel from moisture rising from the soil and will help retain aggregates stay in the garden. You cannot forget about them when putting up a fence.
Gravel board – why bother?
You can erect a fence without gravel boards. You can, of course, have a wish to replace that fence earlier than you otherwise do! Even when a wooden fence has a guarantee against rot, it will quickly get damaged either physically from stones and errant mowers and will rot quickly when on direct contact with the soil. A solid gravel board will always make a fence look better.
Types of gravel board
Wooden gravel boards look great and are easy to cut to size. Always include them with any fencing order. Make sure that each board has been pressure treated with a preservative to ensure longevity. Many people opt for concrete gravel boards, especially when fixing fence panels between concrete posts. They simply slide into the grooves in the concrete post. However, if any need cutting to size they do take a bit more work and create clouds of dust. The plus side is that they last for decades and are relatively maintenance free. A wash down will clean things up and get rid of algae build up.
How and when to fit gravel boards:
When to fit
Do it every time you fit a new fence panel ( unless the existing one is still in good condition – a poke about with a screwdriver will find rotten areas) and fix them in position once the panels are up and solid. That's because fence panels may vary ever so slightly from one to the other and if they have to fit a fixed space you will have to cut them down to size ( shaving a centimetre of the end of a framed panel is a real pain) It's so much easier to saw through a gravel board. If you do get the saw out treat any cut ends of gravel board with preservative to reduce the risk of rotting.
How to fit
It's easy to fit a gravel board. Get your posts and panels up and to your liking, and then fit small chunky pieces of wood near the base of the posts. Then screw the gravel board to these blocks. Simple. It makes it easier to replace (gravel boards are the most likely part of your overall fencing to rot first) and it's way cheaper than having to replace a whole panel or even worse, a run of a few rotten panels. Use galvanised screws throughout your installation to ensure ease of replacement and to reduce rusting.
Don't for one second consider fitting a gravel board without a spirit level. In fact, that goes for all your panels. 'I'll judge it by eye' will only highlight one major flaw – that your eye cannot judge levels! If the ground is sloping then step the boards and fences. Take you time, pencil it all out on paper before you break the soil with a spade and use that spirit level till the bubble bursts (they don't – but you get the sentiment)
Top Tips and techniques:
Direct or suspended?
Some people place the gravel boards directly on the soil. Others raise them a little of the soil surface. The thinking is that if they are directly on the soil all aggregates will be held in the garden. However, raise them a little and it allows water to run through preventing all chances of localised flooding or puddles. I like a little gap between the bottom of the gravel board and the soil surface. I like the idea of air circulation, access and exit points for water and a board that will last longer. If you are 'on the surface' make sure the soil is level, firmed and even add a layer of sand to bed the board into.
Everyone loves hedgehogs in the garden for their voracious appetites for all things slug-like. However, they are becoming scarcer partly due to gardens becoming more secure. All a hedgehog needs is a hole in a fence or hedge the size of a small football and bingo, they are free to roam around a wider territory munching on more molluscs as they go. Now, obviously, a solid wall of gravel board stops that freedom of movement. Before erecting a run of fencing, including gravel boards of course, maybe you should look into creating gaps in the fencing (perhaps cut the gravel board - easy if you have a couple stacked on top of each other) to help the hogs in our hedges. Your garden will be better for it.