Brick Fences

As I travel around the Melbourne Suburbs I see lots of brick fences……….. A problem with a large proportion is that they have obvious cracks.

If you don’t believe me just walk around your neighborhood and look at a few brick fences yourself!

So why are there problems with brick fences?

    • The actual cost of the wall in both materials and labour is high resulting in people trying to minimise on wall, and supporting pier dimensions.
    • Although many people think of brickwork as an inert material it is still subject to expansion and contraction which needs to be accommodated with proper detailing.
    • Brick work is actually a fairly brittle structural material which relies on its weight for a lot of its strength. The jointing material of mortar is much weaker than the bricks.
    • Due to the considerable weight of brickwork it needs substantial (costly) foundations which will not be subject to any settlement.
    • If it’s built on clay there is more chance of movement……The soil below the narrow foundation can gain, or lose, moisture more readily than under a house slab.
    • Although it ‘feels’ as solid as a concrete wall it may only have a tenth of the structural strength of a well designed reinforced concrete wall.

Here are a few recommendations;

  • Don’t try to save money on the foundation. After all that’s what all those expensive bricks are standing on. A 500mm wide x 300mm deep concrete with trench mesh should be the minimum.
  • Brick piers a minimum of 320mm x 320mm with vertical steel reinforcement.
  • Minimum wall thickness should be 210mm (double brick)
  • Have articulation/expansion joints at 5m intervals.
  • Use horizontal steel reinforcement every 6 courses.
  • It you are using the wall to retain soil get the wall properly designed.

All sounds too expensive?,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Perhaps brick piers with infill timber or steel panels may be the way to go!

Remember – “There is no such thing as a cheap brick wall”.

For sizes of brick walls see Brick Dimensions


Tall Front Boundary Fences – A Good Idea?

As I walk many km’s along suburban streets every day I am surprised by how many tall front boundary fences I see.

So are they a good idea?…………………… Well here are my thoughts:


Well a 1.8m fence could keep some people out. But how much of a challenge is a 6 foot fence to a fit, determined thief,?

Once they are over they can concentrate on breaking into your house without worrying about being seen by passers by.

Also these days most of the high value items in your house can easily be passed over a wall,……………. most will probably fit in a thief’s pockets.


Yes they do make things more private but how often are you doing something in the front yard that needs privacy?

If you are ill, or as you age, you may miss the ability to watch what is happening in the street.


Can help to keep low sun from the west out of the house, but well spaced shrubs will do it as well.

Sound Barrier

If you live on a main road a brick fence will help keep the noise down, although double glazing will probably have a similar effect at lower cost, with heating and cooling benefits.

Kerbside Appeal

Estate agents are always going on about ‘kerbside appeal’ when selling houses.

How much kerbside appeal is there in a big featureless fence.


Although I have never had a front fence on any of my new houses I can see the benefit in stopping people walking on the garden and stopping dogs c___ing there.

I just think a fence of 6-900mm is generally enough for keeping dogs off.

If you have a tall fence why not tell me why you like it?

See Brick Fences for design recommendations.

Anti Perch

Birds perching onthe top of balustrades and guardrails can be a real nuisance.

At the very least you can get bird poop all over the place.

If there are parrots around I have known them to start chewing the wood.

Some of the solutions such as plastic spikes or non drying slimy paint aren’t always sutable solutions.

When I saw this solution at a house I visited I had to share it on this blog.

Basically 4 lengths of fishing line are stretched between staples driven into the uprights to provide an almost invisible but effective barrier to any birds wanting to perch on the rails.

For short distances between uprights you won’t need intermediate supports.

For longer lengths this simple support of two galvanised brackets seems to work well.

Front Fence Failure

Generally you don’t have to go far to find a front brick fence falling over like this one.

Normally they fall over in the direction of the street.

So why is this failure so common?

Reasons For Failure

  1. People think “It’s only a brick fence” so don’t put a good foundation in, and only make it a single brick thick.
  2. Simple brick construction is fairly brittle when any stress is placed at 90 degrees to the wall face.
  3. Frequently the soil is built up on the garden side of the wall making the wall a retaining structure. with the consequent stresses which can be significant.
  4. If the wall is built on reactive clay the street side of the wall is kept dry by the pavement while the garden side gets water seeping through and can be subject to soil heave.

What You Can Do

  • Construct a substantial foundation
  • Make the wall at least two bricks thick with steel reinforcement built into the wall.


  • Consider alternatives like panel fences or hedges


Bamboo Fences

Sometimes I think that Australians go overboard with fences.

It seems to me that fences have to be solid and large.

Too often I walk down a street and can’t see the houses for the large brick fences.

Well there is another way.

These Japanese and Chinese bamboo fences provide more of a psychological barrier. . . .  but still keep people. and dogs, off the garden.

Low Cost Vertical Garden

So you have just moved in your new house, and there are a lot of blank fence panels.

Perhaps a few plants in a vertical garden would break up the view.

Perhaps you haven’t got much money after paying for upgrades to the house.

Here is how to start a low cost vertical garden using old milk bottles.


  1. Get some 2 litre milk bottles and cut the tops off half the number like the 2nd photograph.
  2. Drill some 3mm holes about 10mm from the bottom.
  3. Drill a hole in the handle for the hook
  4. Paint them green (I used Rust-oleum 2X )
  5. Make a cut about 10mm from the base of the remaining bottles and save the base,
  6. Turn upside down and drill a number of holes in the bottom, see photo
  7. Place the drilled bottom in the painted bottle, this acts as a reservoir* for water,
  8. Fill the bottle with compost and plant.
  9. You can hang the bottles direct off the fence. . . . but I fixed a piece of reinforcing mesh to the fence and hung the bottles off that.

 *I did try first without the reservoir and the plants dried out too much with the reservoir the plants survived a 3 week absence in Autumn.


Keeping The Dog In

The last time we built we felt the new Colorbond fences would be fine to keep the dogs in.

After all they had never tried to escape at the two previous houses.

How wrong we were!

Our Kelpie Labrador cross Jemma was soon burrowing under the fence.

As soon as we filled one hole with bricks she started digging in a new spot.

After a bit of research I found a good solution was a 500mm wide strip of heavy plastic mesh.

This was fixed to the bottom of the fence panel and sloped back into the soil at an angle of around 45%.

Fairly easy to do, if you install it before you landscape.

This means that you can still put plants close to the fence but the mesh will stop the dog trying to dig under the panel

Fence Disputes

The Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) has revealed the consistent No 1 dispute has been fencing.

In fact fencing counts for around one third of all of their top ten disputes.

In 2013-4 there were fence 6,489 disputes, slightly above the long term average of  6,301.

So how can you minimise the chance of a dispute?

Get Agreement

Make sure you try to get agreement from your neighbour when planning to build a fence. . . . even if you intend to cover the whole cost yourself.

Both parties are generally required to contribute equally to construction costs for a fence that meets the minimum standard.

If the land is vacant, or a tenant won’t provide details of the landowner, then local councils are allowed to provide landowner contact details on fencing matters.

Type of Fence

The minimum standard is “sufficient” based on one or more of the following

  • Existing fence type
  • Any Developer Rules
  • Usual fence type in the neighbourhood
  • Purpose for which you and your neighbours are using the land

If you want a more expensive fence then you will have to meet extra costs.


If you can’t reach agreement, either you or your neighbour will be able seek an order from a Magistrates’ Court specifying what fence will be built, and how costs will be shared.

Check Your State’s Laws

The above was built based on Victorian Legislation but most states have fairly similar laws.