Modifying Boundary Fences and Walls


When it comes to fencing and walls (and I've built all sorts) it's easy to get into a dispute with the neighbour. It's also easy to avoid a dispute, all it takes is a little common sense, courtesy and good communication.

This isn't a how-to, it's just a little advice based on my own experiences and those of friends.

Disclaimer: To cover my ar*e - This page is built from relevant anecdotal experiences of people I know. It should not be relied upon in court, or for legal challenges or anything whatsoever. Read at your own risk, use the advice at your own risk. This disclaimer is not limited to the reader, it extends to everyone in the universe, and it is the responsibility of the reader to spread this disclaimer message when referring to this post. Right then, I reckon that should cover it!

Boundary Ownership

The position of boundaries in Britain is a contentious issue, we Brits are very protective over our land, and lawyers love it! I know a few people who have been caught up in arguments over the position and ownership of boundaries, sometimes ending up in court, otherwise ending up filling the pockets of some very expensive lawyers/barristers/solicitors.


It's important to record the position of the existing boundary, just in case your neighbour turns nasty, or decides to sell to a person who will turn nasty.

The more you can do to record the position of the boundary, the better. A friend of mine had pictures of a fence

Accurately measure the position of the existing boundary. To do this you can take measurements from an unmovable structure, such as your house, or the opposite boundary (if you don't have any plans to modify the opposite boundary that is!). Make a note of this and keep it safe.

Take pictures of the existing boundary. Ideally from afar so that the picture also includes other objects in relation to that boundary.

Lastly (and this is what I did), try to leave part of the existing fence in place, such as the post foundations, and cover them up with soil. This obviously means you’ll need to position the new posts differently to the old posts, but most of the time this is achievable and can be done along the same line of the old boundary. This leaves an indisputable record of the old fence.

You could go all out and film yourself making the new fence then put it on YouTube and your website…… maybe not, perhaps leave that one to me 😉

Often, there are measurements on the conveyancing plan, such as the one on the plan I gave above, here it is again, you can see the 35ft dimension on the left:

Conveyancing plan extract, showing a T mark on a boundary
Note the 35' dimension to the left, showing the width of the property on that side

As with the "T" mark discussed above, this is an indication, not an exact measurement.


Yes, your local planning department also has rules about fences and walls, not surprising really!


Don't assume your neighbour will be happy with you trimming their tree in order to gain access to replace a fence. You never know, it might have sentimental value!

To some people, maybe yourself, a tree is a tree and a flower is a flower. As a full-time landscaper, I have come across a number of scenarios whereby clients have plants that have been passed down through the generations. Not surprisingly, they hold a very special place in their hearts.

I even had one client who made me state in the contract that a tree was to remain completely untouched, because a curse was apparently placed on the family hundreds of years ago that if that tree were to die, so would a family member, I kid you not, and he wasn't joking either!

Anyway, whether you believe in that or not is beside the point. The point is that you shouldn't even trim a twig from a plant on your neighbours side of the boundary, without first getting permission, out of courtesy and on legal grounds (in the UK).

Helpful Tip

In most cases it is easy enough to tie back a branch using rope. Simply lasso a length of rope around it and peg the ends in place, so that it is held back temporarily until the work is complete.

As for smaller plants that are rooted next to the fence, accept that some of them will be trampled on, despite your best intentions. So if you or your neighbour are precious about them, I would temporarily move them just before you're about to start.

I'll add to this post from time to time. If you have any personal experiences with boundary issues, let me know, I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this page, I really appreciate it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.