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Building a Boundary Wall

Lees die grensmuur artikel in Afrikaans

Bagged and painted wall
Image courtesy of
Marcus Smit Architects



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Part 2 of 2: How to Design Your Wall, Submit Plans and Materials to Use
By Bennu Smit

Following on last week's discussing of planning, costs to consider and builders, this week we'll conclude with having a closer look at Regulations, Plan Approval, Styles, Pitfalls and touch on some processes.

Style, Design and Wall Finishes

Under “Costs” in last week's article we discussed a few items that will have impact on the physical design of your construction, these included materials. slope of the terrain and more. Under this heading we'll discuss more of the aesthetic properties of your planned boundary wall.

Various styles of walls can be constructed such as Tuscan, Victorian, Spanish as well as more contemporary styles and designs. Very Important here is that boundary walls ought to match or complement the finish and style of the building to help keep aesthetic uniformity. A timber beach cottage with cast stone boundary walls does not look good, and can have a negative impact on the whole surrounding area.

Materials like natural stone, cast- or imitation stone, concrete, brick pillars, steel and timber may be used in almost any combination to produce the desired effect. Whatever materials you decide on, make sure it adds to the aesthetic value of the house and property.

Water features at entrance provides
a more natural feel point and visibly
breaks up a long, high wall.
boundary fence with water spout and pond
Create a focal point in your
boundary fence with a clad
or tiled wall and water feature.
Take into account the height of your walls and the way it will impact the street view of the home and property. Safety and security measures such as electric fencing is unfortunately a part of most of our lives, but try conceal it and, as previously mentioned, make sure you adhere to Local Council's regulations.

gabion stone wall
Gabions are a more natural
alternative to built walls and
precast retaining blocks.
They are also more visually pleasing.

natural stone wall
Walls constructed with locally
sourced stone can save on
material, but make sure your
stone mason does a proper job.

Building Regulations, Plans and Approval

Municipal approved plans are required to construct any boundary- or free standing wall on your property. These plans have to adhere to the design rules of the NBR*, SANS* and Local Municipal regulations and policies.

As one is not allowed to construct anything outside of your own property, no part of the wall or footings may project over the property's boundary line. In case you are unclear regarding your property boundary line, a registered land surveyor should be approached to re-determine and point out the position of your boundary.

Any division or demarcation is a common boundary between to properties. Therefore no existing boundary wall or fencing may be taken away without having the prior written consent from the affected neighbour. Consult with your neighbour first, as the other party has the legal right to object to your proposed alteration or removing of a common boundary division.

Heritage sites have particular restrictions and regulations that must be adhered to. If you know, or are suspecting that your property might have some heritage value, consult your local Municipality or contact the area's Heritage Council. Approaching a private Town Planner can also be considered.

The following SABS* Regulations are applicable to boundary walls and their foundations: SANS 10400-K and SANS 2001-CM2. Your architect or draughtsman will know, or can easily get, these regulations and practical inplementation of them. Alternatively, visit the SABS website, where these can be purchased.

Many areas have started adopting their own “Boundary Walls and Fences Policies”.

The Stellenbosch Municipality requires, for instance, specifies height of
“...a street boundary: - 2.1m high, on condition that 50% of the height of the wall or fence on residential zoned properties must consists of open decorative work to create transparency, comprising of materials as described...”
“Additional safety precautions such as razor wire, electrical fencing/wiring, etc. should preferably not be visible from the street and are included in the maximum height for walls and fences...”

The City of Cape Town's policy states
“No solid boundary wall shall exceed 1,8m in height on a street boundary and 2,1m in height on a lateral boundary; No palisade type fence shall exceed 2,1m in height.....”
“Relaxation of …...requirements … the discretion of the District Manager.” as well as “At least 40% of the surface area of a street boundary wall, including gates.....must be visibly permeable...”

Note that these are only excerpt from said Boundary Walls and Fence Policy for the two areas. Obtain a copy of your area's at your Local Municipality.

Common Pitfalls

Some common mistakes to be wary of:

The quality of the types of materials used: For instance, if you are building an unplastered wall, bricks need to be of higher quality seeing that they are exposed to the elements. Should you opt for a steel palisade or any other metal type fence, it is good practice to have it galvanised, especially if you live close to the seaside. Timber fences should preferably be a harder wood. This list can be never ending, bottom line is; Don't skimp on materials and spend a little extra to ensure your wall or fence is a longer lasting construction.

The builder that is to be employed to construct the wall: Make sure they know what they are doing. Get references from previous clients and ask your friends to refer brick layers or contractors they have used. Keep an eye on how often the owner or foreman is on site and, if need be, address any issues before payment date. Some builders will require up front payments. Make sure you do not overpay them and never pay the full contract amount before all construction and finishing is completed.

Local municipal regulations: As mentioned under the first heading of this article, different Municipalities have different policies. Get your plans approved before you construct your boundary wall to prevent penalties and extra costs.

Heritage sites: There are particular regulations for any site with heritage or ecological value. Ensure you are in keeping with these.

Added features: The need for security and privacy has led to higher boundary walls. Just keep in mind, high solid wall surfaces may result in a mundane and hostile street view and may also conceal criminals from the public's view. Wall lights and any other decorative work must firstly be of exterior quality and secondly should not be overly expensive and be positioned so it does not entice vandalism or theft.

These are a few examples as this list can become inexhaustible.

Techniques and Processes

Seeing that there are so many different materials and styles for boundary fences and walls, it will be impossible to discuss all of them. Here are a few pointers:

Maintenance of the wall or fence:
Keep in mind how often and costly maintenance on your chosen product and finish can be.

Brick walls:

  • Mix small batches of mortar to match the rate of construction, allow twenty or so minutes for initial setting. This way your wastage on cement and aggregates is minimised, saving you some money.
  • Mix face bricks from a variety of batches to reduce colour bonding. This blends the colour variation of different batches.
  • Fill all mortar joints solidly and waterproof the top of your wall to decrease penetration of water.
  • When deciding on an unplastered finish, clean up mortar dropping on a regular basis.

Painted or Bag washed walls:
It's often assumed that unplastered brick wall surfaces that are only to be painted may be constructed with less durable materials, and in some cases, with less attention to craftsmanship than would generally be used for unpainted brick wall surfaces. This is simply not true. When a brick masonry wall is to be painted, the choice of materials, both brick units and mortar, as well as the craftsmanship used in building the wall ought to be of the very best quality.

Paint supplier's specifications and advice needs to be carefully followed.
When choosing colours, get samples made up and paint 1m x 1m swatches on your wall to make sure you chose the correct colour.
Read Do It Yourself Home Painting Tips for more information.

Timber Fences:
Painted fences can be high maintenance. Enquire at your paint supplier regarding the correct product and application method. As far as possible, prevent timber from touching the ground.
Where wooden posts are used, cast a concrete block that protrudes slightly above your garden level, plaster the edges off to slope out, taking water away from your post.

List of Abbreviations:
*NBR: National Building Regulations
*SABS: South African Bureau for Standards
*SANS: South African National Standards
*SACAP: South African Council for the Architectural Profession

This brings us to the conclusion of our Boundary Wall article. For any further information, post your comments or questions on our facebook page.

Thank you to Marcus Smit Architects and Louis Koi Trading for supplying images for this article.