8 min read

Fencing panels or slats?

Posted in: Ideas and Advice
5 October 2022

Your Fencing Options

Exposed to the elements and particularly vulnerable to windy weather, garden fencing can take a battering. If your fence is damaged or showing signs of weakness, such as leaning, warping or rot, it's vital to repair or replace the affected area as soon as possible. Failure to do so could result in further, more costly damage.

If you’re planning to install a new fence, or your current fence seems beyond repair, it’s worth considering your options before replacing like-for-like. Often, replacing an old fence with an entirely new one is a sensible move. In this guide, we walk you through your options and explain the advantages and disadvantages of various materials and styles.

What’s The Difference Between Panels & Slats?

When considering a new fence, the first and most important decision you have to make is whether to go for panels and slats. Both have benefits and drawbacks, so understanding why you may want one over the other is essential. Your choice will impact the amount of labour and technical expertise required and how the end product looks.

Installing Panelled Fences

Fence panels are sections of fencing that arrive at your home pre-built. Rather than constructing the fence piece-by-piece yourself, you install the pre-built sections in the arrangement you need.

Fence panels don’t allow for much customisation or flexibility. As a result, they’re hard to use when trying to fence a sloping garden or an unusually proportioned space. As you don’t choose the individual elements yourself, you need to pay extra attention to the type and quality of the material. Make sure you’re dealing with a reputable timber supplier, as second-rate panels are unlikely to prove particularly durable, making them less cost-effective in the long run.

However, the fact that panels arrive pre-built and ready to go can be a significant advantage. If you want to keep installation costs down and are happy to put up your own fence, panels may be the way to go. Rather than outsourcing the job to a labourer, you can install a panel fence yourself. Be warned - you will need a little extra help, as panels are heavy and difficult to manoeuvre on your own.

Installing Slatted Fences

Unlike panel fences, slatted fences are built from scratch, and you can tailor them to the precise specifications of your garden. They're the better option if you're working with a gradient or need the fence to skirt a garden with lots of little corners, protrusions or odd sections.

Constructed using slats (sometimes referred to as boards), as well as posts and rails, this type of fence results in a flush finish. Slatted fences also allow you to upgrade and improve the structure by introducing extra elements. For instance, if you desire extra privacy and want to strengthen the fence, you can use feather edge timber, so each slat effectively lays on top of the one next to it, removing any potential gaps.

On the other hand, installing a fence using slats and rails can be time-consuming. If you have little fencing experience, you may want to bring in professionals, as getting a perfect finish requires experience and some expertise. Using a professional fencer also ensures that your fence will last for years to come.

Specific Types of Panel and Slatted Fencing

Within the broader panel and slatted categories, there are several different types of fencing. These include:

1. Featherboard fencing (close-board)

A sturdy and strong type of fencing constructed from overlapping, vertical feather edge boards. There are no gaps, ensuring privacy.

2. Larch lap fencing (lap panel fencing)

One of the more inexpensive options, lap panel fencing is simple, straightforward and easy to work with.

3. Picket fencing

Usually considered a more decorative style, picket fencing makes for a neat border. It offers almost nothing in the way of privacy but benefits from a traditional charm.

4. Single Slatted fencing

Boasts a cool, contemporary finish that looks great in modern gardens. Due to the gaps between the slats, it is less private than other types of fencing.

5. Double Slatted fencing

This style is very similar to double slatted, but the slats tend to overlap more, making it an excellent design for anyone concerned about privacy. It's versatile in that it suits both traditional and modern gardens. You do need to watch out for weeds and plants growing between the slats, though.

Double-slatted designs feature slats on both sides of the fence, allowing for greater privacy. However, this does make them more challenging to paint and maintain.

6. Hit and Miss fencing

This style is very similar to double slatted, but the slats tend to overlap more, making it an excellent design for anyone concerned about privacy. It's versatile in that it suits both traditional and modern gardens. You do need to watch out for weeds and plants growing between the slats, though.

Comparing Aesthetics - Which Style Looks Better?

Like most design choices, it's all down to personal taste. Some people prefer the slatted look; others prefer panels. Currently, slatted fences are pretty on-trend and lend your garden a more contemporary feel. That being said, they may not suit your garden, or you may prefer a more traditional feel.

It’s also a good idea to think about accessorising. If you're planning to install a trellis topper or decorative accents to your fence, panels may be the way to go. These fixtures add real personality to your garden, and if you're in an area with reliably mild weather where storm damage is of little concern, they're a great addition to your garden fence.

Maintenance & Upkeep

Small-scale repairs are easy to carry out on slatted fences – a replacement slat should set you back less than £5. Repairing panel fences is not so simple. If a piece of a panel is damaged, you'll have to change the entire panel. This can be costly, and the process of replacing the damaged section is more difficult due to the cumbersome nature of the panels.

It's essential to keep on top of things when it comes to fence maintenance. Fortunately, looking after your fence is relatively simple. Make sure you apply wood treatments regularly to help keep rot and decay to a minimum and keep an eye out for any signs of wear, tear or ageing. Provided you do a little regular maintenance work on the slats, rails and posts, slatted fences should last you at least ten years. Panelled fencing is an excellent and cost-effective solution, but it's not as long-lasting. You will often find that panel fencing shows signs of damage and decay before ten years is up.

Strength & Reliability

As fencing slats are attached to the fence rails individually, they’re significantly stronger. You secure fence posts in the ground with Postcrete, and each element helps to reinforce the strength of the fence as a whole. When using fence panels, consider fixing them to secured fence posts to increase their reliability.

You may think pre-built fence panels are the quickest and most convenient way to install a garden fence. However, if you want longevity, value for money and easy future repairs, consider opting for a slat fencing system instead. Overall, they are more reliable, sturdier and easier to maintain than panels.

If you’re looking for more information on fence materials and techniques, check out our fencing page. We’ve also created a page dedicated to sharing our top fencing advice. Whether you want more information on how deep you should dig your pole holes or how to attach a trellis to a fence, our fencing advice and ideas page is the place to go. Finally, you can find all our fence panels, fence posts, fencing accessories and slats and rails on the relevant product page.

Fencing Essentials

Previous article:
Next article:
Related posts

Branches Nationwide

Branches nationwide, local serivce, collection or delivery options - Arnold Laver delivers

Same Day Click and Collect

Arnold Laver makes it easy to get your essential project materials - just a few clicks away

National Timber Group Logo

Part of the UK's largest independent timber group, Arnold Laver offers high-quality timber at scale