Thursday, November 14, 2013

Compound Walls and Gates

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A compound wall serves to demarcate the site, protect one's property, ensure privacy and enhance aesthetic appeal. The most important reason for having a fence is security. Not only does a fence prevent encroachers from moving into your property but also effectively restricts entry into your space. Most city houses are independent units and therefore invariably have their compound walls.
Fencing t ensures privacy to the residents. Whether it is a 12 ft compound wall further reinforced by a chain link fence or a screen wall within the property that restricts access to certain spaces such as swimming pool and party areas, the height and location of these structures are decided on the basis of the privacy needs of the resident.
The most commonly used fencing option is the compound wall made of concrete. Other options include timber, picket fences that are also wood-based, wrought iron fences and natural hedges. The best designs combine these options, though the guiding rule is not to deviate too far from the base material used in the construction of the building. For example, a timber reinforced gate or the use of timber over the compound wall, which has risen to a certain height, is a different option.
A brick and mortar wall allows private properties to screen themselves from the road, in terms of visibility, dust and noise pollution. It is also necessary to shield the ground floor of the house from the street and therefore the front fence should be of a height that will fulfill this condition. Stonewalls are gaining popularity in cities, basically because it presents a strong exterior, is long standing if the foundation is good and requires absolutely no maintenance. But then this solid, stable and permanent barrier does not come cheap.
The stone used for walls can be roughly grouped into four types. Field stone is any irregularly shaped, unquarried stone found in or on the ground. Rubble is broken residue from stone sawing operations. Flagstone is stone that is so evenly stratified that it splits naturally into flat pieces. And cut stone is stone that has been shaped and dressed with a saw or a chisel.
The two basic classes of stone walls are rubble and ashlar. Rubble walls are constructed from stone, which are minimally dressed, or not dressed at all, while ashlar walls have carefully crafted stone and close fitting joints as opposed to the wide joints of the former.
Natural fencing or hedges in the form of medium-high shrubbery is a good option if one needs fencing but do not want to be bound in by a concrete compound wall. Waist-high hedges generally do not obstruct the view of the building and hence are a viable option. So are railings of about 3 ft height. They again allow a free view of the property but however may not be suitable for residential sites.
Wood is another fencing option, not very popular in India and definitely not in Indian cities. It is a very common means of dividing the front garden from the street in the West and can be used in the Indian context if and only if the security of the property is otherwise taken care of. Rough wooden fencing is particularly suited to an informal garden. It makes an attractive natural background for flowers and shrubs and is a good support for climbers and most importantly, requires little or no maintenance. In city surroundings, this fence can be built in the rear side of the house as it is basically a private zone and the fence itself is shared with the neighbour and rarely exposed to the road.
Another popular fencing option is concrete pre-cast walls. While they are definitely attractive they are more suited to internal demarcations of activity zones rather than the boundaries. They are ideal material for screen walls.

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