Building a Boundary Wall: How to Start Planning and Allow for Costs


Planning your New Wall

Determine the actual position of the boundaries where the walls are to be built. If it is a shared boundary between your property and your neighbours’, you can approach them to take part in the planning, building and cost of your wall. Should any existing wall, fence or any other division between properties be taken away or adjusted higher or lower, make sure you consult with your neighbour first.

Local Municipality regulations. Different areas have different prescriptions. More on this in next week’s article.

Trees in the area that could damage or adversely affect the structure in  future need to be taken care of. Before removing them, rather consider the following:

  • Approach a tree specialist and find out whether the root system is aggressive or not. What are the chances of the root system damaging your wall’s foundation.
  • Find out how to treat any damaged roots to prevent the plant you so dearly tried to save from dying anyway. I recall a story of an architect that revised the plans of an entire block of apartments to save an old tree. Three months after completion of the project, the tree died due to damaged roots, but I digress…
  • If there are roots in the way, a ground beam or lintels can be spanned from one column to the next. This replaces the foundation and the wall is built on top of that. Consult an engineer of expert in the field if trying to attempt this.

Basic diagram explaining ground beams in boundary walls
Basic diagram of spanning a wall over roots
(This method can be used for almost any obstacle)

  • Step the wall back from the boundary line and build around the tree. This is also a good way of breaking the monotony one gets from a too long continuous wall surface.

If building on a  steep slope, you might want to level your ground to create a flatter, more usable ground surface. This means your boundary wall will double as a retaining structure and will have an impact on the design of the wall structure. It also means that an engineer has to be involved in your building project.

Retaining wall and balustrade wall
Built retaining wall at driveway extending up to
form balustrade wall at garden on different level

There are also other ways of retaining soil, these include gabions (wire baskets filled with stone), pre cast concrete retaining blocks and even used tyres. The method of retaining soil will depend largely on space available, budget and the type of division to be built on top of your retaining structure.

Gabion retaining structure and entrance feature wall
Gabion wire baskets as retaining wall
extending to form feature wall next to building

DIY or Using a Contractor

In these financial trying times, we all try to save on any expenses. If approached correctly – and taken into account the difficulty level based on retaining, finishes and so on (also see Costs hereunder and Common Pitfalls in next week’s edition) – you may be able to save some money by doing it yourself. This should be approached with care and proper planning.

Using a contractor usually has its advantages. If a reputable builder undertakes your project, this frees up a lot of your time and can save you quite a few grey hairs. They have a good general knowledge of standard building practices, problem solving and materials.

Ultimately the choice is yours, but be sure to take all factors into account.


The list of costs of building your boundary wall can include many factors. Here are a few standard expenses to consider:

  • The design, dimensions and length of the wall including size and finish of gates and openings and automatic motor gates.
  • Type of Materials used. This will depend largely on your design style and finishes used:
    • Brick, stone or concrete walls, steel palisade, timber or wire fence?
    • Will it be plastered  bagged or face-brick, painted or unpainted
    • What kind of bricks will be used, imperial or maxi’s, clay or cement or maybe concrete blocks?
    • If opting for steel trellis or palisade fencing, will it be galvanised (A good option in coastal towns) or painted?
    • If building a stone wall, can it be locally sourced and what will the extra costs be of employing a good stone mason?
  • Slope of the ground: A steep slope will probably mean more concrete for foundations. If, as previously mentioned, a retaining structure is to be incorporated, the fees of an engineer and extra material are to be added to your costs. You shall also have to allow for drainage of storm water damming up behind the wall (See Techniques and Processes next week).
  • The type of ground on the property can have an impact on the type of construction and materials used. Normally, this does not affect boundary walls so much, but if in doubt, consult an engineer or a contractor familiar with the area to ensure correct construction method and appropriate footings are used.
  • Security cameras. Intercom systems including video, electric fencing, beams, security lights. What type of extra security measures will be added to the new wall? See Building Regulations, Plans and Approval in next week’s article for more on adding security measures on top of your wall.
  • Drawing of plans. Although not all governing bodies require that your plans are drawn up by a SACAP* registered person, a knowledgeable architect or draughtsman will be able to produce proper building plans which are in line with Local Municipality regulations, NBR* and SANS*. They are also good with advice, problem solving and design related issues.
  • Submitting & approval of your building plans at the local municipality. This is normally a small, fixed “Minor Works” fee, but enquire at your Local Municipality’s Plan Submission Offices.
  • Building costs. These can vary based on abovementioned styles, materials and physical features of the property.
  • Plumbing: Any existing plumbing will have to be protected. Drainage of water build-up may have to be addressed.
  • Finishing: Lighting, repairing your garden and overall finishing off on and around the wall.

List of Abbreviations:
*NBR: National Building Regulations
*SABS: South African Bureau for Standards
*SANS: South African National Standards

In next week’s article, we shall look at:

  • Building Regulations, Plans and Approval: What you need to find out before designing your walls
  • Style, Design and Wall Finishes: What style should you go for and which materials to choose
  • Common Pitfalls: Things to be on the lookout for
  • Techniques and Processes: What techniques should be followed for your particular wall or fence.

Thank you to Marcus Smit Architects for supplying images for this article.

Source by Bennu Smit