An heirloom wooden table, dresser, or rocking chair can all be restored to look as good as new and ready for the next generation. All it needs is a lick of paint or varnish. But there is very little you can do to restore a wooden fence battered by years of rain and extreme heat.
The ravages of weather notwithstanding, wood fences can still last a reasonably long time. With the right care and maintenance, your board-on-board, picket, or split rail fence can endure the adverse effects of weather for up to 15 years, looking as good as only wood fences can.
The Importance Of Regular Maintenance For Your Wood Fence
How do you extend the life of your wood fence and get maximum value from it? You do so through regular maintenance.
Wood is a natural material. Among its qualities is an ability to blend in with most decor styles. As a fencing material, it can be machined into any design you can think of. That and wood’s warm tones give wood fences oodles of character and great popularity among homeowners.
Sadly wood isn’t very strong. If exposed to moisture for long periods of time, wood fences will rot rather quickly and not last as long. Insect damage also becomes an issue, especially if the wood used is untreated.
Exposing your wood fence to excessive heat and sunlight without the right protection is also just as bad. Direct sunlight will bleach wood of its natural colour. Other effects of weather damage include warping, bowing, and cracking. None of them look good on your fence.
So your greatest enemy as far as the upkeep of your wood fence is concerned is the weather. But it isn’t the only one. You also have to mind the effect of normal wear and tear, which can also diminish the look of your fence.
While the prospect of a fence that maintains its looks for as long as possible is a great perk for regularly caring for your wood fence, there is another important benefit. A fence with rotted posts, splintered boards, and entire sections that are leaning dangerously to one is a safety risk for your family and passersby.
A well-maintained wood fence also does a better job of keeping intruders out and securing your property. It will also ensure your property retains its resale value, guaranteeing you a good price should you ever decide to sell up.
We have established that the best way to prolong the life of your wood fence is by following a regular maintenance regime. But what does that maintenance entail?
How To Maintain Your Wood Fence
Maintaining a wood fence to look its best for long requires dedication. In many ways, it is a labour of love. Here are tips to make your job easier:
1. Clean It
For the same effect they have on general appearance, dirt can harbour moisture and insects, two of your wooden fence’s biggest threats. While the fix is obvious, many property owners struggle to keep up with the cleaning when faced with a long fence.
There are cleaners specially formulated for wood. If you can, choose one that is not toxic to the environment. Before you start cleaning, though, make sure to remove leaves and other dead plant matter.
Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for using the wood cleaner. That said, they mostly work the same way. You apply it over the wood surface.
Start from the bottom and work your way up, making sure to reach into the corners and crevices. Use a small brush to get the cleaner into the hard-to-reach areas. After waiting the recommended time, wash the cleaner down with a pressure washer.
Be careful with pressure washers, especially if the fence is damaged and weak in some sections. In trying to clean the fence you could damage it or cause injuries if it happens to collapse.
Power-washing a wood fence has the effect of stripping it of any stain you may have used to protect it. So make sure to restain it, but wait until the fence has completely dried.
2. Protect It
The foundation of any wood fence maintenance regime is by protecting it against weather and insect damage. Without this protection, your fence will neither keep its looks nor last very long.
Whether it is soaking rain, deep snow, or blazing sun, the effects of the weather can be mitigated. In terms of rot, the trick is to stop the wood from absorbing moisture. Applying moisture repelling, oil-based wood stain is the best way of doing this.
The stain will seal the surface of the wood and stop it from absorbing the moisture that causes it to rot and discolour. If it’s a fresh installation, make sure to stain the fence as soon as you can.
If it isn’t a newly installed fence, you will need to clean it before you apply the stain. Apply at least two coats of stain, giving each 12 hours to dry before applying another coat. To apply the seal, either use a brush or spray.
Applying an oil-based stain will protect your wood fence from rot caused by moisture. But how do you prevent the sun bleaching caused by excessive sunlight?
Applying a stain will help, but choosing one with a UV inhibitor that’s specially formulated to prevent sun bleaching will work best. Stains are also available in a variety of colours, so choose one that matches the wood and the overall property.
The best form of protection against insect damage is by using the right wood right at the beginning. Instead of using regular pine wood, choose pressure-treated pine, which is fortified to protect against wood-eating insects.
The posts especially are highly susceptible to insects and moisture. So at least use pressure-treated wood for these if you have a limited budget.
If you have the budget, red cedar, oak, and other hardwoods will be your best options. These tough, denser woods also handle moisture and UV radiation much better than softer woods.
What about painting the fence?
Painting is better than leaving the wood fence unprotected, but staining is better. Paint does not absorb into the wood grain and will only cover the surface. Oil stains, on the other hand, absorb into the wood, protecting it from within.
After a while, the paint will also cake and crack, which opens up the grain. As a result, the wood will absorb moisture and expand. As the fence dries, the paint will start to crack and peel. With the wood now unprotected, it may also start to rot.
3. Fix it
Promptly repair any damage to your wood fence. Some damage will seem insignificant, but it will add up. Before you know it, the fence is barely holding up. Attempting to fix it after a period of neglect will quickly get overwhelming.
So the best way to stay on top of the repairs is to fix damage as you see it. The posts are the most important in terms of the fence’s structural integrity and safety.
Inspect the fence regularly, making sure to check the posts for stability. Check the boards too and replace any damaged ones and any that may have become loose because of rusted nails.
Seek Fence Maintenance Help If You Feel Overwhelmed
Some of us don’t have all the time it takes to maintain a wood fence to keep it strong and looking good. To preserve your investment, it may be wise to spend a bit of money on a professional fence maintenance contractor. They will do regular inspections and repair damage before it worsens.
For your part, avoid using sprinklers near your wood fence to protect it from moisture. Also, avoid planting vines and other climbing plants over the fence as these can weigh down a fence and cause rot issues.
Need help maintaining your wood fence?
Jay Fencing is a wood fence installer in Toronto. We also install other types of fences and offer fence maintenance among other home improvement services. Contact us here to discuss your fence installation or maintenance help.