What Is The Best Way to Preserve a Wooden Fence?
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Wood fences have an unmistakable charm that makes them a fine way to define your property’s border. Being a natural material, wood blends well with almost any setting and is highly customizable when used for fencing.
Despite all their qualities, there is one issue that always stalks wood fences. It is their poor durability when compared to other fence types. Particularly against adverse weather elements like moisture and excessive sunlight, wood does not do well.
How To Extend The Life Of Your Wood Fence
The best wood fences last up to 15 years. Typically such fences are made from the hardier woods like cedar and redwood, which are more resistant to rot and insect damage.
With regular maintenance and protection with water-repelling preservatives and sealants, you should extend the life of your wood fence up to 20 years. Staining your wooden fence also helps to stave off sun bleaching.
To best protect your wood fences you have to understand what you are protecting against. In Ontario, it’s the winters we have to worry about the most. Let’s talk about how conditions in winter affect your wooden fence:
The fall and winter seasons are the wettest in Ontario. These are the months your wooden fence will really be up against it.
As winter starts, you will want your wood fence to be well sealed as cracks will allow the wood to absorb water and snow. Once absorbed, the water expands and the cracks will widen and let in even more moisture.
All that moisture softens the wood fibre, making it more susceptible to rot. The posts are most susceptible and typically cause the most safety concern as they are what holds up the fence.
The constant expansion and shrinking as the wood absorbs and expells moisture also causes warping. Your fence will gradually grow crooked and less appealing.
A more immediate effect of winter moisture is where your wood panels have knots. Wood knots do not absorb moisture and expand at the same rate as the good wood. As knots absorb water more slowly, they don’t expand as fast, meaning they will loosen up and fall off as the wood around them expands.
The holes the knots leave behind cause even more moisture absorption and the subsequent rot issues. Those holes also structurally weaken the fence. So how then do you prepare your fence for winter?
How to Weatherproof Your Wooden Fence
Unless you protect your wooden fence with a good preservative and sealer before the first snowfall around October what’s also clear is you aren’t going to be able to until spring. By that time your wood fence may have aged a few years already and undoing some of the damage may prove a challenge.
As a habit and especially before the first rains/snowfall you will want to do the following to protect it through the wet season:
1. Thoroughly clean the fence to remove dead leaves and debris
Using a power washer from a safe distance, clean the fence of all dead plant matter and other debris. Be sure to reach in between the boards to remove all dirt. If left to rot, dead leaves will cause the wood itself to rot.
By the way, removing dead leaves lodged between your fence’s panels is something you should do as a habit and not only occasionally. All other times except when you are power washing a leaf blower will work just fine.
2. Replace any broken boards
You are likely not going to be able to do any thorough repair work on your fence until after winter. So right before is the best time to replace any broken boards. Carefully inspect the fence to make sure it is strong enough to withstand the heavy snow cover that’s to come.
3. Stain and seal the wood fence
To get the best results, choose a day with fair weather to treat your wood fence. If it’s recently rained, wait until the fence has totally dried out, which is 48 hours in good sunlight. Also, make sure there isn’t too much sunlight when you treat your fence as you want it to dry slowly so the oils penetrate deep into the wood.
Use a good water-repelling, oil-based stain and sealer to stop your wood fence from absorbing moisture during the long wet winter. Paint can also be used to seal the wood and stop it from absorbing moisture, but it does not work as well especially with rough-hewn wood.
Oil-based wood stains are best as they penetrate the wood and treat it from within. Oil on its own waterproofs, while the pigment enhances the fence’s looks and gives it special protection from the weathering and bleaching effects of excessive sunlight.