Wood Fence Maintenance: A Guide

Everything to know about wood fence maintenance.

Because of the availability of timber and the ongoing need for perimeter fixtures, wood fencing’s been a landscape staple for hundreds of years. From the start, landowners have needed these installations—not so much for security at first but often for defining boundaries. In those days, ranch rail was the go-to style: requiring less lumber than solid panels while still marking where one person’s land started and ended. Nowadays, wood fencing comes in a broad spectrum of styles, each with its own unique benefits, each ideal for customers depending on their specific needs. For instance, American Fence Company—the nation’s leading fencing contractor—offers wood panels in styles that include:

  • Solid Privacy. Ideal for clients desiring total visual seclusion, privacy panels completely seal off properties from outside view. Very efficient for homeowners with pets prone to distraction and running away. Privacy fencing’s also available with custom accents for boosted appeal.
  • Semi-Privacy. Semi-privacy retains the security benefits of privacy fencing while permitting a minimal amount of visibility.
  • Shadow box. The visual seclusion of privacy fencing with boards laid over one another in a pattern for greater visual aesthetics.
  • Scallop. Distinguishes homes with over and under-arching curves in the fence’s top crest.
  • Picket. This staple of postwar-era fencing hasn’t lost its inviting charm. Excellent for boosting curb appeal and potentially raising property value.

Properly cared for, a wood fence has the potential to last decades. But what constitutes proper care? In today’s article, we’ll provide a comprehensive look at wood fence maintenance and how you can protect your investment. Good maintenance can mean the difference between a long-lasting fence and one requiring constant repairs and replacing (and through that, constant expenditures).

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The Basics of Wood Fence Maintenance

Of course, longevity depends on a number of factors. Obviously, if your fence is composed of flimsy materials, it’s not going to stand the test and pressures of time so well. Constant exposure to UV rays, wind, precipitation, physical contact with foreign objects and entities, etc. will gradually weaken their integrity. Fences made of sturdy materials, however, are naturally able to withstand the elements longer. Location is also important. Fences of low-grade timber running through perpetually sheltered areas with little to no sunlight become significantly more prone to mold and early deterioration. We caution against having a wood fence run underneath trees for this reason. (This is also a safety precaution. If the tree’s knocked over by a storm, you’ll suddenly have a bunch of fence panels to replace.)

Pet owners know that dogs love to dig, especially during escape attempts. Homeowners sometimes also have to contend with subterranean pests such as moles. Excavation around your fence posts can cause them to shift if they don’t have a strong concrete foundation. If your fence was installed without concrete, contact your local fence company to have the posts properly reinstalled.

Speaking of pests, keep an eye out for insect damage. As wood is an organic material, it is targeted by various insect species, including termites and carpenter ants. What’s more, wasps like to build nests inside cavities. So if your wood fence has holes and pores in its surface, cover them up ASAP before these aggressive winged insects decide to move in. The last thing you want is someone getting stung because they leaned against your fence, disturbing the unwelcome occupants and triggering an angry swarm. The best way to deal with these holes and pores is with sealant.

How can I keep up my wood fence’s appearance?

For starters, we recommend staining and painting. Remember that lumber derives from trees that, in life, perpetually thirsted for water. Thus their components, even after being cut and sawn, retain their absorptive qualities. Throughout the year, your wood fence parts will soak in any liquids they come in contact with—everything from rain to melting snow. As winter hits and the temperature plummets, the water contained within freezes into ice and expands; and this is what causes wood to split, bulge, and break apart. Staining and painting helps prevent this phenomenon. Plan on re-staining every two to three years. This occasional bit of upkeep will save you a significant amount of capital in the long run: you’ll ultimately spend less on paint and staining than you would on constant repairs and replacements.

What is the best wood fence staining method?

To begin with, we strongly recommend hiring a professional staining contractor. Do note that staining is—generously put—a messy process and requires special preparations and training. Not to mention it should only be conducted on calm, windless days and in the middle of “dry” periods (wherein your fence has not been exposed to water for at least a week). The right contractor will lay out tarps to prevent staining from ending up on your lawn. They’ll also tape off nearby objects and structures, as neither you nor your neighbors want stains on houses, automobiles, etc.

In terms of technique, rolling-on easily covers the coarse surface of a wood fence. But since it tends to result in a lot of drips, spraying is the preferred method, with a quick follow-up of brushing.

Is it important to keep my fence clean?

Yes. Aside from being representational and putting on a good appearance, keeping dirt and debris off your fence surface allows it to breathe. You can use a power washer on a wood fence, but keep the pressure low. Talk to your fence installer, but generally speaking use no more than 1500 psi. Any stronger than that and you’re likely to strip paint or cause physical damage to your panels.

Another key aspect of wood fence maintenance is hiring the right fence contractor. The installation teams at American Fence Company are well-versed and thoroughly trained in fabricating, building, installing, and repairing wood fences of all kinds.

Contact an American Fence Company representative today!