How to Care for a Wood Fence

A wood fence can be a great way to give a home a definitive border and ad curb appeal to the house. Cedar wood works well for outdoor structures, such as fences, because of its attractive red tone, and its resistance to warping, insect infestation and rot. Over time, dirt and weather will turn the wood gray. Cedar can be stained to enhance the color, or left a natural shade. Proper care can keep the wood looking new for many years. It can also save you from having to make costly repairs, as untreated wood suffers more damage from the elements. But over time, wood fences rot away. Here are some ways to make your wood fence last longer.  Within the first year of installation, the wood may warp or split as it dries.  In 5-8 years the fence may start to lean but it should last 10-15 years overall. It’s impossible to completely prevent the natural weathering that occurs to a wood fence over the years. You can slow the process by protecting the wood regularly.  The stain you use to cover the wood must cover every part of the wood exposed to moisture. It’s also important to use galvanized or stainless steel hardware in the wood because these metals won’t rust and they resist warping. To prevent the wood from turning gray in the sun, use products that contain UV inhibitors.  Your wood will need regular maintenance at least every 3 years to prolong its life and help it stay strong and beautiful.

The first step in wood maintenance is to clean and remove all mildew. Spray the fence with a power washer with a pressure of 1,500 to 2,000 pounds per square inch. This level of pressure should not damage the wood. Keep the nozzle 18 inches from the fence surface and move the spray evenly over the fence. Do not linger too long in one area. The outer gray layers will wash off, exposing the red wood underneath. Wear old clothing and eye protection as the spray will bounce off the fence back toward you. Combine 3 quarts of warm water and 1 quart of oxygen bleach in a bucket. Spray the solution on the fence with a garden sprayer, allowing it to sit for 10 minutes. Scrub the fence with a scrub brush to remove mildew and dirt. Rinse the fence with clean water when you are finished. Do the fence in sections to keep the oxygen bleach solution from drying before you scrub. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. Wash the fence each year in spring or early summer. Allow the fence to dry for at least 2 days after washing it before painting or staining.

Although it’s tedious and time consuming, it’s most effective to apply the product with a paint brush.  Traditional paintbrushes work very well.  Use a smaller 2-inch brush when working in small areas, between the fence boards, in cracks and on fence posts and rails.  Rolling the stain or sealant on is the least reliable method.  It leaves uneven marks that will need to be touched up.    After applying one coat, allow it to dry completely and then apply a second coat of paint or stain. When applying coats, complete an entire section at a time, without breaks, to avoid lap marks. If you have not painted or stained your fence, you will need to apply a clear sealant every year to protect to wood and maintain a strong seal against moisture. If you are staining your fence, apply the stain before applying the sealant.  Allow the stain to completely dry before applying the sealant. Bushes and vines should be kept off the fence. The vine will keep the fence moist and it will rot faster.  Avoid placing sprinklers or hoses near the fence to minimize any water damage to the fence.