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At Bravo Fence, we specialize in installing the best fences in the Southeast. It’s a big job that takes significant time and labor. Our fences are built to last, but no fence can last forever. If you want your fence to last as long as possible, you’ll have to take matters into your own hands.
Fence maintenance is the number-one factor in how long you can enjoy your fence. So once the builders are gone, it’s up to you. Of course, you’re not alone. We’ve put together this handy guide that covers all the bases on how to maintain your fence.
Wood Fence Maintenance
There is nothing more visually appealing than a crisp wooden fence around your property. A sturdy fence with no cracks, warping, or flaking paint can increase curb appeal and help protect your yard from unwanted intruders.
How Long Should My Wood Fence Last
With proper care and maintenance, most wood fences will last for at least 20 years.
However, the true lifespan of your fence depends on a few factors; the type of wood it is made from, the climate you live in, and how much exposure it has to the elements.
If you live in an area with extreme weather conditions or your fence is located in a shady spot that doesn’t get much sunlight, it may not last as long as a fence that is built with more durable wood and gets regular sunlight.
How do I Keep My Wood Fence Looking New?
Wood will naturally degrade the longer it’s exposed to the elements. But there are ways you can help protect your fence and keep it looking its best. Regular maintenance is the most effective way to keep your wooden fence looking new. Quick repairs when needed will also be helpful.
Here are a few common problems that can emerge over time with wooden fences:
For example, if you have pets that love to dig, your wooden fence will be at risk of getting uprooted in certain spots. To help prevent this, pour a concrete foundation under each post to keep it stable and looking new.
Termites are also a concern with wooden fences or any other wooden structure around your home. Having your fence and property inspected periodically can catch problems before they are too severe to be treated.
Sealing your wooden fence can also help guard against termite infestations that can cause them to age and fail quickly.
Why do Wood Fences Require Maintenance?
Fences made from wood, like most materials, require maintenance. If you’re looking for a fence that needs minimal upkeep, you should consider a vinyl or chain-link fence. But if you already have a wood fence that you want to get the most out of, maintenance is key.
Wooden fences left to their own devices may start to split or even begin to warp within the first year. Further neglect can cause the fence to fall into disrepair and it may start to lean and sag around year five.
Wood fences are susceptible to damage from the elements, insects, and animals. Over time, this damage can add up and make your fence look old and worn down.
Additionally, wood is a natural material that will shrink, warp, and rot if it is not properly cared for.
5 Steps to Make Your Old Wood Fence Look New Again
To keep your wood fence looking its best, it is important to perform regular maintenance. Depending on the type of wood fence you have, these tasks may need to be performed once a year or more often.
1 - Supplies
To get your fence maintenance project started, you will need the following:
- A power washer
- Wood cleaner
- Wood filler
- A putty knife
- Paint or stain
- Paintbrush or roller
If there are some simple repairs to make, add a wrench or drill, some screws, and wood glue to the list.
A Note on Power Washers
Plan on annual power washes, with a maximum pressure of 1,500 to 2,000 psi. This will strip months of weathering from the fence and safeguard it from rot and mold.
However, be sure to avoid more powerful machines. These can scour too aggressively and cause gouges to form.
Opt for both a 25- and 15-degree tip. While the 25-degree point is recommended for general cleaning, the 15-degree tip is best for problematic or hard-to-reach areas, like removing the discoloration around the fence’s latches and other hardware.
2 - Washing
The first step to take to preserve a wood fence is to keep it clean. For naturally finished woods, keeping dirt and grime off allows the wood to “breathe”.
Clean your fence using a power washer. Start by spraying the fence with water to remove any loose dirt or debris.
Then, add your wood cleaner to the power washer and scrub the fence with a brush attachment. Be sure to rinse off the cleaner completely before moving on to the next step.
3 - Sanding
Your fence may also require some light sanding. After your annual power wash, inspect the fence for rough patches or broken wood. Smooth rough surfaces with sandpaper.
4 - Repairs
Once your fence is clean, you will need to repair any damaged boards or posts.
First, use sandpaper to smooth out any rough edges. Next, apply wood filler to any holes or cracks using a putty knife.
Allow the filler to dry completely before painting or staining.
This is also an opportunity to replace nails that have popped out. Secure loose boards with additional nails or screws, using aluminum or stainless steel nails or screws that won’t rust and discolor the fence.
5 - Protection
To finish, you will need to apply a fresh coat of stain or paint to your fence. If you are using stain, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application.
For paint, we recommend using a roller or brush designed for use with outdoor projects. Allow the paint or stain to dry completely before enjoying your newly restored fence!
Wood Fence Maintenance For New Homeowners - To Treat or Not to Treat
Up until now, we’ve discussed tips for maintaining an existing wooden fence that’s seen a few years, but for those of you who have got a new fence, and you’re not sure how to go about caring for it, we have some fence maintenance tips for new homeowners that will come in handy.
The first question that a new fence owner has is, “Should I treat my new fence?” which makes sense. A new fence looks perfect, so why mess with a good thing? But if you want to keep your fence in good health over the long run, then the first thing to do is to seal it with paint or stain as soon as it is installed.
If you use pressure-treated wood, you need to wait 4-6 weeks for the wood to completely dry before you paint or stain.
Treating your wood this way prevents water from penetrating and damaging the material. The paint should last 2-3 years before it needs to be sanded and repainted. Stain can last 3-5 years before it needs to be reapplied.
The best way to take care of a new wooden fence is to always keep up with regular maintenance. A well-maintained fence has the potential to last more than ten years before it will need to be replaced.
The Best Way to Protect Your New Wood Fence
Staining vs Sealing
When it comes to preserving the longevity of a new wood fence, the best protection from rain and sun is treating the wood. Staining and sealing are the two most common methods for doing this. What’s the difference between the two?
Sealer is transparent and shows the grain and natural color of the wood while preventing water absorption and rot.
Stain, on the other hand, has many of the same protective properties as a sealer and contains a dye that protects against UV radiation. UV protection is vital for wood, as excessive UV light can dry out the wood and cause it to crack and gray over time.
How to Treat Your Wood Fence - Staining
One of the best ways to keep your wooden fence protected from the elements is to treat it with stain annually. For homes situated in climates that see regular rainfall, you may need to increase this to two or three times per year.
The stain will help protect the wood from both moisture and the elements. When there is a barrier between the wood and the elements, the life of your wooden fence will be extended.
In addition to helping keep your wooden fence safe, a freshly-stained fence looks great.
Any time you apply a stain treatment to your fence, make sure that the wood has been cleaned and that it has fully dried. This will allow your treatment the best chance of protecting the wood from the elements and any other dangers.
If your wooden fence has gates, you need to protect and care for the hinges. You can use wood grease or car grease to oil the hinges and locks. This will help protect the metal and the wood from rust and staining.
Sealing - The Best Way To Retain The Natural Color Of A Fence
Fence stains are a great way to help keep your wooden fence looking new and ensure the wood stays healthy over the long run. But if you want to maintain your natural color, you need a clear sealer. You can also use a fence stain that has the same or similar color as your wooden fence to enhance its appearance.
If you want to keep the natural color and keep it from fading, use a clear wood fence sealer that has strong UV filters. This will nourish the wood and also prevent damage from long-term sun exposure.
Make sure that you clean your wooden fence regularly and reapply the protective layers at least twice a year. For homes located in areas with extreme weather, you may need to increase your applications to help maintain the natural color of your fence.
Avoid pressure washing too often, as it can strip your wooden fence of the protective stain and its rich color. If your fence lackings protection, it will start to fade and weaken over time.
What Is The Best Weather Treatment for a Wood Fence?
There are many weather treatment options to choose from, and most garden centers offer a wide selection. In addition to regular stains, many offer organic wood treatments that are safer for the environment and people with pets. Every type of wood needs a different type of treatment. Make sure that you choose the right one for your fence type to keep your wood looking fresh for years to come.
Deck stains are a great option for treating wooden fences so that they are water-resistant. It will also make them more flexible, and most deck stains also have a high level of UV protection.
Most applications will last for up to five years, especially if they are applied by a professional fencing company. Regular wood fence and deck stains need to be reapplied once a year or more often depending on the local climate.
How To Prevent A Fence From Turning Gray
For many homeowners, a silver wood fence is simply gorgeous. While the vintage look may appeal to some, most people prefer a fresher look. Gray wooden fences look unkempt and uncared for and can even make the rest of your yard appear run down.
Thankfully, there are several ways you can go about protecting your wooden fence and helping it to retain its vibrant color. UV exposure is the main reason wood loses its color.
The second reason behind fence graying is exposure to the elements. Just like skin, you have to protect your wooden fencing from both the sun and mother nature if you want to prevent or reduce the effects of age.
Keep in mind that there is no way to completely prevent your wood from turning gray. Once a plank is cut from a tree, the wood dies. Dead wood has no way of renewing its fibers, which means it will eventually succumb to the ravages of time.
You can delay the process by applying UV-resistant wood finishing products to your fence. This will help block damage from the sun and also work to protect your fence from the elements.
The best fence maintenance tip for new homeowners to slow wood graying is protecting your wooden fence while the timber is new. Most timber is pre-treated, but you can also apply wood stain or a wood preserver to boost protection.
Always find out what type of product your wooden fence has already been treated with so that new product applications will be compatible.
Inspecting for Damage
Make it a habit every month to walk the length of your fence and look for any damage. Look for broken or loose pickets, tilted posts, splinters, and holes. Depending on how the fence was built, you may also need to keep an eye out for loose nails.
One of the benefits of wood fences is that broken or damaged pickets are usually easy to replace. If you find loose nails, just hammer them back in place.
TLC for Your Wood Fence - Cleaning
Caring for your wood begins with the basics. Keep it clean. A little soapy water should be enough to clean dust and pollen off your fence. If you notice tougher stains, a strong garden hose or gentle power washer should do the trick.
Keep an eye out for green or black stains. Green or black stains are usually mold or algae, and simple cleaning isn’t enough. If you don’t kill the mold or algae, the stain will come right back.
Luckily, it’s not hard to kill mold or algae. A solution of one cup of chlorine bleach in a gallon of water usually works. For a more natural method, replace the bleach with white vinegar.
Your wood fence is constantly exposed to the forces of nature. Besides the damage caused by harsh weather conditions, your fence has other natural enemies, like insects and wood rot. Here are some important steps that you can take to greatly minimize the damage that these can cause to your fence.
Termites, also known as white ants, are destructive pests that can eat away and destroy a wood fence.
Softwoods such as redwood, pine, fir, and cedar are all most susceptible to termite infestation. Unfortunately, those are the types of woods most likely to be used for fences.
Termites can be exterminated by a professional service, but you can also treat your fence yourself using borax, a natural insecticide.
Borax is also much less toxic than alternative insecticides.
As with all maintenance tasks, your best plan of action is to prevent any damage in the first place. You can’t prevent rain and snow from soaking your fence, but you can prevent moisture from penetrating the wood.
Therefore, have a weatherproof stain applied to your fence when it’s first installed. You should re-stain the fence periodically, as instructed above.
Next, keep plant life away from your fence. You should never train plants to grow onto your wood fence because they create damp spots. Additionally, your landscaping shouldn’t grow directly against the fence either.
If you feel your fence is especially susceptible to rot, consider treating it with borate. Borate is a fungicide that’s safe to apply to wood and is also safe for humans and animals, so you can spray the solution right onto the fence.
Should rot start to appear in your fence, you can stop its spread by replacing the affected sections. It’s most likely that you will be replacing the fence’s main posts. Since it is your fence posts that touch the ground, this is where rot often begins.
It is important to replace fence planks and posts at the first sign of rot, as rot can spread quickly. When replacing rot-affected sections, the best protection from future outbreaks is to give the rest of your fence a good clean and a new coat of stain!
If you have your mind made up to install a wood fence and you want to preserve it, you should consider options for durability. What type of wood fence will last the longest?
Cedar fences typically last the longest. When well maintained, they can generally last about 15 to 30 years. Cedar is naturally resistant to insects and slow to rot, making it more durable. If treated, cedar fences can even last up to 40 years.
However, if you’re interested in the look of a wood fence without all the maintenance, then you should consider a vinyl fence. Vinyl fencing can last 30 or more years with minimal maintenance required. Unlike wood which can warp, rot, or shrink over time, vinyl fences stay essentially the same.
Whether you are installing a new wood fence or caring for one that’s already on your property, the key to a long-lasting fence is regular inspections, maintenance, and minor repairs and replacements as needed.
Follow these steps to preserve a wood fence and you’ll enjoy yours for many years to come!
Vinyl Fence Maintenance
Vinyl is the ultimate low-maintenance fence. But even a vinyl fence can benefit from a little TLC from time to time. Vinyl is free of many of the concerns that come with other materials.
It doesn’t rot or rust. It isn’t painted, so there is no paint to fade or peel. It doesn’t absorb moisture, and it doesn’t warp. In general, the structure of the vinyl is pretty durable.
However, surface dirt and stains can still make your vinyl fence look old and grungy.
Keep Your Vinyl Fence Clean
Cleaning a vinyl fence is simple. It usually takes little more than a garden hose. Start at the bottom and spray towards the top, then back down from top to bottom.
If spots are left over, you can use a sponge and soapy water to remove them. The only time you will need something more to clean a vinyl fence is when the stains are alive.
Living stains are usually black, yellow, or green algae. To beat the stain, you need to kill the algae. You can use a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water or, for a more natural approach, white vinegar, and water, along with a little elbow grease to kill the algae and remove the stain.
If you have a large enclosure and hand washing would take forever, you can use a power washer with a concentrated cleaning fluid made specifically for power washers.
Metal Fence Maintenance
The majority of metal fences and metal posts found on residential properties are crafted from steel or aluminum. They can mimic the appearance of wrought iron without the sky-high cost of the attractive metal.
If you happen to have a true iron fence, you can consider yourself one of the elite.
Regardless of what type of metal fence you have, it is important to care for them properly to ensure they last as long as possible. We have put together some information on spring fence maintenance for metal fences so that you can keep your fence looking pristine all year long.
How Long Will A Metal Fence Last?
Metal naturally has a longer lifespan than softer materials such as wood. Depending on the type of metal fence you have, it may even last longer than the natural lifespan.
A hollow steel metal fence for example can easily last for 20 years as long as it has a protective finish. Chain link fences tend to be crafted from galvanized steel. If they are coated in vinyl, this type of metal fence will usually stand for 15 or 20 years before it needs to be replaced.
Aluminum fences are not only affordable, but they typically also last for 50 years or more. Solid steel fences, cast-iron fences, and tubular aluminum fencing have the potential to last a lifetime.
Although metal fencing is much sturdier than other materials, proper care is needed to ensure they can maintain their longevity. Read on to find out everything you need to know about caring for your metal fence.
Metal Fence Maintenance Tips
The first order of business is to inspect your metal fence at least once a year. This will give you a chance to spot problems before they become rust, or worse.
Examine your entire metal fence for scratches, dents, chips in the sealant, missing links or caps, and any other issue that may damage the metal.
Cleaning Your Metal Fence
Cleaning a metal fence is as easy as cleaning your car. Set aside a day each month to wash and wax your metal fence. Just like a car, regular washing and waxing extends the life of the sealant, protecting the metal from the elements.
All you need is warm water, dish soap, and a soft cloth. Pick a sunny day so the water will dry quickly ahead of your waxing efforts. Wipe down your fence to remove debris, dust, dead bugs, and salt from the rain.
Rinse your fence with spray from your garden hose and then either wipe down your fence or let it air dry in the sun. Never use acids like vinegar on your fence. Not only will they break down the sealant, but they can also trigger the development of rust.
Once your fence is dry, apply a layer of gel-based car wax for extra protection. This will help protect it from UV rays, the elements, and even fading if you have a layer of paint on your metal fence.
Inspect for Overgrown Vegetation and Rust
It’s good advice to prevent vegetation from leaning or climbing on your metal fence. Climbing plants look attractive, but the vines can eat away at the protective coating and paint that covers the metal.
Once the coating gets breached, moisture can reach the metal, which will eventually cause it to rust. On that note, avoid wetting your fence when you water your lawn and plants.
A little water is ok, but constantly dousing your metal fence can reduce its longevity.
Check your fence carefully for rust spots. If you find any, no matter how small, you need to address them immediately. The rusted areas will need to be completely sanded down to remove all traces of rust.
Wipe the surface down to get rid of rust dust, and then clean the area and allow it to dry. Reseal the metal fencing where you sanded the rust away. You can also paint over the areas once the sealant has fully dried.
The Best Way To Keep Metal Fences From Rusting
There are a few tricks you can use to help prevent rust from developing on your metal fence. You can call in professionals to have your metal fence cleaned and sealed, or you can apply a coating on your own.
It is always a good idea to have the fence sealed professionally with commercial-grade products for maximum efficiency. Keeping your metal fence clean is the best way to stop rust in its tracks.
Dirt, moisture, and air all trigger rust development, so make sure to clean your entire fence at least once a month. A simple bath in warm water and regular dish soap will get rid of debris that may be wearing down the protective coating. Choose a day that has full sun to help the fence dry after washing it.
Everyone likes to save money, but keep in mind that there are some things you should never skimp on. If you are looking to lower your budget, it is better to go with a simpler design over cheaper materials.
Always buy the best quality metal you can afford, and the highest grade sealant that your budget will allow. This will help you save money in the long run by keeping rust at bay for as long as possible.
An oil-based rust-resistant primer should always coat your fence, even if you plan to paint your fence later.
When choosing paint, it should always be oil-based metal paint. Use a couple of layers to increase the overall protection.
Fixing a Rusty Fence
The best thing about metal fences is that you can spot small bits of rust before they become big problems. When you inspect your fence, make repairs to posts, links, or hinges if you notice any damage.
If you happen to spot rust, then act quickly to clean and repair the area before it spreads. To fix a rust fence all you need is sandpaper, cleaning tools, and rust-preventing primer.
You will need to sand down all of the rusty areas until you reach healthy metal. Make sure there is no rust left anywhere, or it will simply keep spreading.
Once you have sanded down the rust, you will need to clean all of the rust dust off of your fence. Apply a rust-preventing primer over your clean fence and allow it to dry completely.
If your fence was painted, you can go over the primer with a coat of oil-based metal paint once the primer has dried.
When it comes to repairing a large metal fence, or if you think the overall stability of your metal fence has been compromised, seek help from a fencing company.
A fencing professional will have the tools, skills, and knowledge needed to restore your metal fence and protect its surface after repairs.
Galvanizing Your Metal Fence
Galvanization is another method used to help protect iron and steel fences from environmental damage. This zinc coating is usually applied over a metal fence and will help prevent corrosion and rust for as long as 50 years.
Galvanization is not permanent, you will need to reapply it occasionally, especially if your fence was damaged in any way. There is no way to completely prevent metal from rusting if it is exposed to the elements, but you can delay the process for many years, even a lifetime.
Will A Wrought Iron Fence Rust?
Iron and pretty much any other metal will rust, especially outdoors. Wrought-iron fences are no exception, and over time, they will develop spots of rust. Even though they are nearly indestructible, we recommend regular maintenance for your wrought iron fence to protect it over the long run.
Although it will take years or even decades for this rust to weaken your fence, in the meantime rust can make it look unsightly. Proper maintenance of your wrought iron fence, using the methods already discussed, will greatly reduce the effect of time on your fence.
Maintaining an Ornamental Fence
Most homeowners choose an ornamental fence for its classic good looks. Ornamental fences combine strength and style, but it takes some basic maintenance to keep them strong and good-looking.
Like wood, the main enemy of metal fences is water. Steel and aluminum ornamental fences are usually sealed with a coating that gives them their color plus added durability and corrosion resistance.
So the most important things to look for when maintaining an ornamental fence are dents and scratches where the coating could have been penetrated. Any gap in the coating could allow water to access the raw metal, opening the door to corrosion.
To clean an ornamental fence, use a garden hose to spray from the bottom to the top and then back down. Spraying in that order allows for maximum cleaning with as little dripping as possible.
If there are still dirty spots left after the cleaning, use a soft cloth with soapy water to remove them. If you have very stuck-on dirt and grime, you can use a gentle power wash, but keep it on the lowest setting to avoid damaging the fence’s protective coating.
Spot and Repair Damage
About once a month, walk the length of the fence and look very closely for scratches, dents, and other penetrations in the coating. Keep an eye out for paint that is peeling, flaking, or chipped. If you can catch it before it begins to rust, the repair is relatively simple.
First, use a wire brush to remove the paint that is peeling off. Next, paint over the cleaned area with two coats of primer followed by two coats of rust-proof paint.
If the area has started to rust, you need to use the wire brush to remove all the paint and rust down to the clean metal. Treat the area with a product like Rust-Mort™ to neutralize the rust, then apply primer and paint as usual.
Summing Up Fence Maintenance
While a good fence is built to last, no fence can stand forever. If you want your fence to last as long as possible, you’ll have to take matters into your own hands.
Fence maintenance is vital if you want your fence to last the test of time and the elements.
You are not alone in this endeavor. Bravo Fence is always available to answer any questions about maintaining your fence.