At Bravo Fence, we specialize in installing the best fences in the Southeast. It’s a big job that takes significant time and labor. And although we offer great pricing, a fence is still an investment in your home. The fences we install 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 to maintain your fence. Of course, you’re not alone. We’ve put together this handy guide to how to maintain your fence.
Fence maintenance will vary depending on the type of fence you have. In general, the nemesis of almost any fence is water. Water is the most likely culprit in aging your fence. Also, keeping your fence clean is the best way to make it last as long as possible. Sometimes just a simple cleaning is all it takes. But each material has its own needs.
Maintaining a Wood Fence
Wood is a classic fence material, and one of the most popular. But as a natural material, wood is also subject to some of the most significant maintenance challenges. As we said, water is the big enemy. Wood is subject to rot, and water speeds up that process. Other concerns are pests like termites, carpenter ants, and carpenter bees that eat into your wood. Finally, the sun can bleach and dry out wood, causing it to splinter, warp, and eventually fall apart. But regular maintenance can help.
Sealing the Wood
The first thing you can do to maintain your fence 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. Paint should last 2-3 before it needs to be sanded and repainted. Stain can last 3-5 years before it needs to be reapplied.
Inspecting for Damage
To maintain your fence, 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, they can usually just be nailed back in place with a hammer.
Cleaning the Fence
It’s also important to keep your fence 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.
Maintaining an Ornamental Fence
Most homeowners who choose an ornamental fence select it 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 one 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 coming off. Next, paint over the cleaned area with two coats of primer followed by two coats of a 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.
Maintaining a Vinyl Fence
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.
Cleaning a Vinyl Fence
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.
A Quick Recap
To review, water is the number one enemy of every fence. Keeping your fence clean, with a garden hose, hand washing, or a power washer is the best way to maintain your fence and keep your fence looking great for as long as possible. Wooden fences need to be repainted every 2-3 years or restrained every 5-6 years. With an ornamental fence, the main concern is any damage to the protective coating. If there is damage, priming and painting is your best solution. Vinyl is the lowest maintenance fence material, and it really only needs some surface washing.