Building a fence is just the beginning of your fence-owning journey. At Bravo Fence, we install great fences that are meant to last. But just like your car or your home, a little maintenance goes a long way toward protecting your investment for the long haul. Of course, how much maintenance you are willing to put in varies from homeowner to homeowner. Some materials require a little more care, while some require almost none at all. Depending on the material you want and the look you want for your new fence, your maintenance needs will vary. But some homeowners want a fence they can mostly forget about. So the question becomes, is there such a thing as a maintenance-free fence? Read on to find out how much maintenance your fence might need and whether you can really achieve the holy grail of the zero-maintenance fence.
Traditional Wood Privacy Fences
There is nothing more traditional than a wooden privacy fence around your backyard. So it’s no surprise that it is one of the most common types of fences we install. Wooden privacy fences offer a lot of benefits. A wooden fence is, in a way, a symbol of suburban living. It provides privacy for your family to relax in the yard, free from prying eyes. It keeps pets and children safe and blocks unwanted views. A wooden privacy fence can even block out noise, whether it’s noisy neighbors or a nearby road. But they also require a fair amount of maintenance.
Maintaining a Wood Fence
Maintaining a wooden privacy fence starts with proper installation. Setting the posts in secure footings will keep them from rotting in the ground. But the most critical part of the installation, as far as maintenance is concerned, is how you seal your fence. The two primary methods for sealing your fence are either painting or staining it. Paint will seal your fence for a few years, though it is prone to peeling and bubbling. Paint needs to be refreshed every few years. Stain works differently. Whereas paint sits on the surface, stain penetrates the wood. Stain can be mostly clear, providing a new color to the wood but preserving the grain. Or it can be opaque, creating a similar look to paint. Because it is absorbed into the wood, it doesn’t peel or bubble. But it still needs to be refreshed every few years.
In addition to sealing your fence, wooden fences are plagued by weather and insects. As a natural material, wood can host infestations or termites, carpenter ants, or carpenter bees. It can also rot, grow moldy, or get bleached by the sun. Regular staining or painting helps prevent such deterioration, but there’s no magic bullet. Wooden privacy fences require routine inspection for rot and infestation, as well as cracking and holes. It is not a maintenance-free fence, but your wooden fence could last decades if you keep up with the maintenance.
Ornamental Metal Fences
For pure sophistication and elegance, nothing beats an ornamental metal fence. The first metal fences were made of wrought iron, but today almost no fences are made that way. Instead, modern ornamental metal fences are almost always made of steel or aluminum. Steel offers a little more strength than aluminum. However, aluminum can offer a lower-maintenance option.
Steel Requires Some Maintenance
The main concern with a steel fence is rust. Steel contains iron, which makes it prone to rust. However, modern treatment techniques can minimize the risk. The most effective process that reduces rust is covering the metal with a special coating. The coating starts as a powder and is baked onto the metal, forming a tight seal that keeps out rust. After the coating, steel fences are often painted for another layer of protection. The only way the metal is exposed to the air is when the coating is penetrated. This can happen through weather and wear over the years or if the fence is dented.
To avoid rust problems, walk the length of your ornamental steel fence at least once a year to carefully inspect for any breaches of the paint and coating. If you notice any breaks in the coating or any rust, it is easy to treat. If you are handy, you can do it yourself. Or, if you prefer, you can hire someone. To do it yourself:
- Use a sander to remove any peeled or bubbled paint and remove the coating down to the bare metal.
- Fill in the rusted area with a filler like you might find at a hardware store or auto body shop.
- Apply an anti-rust treatment, then reapply new paint to match the rest of the fence.
Aluminum is Almost a Maintenance-Free Fence
Aluminum, unlike steel, does not contain any iron, so it cannot technically rust. However, it is subject to some corrosion. Aluminum is treated similarly to steel, with a powder coating and sometimes a layer of paint. The coating keeps the aluminum nearly 100% corrosion-free. However, if the fence is dented or the coating penetrated, some corrosion can form. Unlike steel, the corrosion on an aluminum fence is not rust, and it actually can create a protective coating to prevent further damage. However, aluminum is also less sturdy than steel and more prone to small dents and other damage that can affect the coating. It is a good idea to do an annual inspection as you would with a steel fence. It is unlikely that you will find much damage, but treating any damage right away will protect your fence over time.
Vinyl Fences are Nearly Maintenance-Free
When it comes to low maintenance, almost nothing beats vinyl. Vinyl has the advantage of being a human-made material that is not subject to insects, rot, or rust. This makes vinyl an incredibly hardy and almost maintenance-free fence material. One of the critical properties of vinyl that makes it so hard-wearing is that it is not painted. Instead, the material itself is colored. A dent or scratch will not reveal any underlying color because the entire fence is the color you choose. Also, vinyl—which is basically plastic—will not fade or rot. However, over a very long time, it can become brittle and crack. Luckily, vinyl comes in manufactured panels that are easy to replace.
The most common maintenance on a vinyl fence is less about longevity and more about looks. Vinyl, like anything you leave outdoors, can become dirty over time. Simple dust, dirt, and mud are easy to wash off with a garden hose. For more stuck-on messes, such as pollen or sap, you may need a power washer or some sudsy water and a brush. Occasionally, algae or mold can grow on the fence. It doesn’t harm the fence itself, but it may take some work to wash off. Start by using a diluted bleach solution to kill the algae, then wash it off as usual.
Chain Link is the King of Maintenance-Free Fences
Chain link is so hardy that it could be left alone for decades and require almost no maintenance. That’s why you see chain link fences in public places like parks, commercial or industrial sites, and even on the side of highways. Obviously, no one is going out to the side of the highway to maintain those fences. However, a completely unmaintained chain link fence can show its age, so a little maintenance can help preserve the beauty of your chain link fence.
Chain link is made of galvanized steel that will hardly ever rust. For a softer look, some homeowners choose vinyl-coated chain link. Whichever style you choose, there is almost nothing that can harm your fence. The only maintenance you need is an occasional spray with a hose to knock off some dirt, and even that is optional. So if your number-one priority is installing a maintenance-free fence, hardly anything can beat chain link. And if you’re worried about the look of chain link, we’ve written an entire article about how to dress up chain link for residential use.
If you’re ready for a fence, contact us at Bravo Fence Company. We can install any style of fence, and we’ll help you figure out what kind of maintenance you need.