NationalPost.com, Maintained fences make happy homeownwers and neighbours by Mike Holmes. October 9th, 2018.
Your outdoor structures need as much preventive maintenance and care as the rest of your home does. Many homeowners think of structures like fences and sheds as replaceable, when they are anything but. You need to maintain them. Any structures that fall into a state of disrepair aren’t just an eye sore, they could be a safety hazard! On the positive side, well-maintained outdoor structures can provide overall value to your home, so it pays to do the upkeep.
Your fence works overtime: it provides privacy and security, keeps your kids safe, and can seriously add to your curb appeal. With fall setting in, and winter not far behind it, doing a quick maintenance check on your fence is a good idea. Here’s what you need to know about your fence to protect it against the harsh elements.
They can deteriorate
There are two kinds of rot that can affect your wooden fences: dry and wet. Wet rot comes from moisture, so a fence that gets pounded by rain and snow can start to develop wet rot over time. You can recognize wet rot because the wood can become soft and spongy or cracking starts to occur.
Dry rot happens when the hot, dry weather attacks your fence, weakening the protective oils in the wood. You can tell it’s dry rot if the wood feels brittle or show signs of crumbling.
How do you prevent fence rot? Well, start with a good quality wood. While pressure treated pine is cheaper, choosing something more resistant, like cedar or composite woods can prolong the life of your fence, and reduce the amount of maintenance needed to keep it strong. Wooden fences should be maintained every few years, depending on the beating they take from Mother Nature. They should be painted or stained at least every five years, but you may need to more often depending on your climate.
Cleaning your fence should be a regular part of your maintenance, and if you do notice any instances of rot, it’s best to remove those boards, and replace them quickly to prevent it from spreading.
While in many cases, a metal fence can mean less maintenance than a wooden fence, if you notice paint peeling, or instances of rust starting to crop up, take action immediately before it spreads. Start by scraping off any loose or bubbling paint, and instances of rust, then sand the area and buff with steel wool. Put a coat of primer on the affected area, and then paint over it with as many layers as necessary.
How to secure your fence
If you don’t build it right in the first place, your fence is going to be a lot more trouble than it’s worth. All the staining in the world won’t protect it from strong winds and ice. So how else can you protect your investment?
First, before you place your first post in the ground, you’ll need to determine what the frost line is in your climate. The frost line is the depth in the soil that doesn’t freeze in the winter. As the ground freezes and thaws, it heaves up and down. If you place your fence posts above the frost line, what do you think happens to the posts? They move up and down with the heaving soil, eventually becoming unstable.
Instead, place your posts below the frost line, and don’t fill the hole up with concrete (or your choice of filler) all the way to the top either. By doing that, you’ll be giving the moving soil something to grab on and push up. It will actually make your fence stronger not to fill the entire hole with concrete. Once your filling has set, fill the remainder of the hole with excavated soil. Or better yet, use a concrete form tube.
Stability is the name of the game when it comes to keeping your fence standing during a windstorm. Any loose or decaying posts should be replaced as soon as possible. Gates should be secure with strong latches, a gate that slams open and closed during high powered winds, can fly off, damaging your fence, your home, or your neighbour’s home. Any trees near your fence should be monitored for dead branches. that could be hazardous during windstorms, too.
Treat your fence and other outdoor structures like you would your home. Take the time to give them their proper maintenance, and don’t put off necessary repairs longer than you have to. Problems that you ignore can easily spiral from a simple to fix, to a full-blow replacement job.