Care and Maintenance of your Wood Fence
Wood fences are a beautiful and cost effective way to add privacy and security to your home. But like all outdoor structures, they require regular maintenance to stay in top condition. With a little care and attention, your wood fence will last for many years.
COMMON MAINTENANCE CONCERNS
The continuous changes in weather conditions are extremely harsh on your fence. Your maintenance plan must be geared to combat the problems caused by water absorption and water loss, mildew growth, and discoloration of wood due to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. All of the maintenance concerns discussed below are weather related. The degree to which your fence is affected by them depends on many factors. These factors include general climate conditions (such as normal precipitation, humidity, etc.) and location in your yard (with regard to direct sun exposure, foliage coverage, etc.)
SWELLING & SHRINKING
Continuous water absorption and water loss in a wood fence will cause its natural defects to surface. The most common defects are: cupping/warping, twisting, checking and splitting. A well maintained fence will still experience some of these natural defects. However, the extent can be significantly reduced through a maintenance plan.
Whenever wood, including pressure treated wood, is constantly exposed to moist or humid conditions , it will mildew. This results in an unsightly appearance. Your preventative maintenance plan will need to include cleaning your fence with a cleaner containing a mildewcide. This will insure that your fence will remain bright and attractive.
Without any preventative steps taken to block the sun’s ultraviolet rays, the surface cells of the wood will begin to discolor to a weathered gray color. Although some may prefer this, others won’t. If you want to maintain the natural wood color, you will need to not only clean/brighten your fence periodically, but also choose a water repellent finish with an ultraviolet stabilizer. The stabilizer will not prevent eventual discoloration, but will slow down the process. Periodic reapplication of a UV stabilizer will help in this effort over an extended period of time.
- Start by cleaning your fence with a cleaner/brightener that contains a mildewcide. Because your fence is new, this step is truly preventative.
- Next, apply a topical sealant for surface protection. Do not use a conventional multi-coat paint system or varnish. Choose either a pigmented or clear outdoor wood sealer. Unlike true paints, these sealers allow moisture vapor to leave the wood slowly after the coating has been applied. For that reason, either can be applied as soon as the surface no longer looks wet. Your choice of sealer should include not only a water repellent but also a UV stabilizer to slow the discoloration process. You may want to cover or protect surrounding plants before applying a sealant. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
FIRST YEAR MAINTENANCE
- First year maintenance should be completed by you within 90 days of your fence installation.
- Reapply cleaner/brightener as described in initial maintenance, as well as another application or your outdoor wood sealant. The topical water repellent and ultraviolet stabilizer will keep your fence looking fresh
FUTURE PERIODIC PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE
- Depending on the location of your fence, with regard to direct sun exposure, foliage coverage, etc., it may be sufficient to clean/brighten and recoat every year.
- If you decide to wait two or more years to perform your next cleaning/brightening, you may want to use a power washer. Be sure that the cleaner/brightener you use contains a mildewcide.
- After every cleaning, reapply an outdoor wood sealer that contains both a water repellent and an ultraviolet stabilizer.
*Remember, even consistent maintenance will not prevent the natural defects of wood from surfacing – but your efforts can minimize them.