How To Maintain Wood Privacy Fencing

Keeping a wood privacy fence in good shape is just as important as staying on top of other maintenance tasks around the home.

Privacy fences are wonderful additions to homes and are typically more expensive than picket fences or other types of open fencing. Most wood fences are made of either cedar or pine. Pine, if pressure treated, and cedar woods are sturdy and resistant to insect damage and weather. All types of woods can withstand the test of time and the elements with a little extra care, repair, and maintenance.

Your annual or bi-annual maintenance checklist should include re-sealing. Is your fence stained or painted? In either case, you will still need to apply a repellent as a topcoat. Stains, like paints, come in an amazing array of shades and can bring out the beautiful grain of a fence.

A small home and garden spraying unit will work fine for both staining and sealing, although you can use a brush. Be sure to clean the sprayer thoroughly after each application.

If you have let your unpainted fence age for a few years without the annual treatments, this little trick may help. A solution of half chlorine bleach and half water sprayed on the fence will brighten the wood, and remove and prevent mold and mildew. A power washer is best for this facelift, but the home sprayer will work. You may need to make several applications. Just be sure to apply water sealant as soon as the wood has completely dried.

Over time, paint will chip and peel, but a painted fence should last for many years. On an annual basis, you may only need to touch up a few spots. Strip away the old paint, sand around the area, then re-paint and seal. However, if moisture is the problem for peeling, the problem may reoccur.

You should also regularly check your fence for loosened nails. As you find them, replace with 1 ½" wood screws such as those used on decks.

Check the base of your fence. If you notice any damage from rot and insects, the boards are too close to the ground. The bottom edge of your fence should be at least one inch off the ground. You can trim off the damaged areas by making a straight cut with a sabre saw.

The elements will affect even the highest grade of fences and you may find the need to replace a slat that has warped or split. As the wood ages, it will also shrink, resulting in gaps that require new boards. Use gentle pressure to pry the board loose; otherwise, you run the risk of damaging adjoining rails or destabilizing the entire fence section.

If several boards in a single section are showing wear and tear, it could be easier and more cost effective to purchase a section of fencing from your local home improvement center. These come in pre-built eight-foot sections and are reasonably simple to install.

The gate is the most overused part of the fence. It gets slammed, kids swing on it, and it otherwise suffers abuse with each opening and closing. If the gate section begins to sag, you have at least a couple of easy options. Cut a 2x4 piece of lumber to create crossbars on the back side. Cut the ends at a 45-degree angle to attach to the top and bottom sections: from top left to bottom right or vice versa. As an alternative, purchase an appropriately sized turnbuckle and cable; attach it as you would the 2x4 and tighten until the gate is sturdy once more.

Check the lag bolts that hold the hinges. If they become loose or stripped out, now is the time to replace them with machine bolts, washers, and nuts.

Keep the hinges and latch oiled; once every quarter is probably often enough for this application.

Posts are the only parts of a fence that should be in contact with the ground. They are typically embedded in cement, but over time a post or base may need replacing.

Removing the concrete base around a fence post is extremely difficult. An easier solution is to reposition the new post about a foot away from the old one. Dig a hole, pour the concrete, and set the new post. Cut away the rotten post at ground level. To make up the difference, you can splice in the rail space with 2x4s.

Replacing an entire privacy fence at once can be costly. Regular maintenance and minor repairs should keep yours in very good shape for many years.

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