A fence serves a variety of purposes whether it’s using wooden panels for the optimum in privacy, wooden picket fences for a decorative effect or sturdy wrought iron fences for security and enhancement of the home’s exterior and landscaping. Whichever type chosen, periodic maintenance is necessary to keep the fence in shape and looking good.
Wooden fences come with several maintenance issues that homeowners should be aware of when choosing this material. Installing a quality fence from the start using the right materials along with standard maintenance can prolong the life of the fence for many years. Consider these tips to maintain a new or existing wooden fence.
● Material – if you are anticipating having a new wooden fence installed, select an appropriate type of wood and ensure the material is labeled pressure treated if it is going to be in contact with the ground. The specific chemicals added to create pressure treated wood protect the fence against moisture and insects especially the posts going directly into the ground that are most susceptible to moisture. Two materials that are good choices for fences as they are resistant to the elements that cause rot and decay and do not need to be pressure treated are cedar and redwood.
● Wood rot and drying – if the wooden panels have not been pre-treated, water from rain and sprinklers will speed up the rotting process. Natural drying and splitting of the wood also takes place over time. These same issues can affect pre-treated panels if not maintained. To prolong the durability of the fence, apply a quality, water-repelling acrylic or oil-based staint to clean, dry panels.
● Vines and foliage– if allowed to grow on or up against untreated wood, plants, shrubs and vines can cause wood rot due to moisture in the plants and a lack of adequate sunlight to keep panels dry. Place plants far enough from the paneling to allow sufficient air flow and sunlight and prune periodically.
● Algae – a natural growth but one that affects the panels. The easiest way to remove algae is with a pressure washer. The force of the water removes the unsightly growth leaving the wood looking like new. Homeowners can rent a pressure washer and do the project themselves or hire a company to do the cleaning. Reapply a coat of water-repelling sealant to the fence once the panels are thoroughly dry. Follow the product instructions for frequency of application.
Wrought Iron Fences
Wrought iron fences provide security while maintaining the open look of your yard. Although sturdy, maintaining the fence helps prevent rust and chipping.
Unlike wooden panels that turn grey and weathered looking if not maintained due to moisture, wrought iron fencing deals with unattractive rust. The build-up detracts from the look of the fence and if left unattended, can weaken the metal.
● Cleaning – clean the fence regularly using a solution of soapy water and a sponge. Visually check for signs of rust and paint bubbling while cleaning.
● Rust removal – for small areas, use a wire brush to scrape rust away from the affected area. After scraping, wipe the entire area down with a damp cloth using the soapy water solution to remove rust residue and debris. Allow fence to dry naturally or wipe it down with dry rags. Apply a metal primer to the clean area according to manufacturer instructions followed by a coat of rust-resistant paint.
● Minor scratches – For minor scratches, use steel wool to work out the scratch then thoroughly clean the area. Let dry then apply several coats of rust-resistant paint to the area.
● Large rust spots – when large or multiple rust spots are detected; it may be time for a complete overhaul of the fence. This entails scraping, cleaning and drying all parts of the fence, applying rust-resistant metal primer followed by a coat, or two, of rust-resistant metal paint.
● Bubbling or flaking paint – if detected, remove it with either a hand held rotary tool and grinder or a wire brush. Sand it down to the bare metal and use a metal filler to address any pitting or holes in the surface. Once dry, clean the fence, dry again then apply a rust-resistant primer followed by two coats of rust-resistant paint to the sanded area.
● Hinges and latches – carefully inspect these areas as both can trap water resulting in rust.
● General care – Keep hedges, vines, shrubs, grasses or any other decorative plants away from the fence to eliminate trapped moisture. Also, keep direct contact with water sprinklers to a minimum.