Don’t Blame it on the Rain: How Northwest Homeowners Wreck Wood Fences
The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful places to live, with gorgeous mountain ranges, a scenic coastline, and thick, lush forests. Yet for all of its natural beauty, one aspect stands out the most: the rain! Though it may be convenient to blame the rain for an occasional bad day, far too many Northwestern fence owners use the weather as a scapegoat for many easily preventable fencing troubles.
If you’re planning on installing a new wood fence for your Northwest home, beat the rain by avoiding these five common mistakes homeowners make:
1. They’re Not Proactive.
You can help preserve the life of your wood fence before it’s even installed. When looking at the building site, take note of any tree roots, rocks, concrete, or other solid obstructions that run along or intersect the planned fence path.
Most wood fences require the support posts to be placed eight feet apart, so identifying any potential conflicts ahead of time can save you plenty of hassle in the long run. As long as you can dig a two foot-deep hole for every post without hitting anything harder than soil, you’re good to go.
When it comes to anchoring the posts with concrete, use only enough to fill up the hole. In freezing temperatures, excess concrete can be pushed up by the ground and cause severe damage to the fence’s stability.
2. They Don’t Consider Hazards From Above.
A central part of caring for your wood fence is clearing away any obstructions or potential sources of damage, including those from above.
- If there are any tree branches hanging over your fence line, cut or trim them before the winter months set in. Frozen branches can break off and scrape the wood boards, and heavier branches have the potential to cause significant damage.
- If there are trees in your yard, check the horizontal fence rails for leaves, acorns, shells or twigs, and clear out any material wedged between the rails and the fence boards. Organic matter such as leaves can accelerate rot when damp, and objects squeezed between the rails and boards can reduce the stability of the fence’s foundation over time.
- Take care to clear off any debris covering up the concrete post supports. It may seem like a good idea to cover them up with dirt, bark dust, or other material, but doing so will increase the chances of decay weakening the concrete.
3. They Don’t Inspect Regularly.
Establishing regular inspections is a great way to make sure your wood fence is free and clear of potential issues. Get in the habit of checking on your fence whenever the seasons change to nip any problems in the bud.
- Broken or cracking boards, crooked nails or splinters should be addressed as soon as possible.
- Take notice of the grass that immediately borders the fence and trim any overgrowth to keep it from spreading rot to the fence boards or posts.
- Check your fence at the end of winter for any knotholes. Because wood knots are a slightly different grain than the rest of the wood, they can expand at different rates in cold temperatures and contract in warmer months, potentially falling out of your fence. Fill up any knotholes as soon as possible with a wood filler to prevent insects, birds, or even termites from moving in. To reduce your likelihood of having knotholes, use #1 grade wood fencing materials before starting construction.
4. They Don’t Use Fence Stain.
The heavy Northwest rain can take its toll on the toughest stains over time, and the protection of a resilient fence stain is one of the most important steps to a lasting fence. Consider using a stain that’s specially formulated for the Pacific Northwest.
If you notice that the color of your fence is beginning to fade, it’s time to apply a new coat of stain. If there are no significant signs of weathering, plan to restain your fence every two to three years.
5. They Don’t Do Damage Control.
As explained above, the most common kind of damage to Northwest wood fences is caused by rain. Prolonged exposure to moisture can slowly weaken the structure of your fence over time.
To guard against nasty surprises, check your wood fence after any significant storms or weather events to make sure it’s stable and level. An easy way to do this is to run a piece of string along the tops of the fence posts. If the string appears level, your posts are secure. If you begin to notice any dips or rises along the string, check the posts for damage and replace any failing components before the problem worsens.
By carefully monitoring your fence’s condition, you can prevent the weather from doing its worst, ensuring that your fence will continue to fit in with the lush beauty of the Pacific Northwest.