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How to Nurse Your Fence Through the Winter

wood fenceFew things are as uninviting as an unkempt, broken-down wood fence. Unfortunately, the condition of your fence becomes especially visible during the winter months, when trees are bare and vegetation is sparse. To keep your fence looking attractive and welcoming for your holiday entertaining, keep a few winter wood fence maintenance practices in mind.

How Winter Weather Affects Your Fence

In the summer, sunlight is the biggest threat to your wood fence, causing the wood to fade and warp. In winter, however, excess moisture and changing temperatures are the culprits. Here’s a look at what winter weather can do to your fencing materials:

Rain and snow: The winter months mean long exposure to wet conditions, without stretches of warm weather to allow the wood to dry. Moisture can soften the wood fibers and lead to mold, mildew and rot. To protect wood fencing against the rain, use a waterproof stain or sealant and keep the spaces between boards and rails free of any leaves or debris to allow for maximum airflow.

Changing temperatures: Wood fencing expands and contracts as temperatures grow warmer and colder. Knots in your fence boards will expand and contract at different rates than the surrounding wood and can fall out during the winter, leaving knotholes in your fence. These holes are breeding grounds for rot and pest infestation.

Shifting soil: During rainy or snow-packed winter months, water can saturate down into the soil, causing sinkholes, landslides and shifts in the soil that can affect the support posts of your fence. Monitor your fence’s health, and check posts throughout the winter to make sure they are straight, stable and rot-free.

Falling debris:
Snow and ice storms weigh down the branches of overhanging trees. These overburdened limbs can break, causing damage to nearby structures – including wood fences. Keep an eye on trees near your fence, and trim back any branches that appear threatening.

Wood Fence Maintenance Tips for Winter

By properly applying a quality fence stain before winter, you can nip many maintenance problems in the bud. There are, however, a few things you should do throughout the season to keep your fence in shape and minimize damage.

  • Inspect your fence for damage after every major storm. Make sure it’s still stable and level by running a piece of string along the tops of your fence posts. If you spot any dips or rises in the string, check the posts and replace them if needed to avoid further structural damage.
  • Regularly clean off any leaves and other debris that has landed on your fence rails or become wedged between boards.
  • Keep the cement footings free of dirt or other things like bark dust.  This may seem counter intuitive, but doing so lessens the chance that the cement will be cracked by trapped moisture, and changes in temperature.
  • If possible, promptly replace any boards that have been damaged.

It’s easy to forget about maintaining your fence during the winter, when most of your time is spent indoors. With a few simple maintenance practices, however, you can prevent or minimize damage to your fence and avoid additional headaches come spring.

2 Responses to “How to Nurse Your Fence Through the Winter”

  1. Ilene says:

    Does cedar fences rot if there is a small accumulation of barkdust against them?

  2. admin says:

    Hi Ilene,

    Thank you for your question. Cedar is naturally resistant to rot, but keeping bark dust and debris away from it will increase it’s longevity.

    Nick R. Marshall
    General Manager
    Rick’s Custom Fencing & Decking
    PH: (503) 648-7830 ext. 515
    CE: (503) 730-9027
    FX: (503) 681-8104

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