From the subarctic conditions on the top of Pike’s Peak to the deserts in the south and the arid prairies of the front range, Colorado is host to a wide variety of environmental conditions. Known for its plentiful sunshine, the Denver area regularly reports over 250 sunny days each year. All this sunshine comes with a trade-off, though. High temperatures in Denver regularly range between 90° and 100° F during the summer. Winters can be equally punishing, with temperatures dropping as low as -10° F.
While Denver’s population of over 700,000 people doesn’t seem to mind the sunshine and snow-packed ski slopes, the fence that you build around your yard won’t see the benefits the same way. Building a fence to last in this weather requires a thorough examination of the options, as well as expert installation. Building it right the first time avoids problems and additional costs in the future.
The Right Wood
Wood for fencing comes in four main varieties – pine, redwood, cypress, and cedar. In general, hardwoods are more expensive to purchase but can last longer. However, that does not make them the best choice. The properties of some of the softwoods may surprise you.
Spruce, fir, and southern yellow pine wood species are often lumped together into one category. These softwoods are the least expensive fence-building materials. They are easy to work with and easy to find at a local lumberyard.
However, to be used outdoors, these woods are often pressure-treated, a process that involves forcing chemicals into the wood. Pressure-treating makes the wood more resistant to insects and decay. These chemicals do not offer lifetime protection, though. Regular exposure to water can wash the chemicals out of the wood and into the soil around your yard. These chemicals are particularly troubling if you plan to grow vegetables or herbs near your fence.
You get what you pay for in pressure-treated wood. Exposed to the wind, rain, and sunlight abundant in Colorado, pine can deteriorate significantly after only a few years. With the cost of rebuilding your fence, it may not be the least expensive option after all.
A hardwood species with a beautiful, rich red color, redwood is native to the Pacific Coast of the United States, namely California and Oregon. The wood contains oils and chemicals that naturally protect it from invading insects and rot. The stable structure of the wood keeps it from shrinking and warping over time, making it a low-maintenance fencing option. It is not uncommon for a redwood fence to last up to 40 years if it is regularly sealed.
Because redwood trees are native to the Pacific Coast, they must be harvested and transported to Colorado. This additional processing and transportation make redwood a more expensive option. The harvested wood is also rarer. Thus, large projects using redwood are uncommon. It is a better choice for small jobs.
Often grouped with other hardwood species, cypress wood is a yellowish-brown colored softwood. This lighter color makes it a blank pallet for adding color to your fence. The wood itself contains few knots and has a fragrant smell. It can be challenging to bend cypress wood, but as fencing does not usually require curved boards, this is not a significant issue.
The most significant barrier to using cypress in Colorado is the cost. Cypress trees grow well in swampy conditions, of which Colorado has none. The closest area of the United States where they grow naturally is along the southern Mississippi River, nearly 1000 miles away. The high transportation cost for cypress wood makes it a poor choice for Colorado residents from a financial standpoint.
Universally recognized as a quality outdoor building material, cedar wood is readily available throughout the country. Cedar fencing boards have fewer knots than pine and a stable straight grain like redwood. This structure helps the wood to resist cracking, warping, and shrinking as the weather conditions change.
Cedar wood is softwood and is easily customized to match the style of any home. It looks great on a ranch and blends in perfectly in suburbia as well. While it does cost more than pressure-treated pine, it contains natural oils that repel insects and protect it from rot, eliminating the need for artificial chemicals.
Getting the most out of your cedar fence will require sealing the wood and regular maintenance to replace boards or popped nails. If cared for properly, though, your fence can last decades despite the wind, hail, snow, and sun beating down on it.
When deciding on the best wood for your fence in the Denver area, keep the following in mind:
- Painting or staining any wood fence will extend its useful life. Paints and stains block some of the sun’s ultraviolet rays that can cause wood to turn gray and deteriorate. It also keeps moisture from soaking into the wood and causing it to rot.
- High-quality materials always yield the best results. The weather in Colorado is predictably hard on outdoor structures. Choose materials that can stand up to the sun, wind, rain, and snow so that you don’t have to rebuild every time mother nature throws you a curveball.