At some point, the weather is going to turn nasty. What kind of nasty depends upon where you live. In Florida, you may face a category four hurricane. Chicago is nicknamed the “Windy City” for a reason, and tornadoes regularly rip through the plains states like Nebraska, Kansas, and even eastern Colorado. Until a storm strikes, and you see your fence out bending over under the force of the wind, you may not realize how much damage the wind can do.
Most fences are built to be sturdy, which is why digging post holes is such a labor-intensive job. Typically the length of post buried in the ground is one-half to one-third the length of the post visible above ground, meaning that a standard 6-foot privacy fence actually has posts that are at least 8-feet tall. Two feet of the post are underground, adding to the structural integrity of the fence. Unfortunately, that is not always enough to keep it standing during a bad storm. However, there are steps that every homeowner can take to strengthen their fence and help prevent damage.
Identify and Fix Weak Spots
The most common reasons that fences develop weaknesses are wet rot and insect damage. Both cause the wood to break down. Already damaged, the wood snaps more easily when other pressures such as strong winds hit it. Loose fence boards can quickly become a projectile in your yard or your neighbors, causing damage to the fence, the house, and other objects in the yard.
We recommend inspecting your fence regularly to identify spots that may be developing a problem. Popped nails or warped boards are an easy problem for homeowners to address on their own. However, if you discover that your posts are wobbly, you may want to call a professional fence installer to reset your posts. If your fence posts go down, they will likely take the rest of the fence panel with them. Resetting posts in concrete can help ensure they won’t fall over in the next big storm.
Trim Back Trees
A lovely shade tree in your backyard is a great thing to have in the summer. It may shade your patio perfectly, making it a much more comfortable place to be. Over time tree branches can grow to be quite large and heavy.
However, trees, like any living thing, develop weaknesses over time. Branches may break off and fall, especially when the winds kick up. It is only a matter of time before a large branch that hangs over your fence falls on top of it, crushing the boards beneath. Trimming branches back before the wind knocks them down can save you the headache of having to rebuild the fence when it does.
If the tree hanging over your fence is not your tree, it may be a little more challenging to avoid this precarious situation. Begin by talking with your neighbor about the tree and the potential problems that may develop. Together, you both can agree on a plan to maintain the tree and protect the fence at the same time.
Secure Yard Objects
Unless you have experienced the full force of the wind, it may be difficult to understand how a giant trampoline can potentially hurt your fence. For those who live in windy areas, you may have watched as a storm rearranged the neighbor’s patio furniture, or relocated their giant trampoline into an adjacent yard, or even turned their barbecue grill on its head. The wind can tolls these heavy objects around like toys in a strong storm.
If you live in a windy area or expect a front to move through soon, it is best to ensure yard items are secure. If you can move the objects to a shed or the garage, that is best. However, moving large patio furniture and barbecue grills may not be practical in all situations. Instead, find a way to anchor them in place. Fixing them to ground anchors, weights, and permanent structures can help prevent them from flying away.
Ranch rail, chain link, and split rail fences tend to fair better in high wind areas because they allow the wind to pass through. Conversely, many residential privacy fences are very susceptible to wind damage because the fence panels are solid. High winds beat against the panels putting a great deal of pressure on the posts.
The best time to determine what your insurance company covers if you sustain fence damage in a storm is before it hits. Homeowner’s insurance often does not cover damage from natural disasters such as hurricanes unless you purchase a hurricane policy. However, damage from falling trees is typically included. We suggest you read your policy and contact your agent if you are unsure what type of coverage you have for your fence.
You may not be able to protect your fence from every gust of wind, but if you prepare ahead of time, you can protect yourself from incurring the costs of building a new fence in the wake of a significant storm.