Remember when your fence was brand new? The wood was pristine, the stain perfect – nothing like the damaged, discolored, fungi-infested mess you now have taking up space on the perimeter of your lawn. The family budget can finally afford a fence replacement, but you’re worried that after a few years of rain, snow, sun, and pests, your pricey investment could look the same as it does now. Relax, take a breath, and read on to see how you can keep your fence looking great despite what nature’s going to throw at it.
Bill Samuel, a residential real estate developer, licensed general contractor, and owner of Blue Ladder Development.
Consistent Staining or Use Wood Alternative
If you haven’t installed the fence yet then you should consider the type of material for your fence to make sure you are using something that is low maintenance and will last over the long haul (e.g., vinyl, steel, etc.).
If you already have a wooden fence installed on your property then you need to consistently apply a protective stain every few years to avoid deterioration. Once the stain has fully faded from the wood, you’ll know it is time to reapply a new coat of stain.
Stain and Seal the Fence
To prevent your fence from rotting, you could stain your wood or seal it. One option is to use a sealant that is resistant to water. Alternatively, you can use sealant with a stain to provide protection for the wood and the colors. You can also invest a bit more in your fence by buying pressure-treated materials. Pressure treatment for wood is when chemicals are inserted into the material to offer protection against decay and pests.
If the fence has been exposed to moisture over a long period of time, it’s natural that it will start to decay and rot. The exposure to moisture could be related to the soil nearby, rain, or other sources of water and moisture. If left unhandled, the fence could fall and be completely destroyed and useless. Keep in mind that there’s also dry rotting when the fence has been exposed to direct sunlight for years.
Install Fence Post in a Cement Foundation
Two different types of rot – wet and dry.
Wet rot is caused by moisture or dampness. When the fence is constantly exposed to wet soil, it can gradually rot and eventually collapse.
Dry rot is caused by particular fungi species, leading to decay and weak fence. Dry rot also invites termites to come over.
To prevent wet rot, protect your fence starting from installation. Install fence posts in a cement foundation, which strengthens your fence and protects it from dampness. You can also use materials that resist rotting, such as redwood and cedar. Protect your fence against dry rot by applying a protective oil or primer. This doesn’t only protect your fence but also improves its aesthetics.
Different Types of Rot, Different Solutions
To protect your fence from rotting, you need to understand the two types of rotting: dry rot and wet dry. Wet rot is when moisture comes into contact with the fence regularly. Some usual areas are the fence posts which hit the dirt. You can tell if it’s wet rot, if it smells musty, and if the wood is squishy and soft to the touch.
Dry rot is when the wood undergoes harsh climates like hot sunny days. Hot temperatures dry out the wood and remove the oils. If you see the wood crumbling and easily broken, it’s probably dry rot.
Knowing which rot you have is your best bet as to how to protect your fence. If you have wet rot, the best way to protect it is to seal it and keep it clean. Staining the fence is one of the best ways to keep rot away because it helps seal and protects the fence from rain, heat, and even snow.
To tell if your stain is working, just throw some water on it and see if you get water beads. If you see the water is absorbed, you need a new stain. Making sure to keep weeds, vines, bugs, and others away from the fence by regular cleaning helps prevent rot as well.
The best thing to do with dry rot is, of course, staining the fence. Staining a dry fence helps keep protective oils naturally in the wood to stop drying out. When the fence is out in a hot environment, it dries out the oils, and the fence can start to crumble.
For either dry or wet rot, you can use these tips to help:
- Keep sprinklers away from the fence
- Keep fence area clean of debris
- Avoid weighing down the fence
- Fill fence posts with cement
Kyle Tingley is the resident lawn care and outdoor living expert at The Backyard Master, where he shares tips to help you grow a gorgeous lawn and enjoy spending time in your backyard.
The best way to protect against and avoid a rotting fence post is to make sure it is installed correctly.
The most important factor is to minimize water from settling and accumulating around the base of the post. We recommend using pressure-treated wood or metal for fence posts but these tips work great for untreated wood posts as well.
For a proper install, it is best to put a couple of inches of gravel at the bottom of the hole that you have dug for your post. The gravel will allow for proper drainage below the base of the post to minimize water from accumulating around the bottom and rotting the post from the inside out.
Once this is done you can pour your concrete just below ground level, about an inch or two is best. Before the concrete is set you can use a trowel or a small piece of wood to gently grade the concrete away from the middle of the post making a gentle slope for water to drain away from the middle of the post.
When cutting the top of the post to your desired height you can cut the post at a slight angle, about 20 degrees, which will minimize water from sitting at the top and rotting the post. These steps will help ensure there is proper drainage and increase the lifespan of any wood post.
A couple more tips for reducing rotting and increasing the lifespan of your wood post include seasonal painting or staining of the post which will create a nice clean look as well as repel water and protect the post. Make sure to paint or stain the top of the post to ensure water will not penetrate the top. You can also use decorative post caps that will protect the top from water as well. Using these simple tips, you can increase the life of your post and the longevity of your fence.
Stain, Clean, Replace
You should apply a coat of stain on your wooden fence to help prevent it from rotting. Stain acts like a barrier and repellent to keep moisture out, and this can protect the wood. Stain the wood fence at least once a year to refresh it. Environmental factors may require you to stain more often, especially if you have higher temperatures, more moisture, and humidity.
Make a point to routinely go out and inspect the fence for damage. If you see debris, remove it as you move along your fence. Check and see if you need to stain or repair these areas while you’re at it.
As you see rotted sections of wood, you’ll want to take them out and replace them. Doing so can help prevent it from spreading and causing weak spots in your fence.
Five Ways to Ensure Fence Longevity
- Choose suitable materials
The wooden fence on the ground looks very attractive, but it also absorbs moisture from the environment, so it is easy to rot due to the water penetrating the wood. An excellent way to prevent this is to use concrete fence posts or wooden fence posts because this way, the wood will not touch the ground and hang about 10 cm above it. Using wooden fence posts is an inexpensive way to prevent water seepage in the fence, and it works well with wooden walls. Concrete is also an option. It is more expensive, but has a longer lifespan, is more robust, and does not rot in the long run.
- Footings should be inclined away from the wood
When you lay a concrete foundation, you must tilt its top to keep it away from the wood where water can run away. This means that water can be drained from the wood, and the water will not be absorbed into the wood and may cause rot.
- Handle wooden fence boards and posts correctly
You must dispose of your wooden fences and posts to help protect them and protect them from decay and other things that may harm them. When installing a wooden fence, you need to apply a preservative to the wood and then perform maintenance once a year because it prevents the wood from absorbing water. By sealing the wood, there is no room to absorb moisture.
- Remove remaining debris near the fence
You need to make sure to remove anything from the bottom of the fence, such as leaves, plants, or cut grass because they will accumulate over time and can enter the wall, where the wood has almost no cracks and cuts. When the material starts to rot in the gaps, it will spread upward through the wood and cause a lot of damage and decay to the wood fence. Therefore, regular cleaning is required to remove any debris around the bottom of the wooden fence.
- Replace rotten areas
If part of your wooden fence starts to rot, you need to replace the area immediately because it can spread to other factors, and then more walls must be replaced, so it also costs more money. In most cases, it may be the first to rot the fence posts because they are underground and absorb moisture from them, so pay close attention to the posts. After replacing a part of the fence, you only need to clean the entire wall thoroughly and then apply a layer of wood stain or preservative!
- Wet rot
When wood absorbs moisture and stays damp for a long time; it can cause wet rot, which is the perfect home for fungi. This is the type of decay that most commonly affects wooden fences. Wet rot usually occurs at the bottom of walls, near the ground, or in other places where the wood cannot be dried well. Over time, this type of decay can cause the wood to crack, split, and generally weaken because the fibers become soft when consumed by the fungus.
- Dry rot
Dry rot is caused by continuous exposure to hot and dry conditions until all the natural oil in the wood is exhausted. This drier, softer wood becomes a host for another type of fungus, which erodes the fibers and weakens the wood. The structure that suffers from dry rot becomes brittle, breaks easily, and may even collapse when touched.
Wet, Dry, or White Rot?
Three types of rot can affect your wooden fence wet rot, dry rot, and white rot.
Wet rot occurs when the moisture content of the fence is at 50% or more and is normally located at the ground due to the earth holding excessive moisture amounts for long periods.
Dry rot occurs when the wood has roughly 20% moisture content, it is also referred to as brown rot. It spreads by transferring moisture from wet areas and moving it to drier areas.
White rot commonly found in hardwood fences is caused by a group of fungus species that can break down the cell walls of wood, causing a significant amount of damage.
To prevent these types of rot there are some actions you can take: Use rot-resistant, pressure-treated wood when selecting your fence material; during installation ensure that your posts are correctly installed clear of soil contact; finally, maintain your fence by regularly cleaning it and staining it.
Clean Debris Regularly and Install a Gravel Board
Wet rot is due to regular contact with moisture, common when there are plants near the base of the fence, or the parts of the fence that are embedded in the soil. Dry rot, on the other hand, is due to constant exposure to high temperatures that slowly degrade the protective coating.
Protecting against rot starts right from the construction of the fence. Select a hardy type of wood, such as redwood, cypress, or cedar, and all the better if it is treated. Stain the fence at least yearly, depending on your area’s climate. Use a good quality wood preservative to help increase the fence’s defense against the elements. Regularly clean any debris at the base of the fence to prevent the spread of moisture. You can also install a gravel board at the base to help absorb the moisture and protect the base of the fence.
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