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How long will a wood fence last? It’s one of our most frequently asked questions. While we could give you a rough estimate, the answer varies from one fence to the next. Fences are meant to last many years, but not all fences are created equal. What are the variables that affect the longevity of a wood fence? Let’s explore the reasons why one homeowner’s wood fence might outlast another.

What To Consider Before You Build

If you are looking for ways to extend the lifespan of your fence, the process begins before you even break ground. How so? Consider these 11 key components if you want to construct a wood fence that is designed to stand the test of time.

Wood Grade:

Wood differs in quality, strength, and appearance based on its assigned wood grade. Picket fence grades reflect the number of knots, splits, cracks, and visible defects found in the wood. These grades help homeowners know the condition of the wood they are purchasing. For example, knots are known to fall out. This means a wood grade that allows knots throughout the wood could ultimately lead to a fence with holes in it. If you plan to paint your fence, knotty wood may not be the best choice for your project, as the texture of the knots will be visible in the finished product.

Material Choice:

Fences are built with wood sourced from a variety of tree species. When selecting the type of wood to construct your fence with, you will hear all sorts of terms, from softwood and hardwood to sapwood and heartwood. These terms can be confusing, so it is important to learn about the various wood fencing options available. Each option comes with unique characteristics, and to ensure you achieve your desired results, make sure to do your research beforehand.

Construction Process:

Even if you decide to build your fence with the most durable and dense species of wood, your fence will not have a fighting chance if not constructed properly. How far apart will you space your fence posts? Will your fence posts be set in concrete, dirt, or gravel? How deep in the ground will you place your posts? Will you use nails or screws to build your fence? These sorts of details will impact your fence for years to come.

Fence Style:

Some styles of fences withstand wear-and-tear better than other design patterns. Of course, your everyday privacy fence with vertical fence pickets is a popular choice, but a split rail, post, and dowel, lattice, board-on-board, horizontal, or shadow box privacy fence might better meet your needs. Understanding the conditions in your area can help you choose a design that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Maintenance:

Wood fences come with maintenance requirements. Primarily, you need to apply a coat of paint, stain, or sealant every year or two to protect the raw wood. Without this outer coating, your wood fence could deteriorate at a significantly quicker rate.

Upkeep:

Along with regular maintenance, you can increase the odds of your fence lasting if you make timely repairs. For example, if you see a fence post leaning and do not correct the problem, that single fence post can tip over or break altogether. When it does, it can bring down fence pickets or entire fence panels along with it. Fixing your fence prolongs its life.

Sunlight:

Direct sunlight takes a toll on raw wood. Those harsh UV rays lead to sun damage, which will permanently alter the look and function of your fence. Semi-transparent or solid stains and paints can help to block some of the UV damage prolonging the life of your fence.

Pests:

A pest infestation can completely destroy a fence. Insects such as termites, carpenter bees, carpenter ants, or beetles will eat away at your fence or burrow within it, causing irreversible damage that impacts the structural integrity of your fence. Check your fence periodically for signs of insect damage, and enlist the help of an exterminator if you think you have a problem. The earlier you catch the problem, the easier it is to remedy.

Moisture:

Excessive moisture on and around your fence will lead to wet rot, warping, and fungus growth. These moisture-related problems will compromise the strength of your wood fence. Ensure your property is properly sloped to keep water from pooling around fence posts.

Plants:

Plants hold moisture, so plants directly against a fence can also lead to water damage. Not to mention, pests love plants, and when those plants sit next to a fence, they create a perfect bridge for insects to crawl their way over to your fence. Trimming plants back is a simple solution.

Climate:

If you live in a wet climate with plenty of rain or snow, your fence needs to be waterproofed. Applying an annual coat of paint, stain, oil, or sealant will maximize the lifespan of your fence.

The Life Expectancy of a Wood Fence

While there is no set number of years that any fence will last, you give your fence a greater life expectancy when it is well-built, well-kept, and well-maintained. If you are constructing a new fence or replacing an old one, considering these 11 components before you break ground will add years to the lifespan of your fence.

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