The winter months are not generally a time that people think about wood fences, unless of course an old one happens to blow down during a storm and allows the family pet to escape the yard. A well-constructed wood fence should last at least 20 years, but with some fairly simple changes to the design, the lifespan of a wood fence can be easily doubled. This is great news if you are contemplating a new fence, either out of necessity or simply because you want to increase the beauty and curb appeal of your home. Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer planning a fence project or will be having a General Contractor do the work, the following additions to your project plans will make your fence not only last longer, but will keep it looking fresh and new for years.
A Strong Frame Makes a Strong Fence
Start with pressure treated lumber for the posts and framing. Pressure treated lumber is chemically infused and will last significantly longer when exposed to moisture and wood destroying organisms in the soil. Make sure to seal any saw cuts made to pressure treated lumber, particularly end-cuts, with additional liquid wood preservative. Try to keep the distance between fence posts to no more than 7’. This will only add an additional two posts per 100’ of fence, and will help to keep the fence from sagging between posts. If your fence will have a gate, consider using long posts on either side of the gate and adding a cross brace at the top. This not only adds a decorative accent to your design, but it keeps the posts from sagging due to the weight of the gate.
A Little Bit of Gravel Makes a Big Difference
When setting posts in concrete, put two or three inches of gravel in the bottom of the holes to improve drainage and protect the bottom of the posts from rot. Remember that you don’t have to pre-mix the concrete. Just pour it in dry, tamp it down, and pour water on the top! It is also a good idea to build the concrete up one to two inches above the level of the ground to keep the posts from coming into contact with the soil. Remember, if the posts rot and fail, the fence fails!
Use three cross members in the framing between posts instead of two, which will greatly increase the strength of your fence and will also help to limit sagging. By mortising (notching) the posts about ½” deep where each cross member attaches to the post, it locks the cross members into place and also makes constructing the fence much easier, particularly if you are working alone. This can be done easily with a skill saw. Just make several cuts totaling 1 ½” in height and use a chisel and hammer to knock the pieces out. Never let your fence boards touch soil which will allow them to rot; try to keep them 2” to 3” above the ground.
Stainless Steel is the Best!
Never use nails, which will work loose over time. Construct your fence with stainless steel fencing screws, which are readily available at most hardware stores. Use 3” screws for framing and 1 5/8” screws for fence boards. Stainless screws are more expensive than “coated” screws but will not fail due to rust or stain the wood. Use three stainless steel hinges and hardware for gates. They are a bit more expensive but they last forever.
Stain, Stain, Stain!
Never paint a fence, which will trap moisture over time and will promote rot. Stain the framing, stain any notches or cuts, and stain the fence boards. An exterior decking stain will bring out the natural color and grain of the wood and will seal and protect from moisture and sunlight. Stain will also make your fence last significantly longer. This is especially true in Pebble Beach, Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey, where the summer fog promotes mold and mildew growth on exposed redwood fences. Use a deck stain with a high concentration of paraffin (wax) in addition to pigments, such as Super Deck. It is easier to stain the framing with a foam roller before the fence boards are installed, which insures that all surfaces are coated. Try dipping the bottom of each fence board in stain before installing, which is a quick and easy way to seal the bottom of the boards. Plan on re-staining your fence every three to five years for optimal protection and beauty.
For inspiration, check out our Houzz Ideabooks!
If you have a fencing project or are in need of a General Contractor for a kitchen remodel, bath remodel, home addition, or to build your dream house, consider Bakker Construction! We are a full service design/build construction company serving the Monterey Bay Area and beyond. Call us at (831) 998-7113 today!