How to Extend the Life of a Wood Fence

February 28, 2024

A wood fence can add to your home’s beauty and security. These fences typically last about 15 years. With proper maintenance, you can extend the life of your wood fence to 20 years or more.

New Fence Considerations

The first consideration when thinking about a fence’s longevity is the type of wood. Western red cedar and redwood are commonly used for fences because they resist decay and rot. Pine is also common, but it has to be chemically treated for fence use. In Kansas, cedar is most common because it does well in the extreme weather conditions.

Next, fence posts should always be pressure-treated because they have contact with the ground. This exposure to moisture and insects will cause the wood to rot faster if it is not treated. The pickets, or vertical boards of the fence, don’t need to be pressure-treated because they’re above the ground. Pressure-treated lumber is infused with chemicals that help keep water and bugs from damaging the wood.

Use Metal Posts

For maximum longevity, use steel posts, rather than wood. Even properly treated wood fence are still vulnerable to decay. Steel posts can be covered with wood pickets to maintain aesthetics. Steel posts are one of the best investments you can make to help your fence last longer.

Don’t Paint or Stain Right Away

Painting and/or staining your is a great way to increase the lifespan of your fence. Keeping moisture and UV rays keeps the wood in good shape. It also helps retain color. You’ll want to re-apply the stain or paint every few years.

Unless you have purchased kiln dried wood, wait several months before staining or painting your fence. The end of a dry season is best. This allows time for the wood and chemicals used for pressure treating to dry. If the fence isn’t dry, you’ll just end up sealing moisture in, which can lead to rot and decay. Pressure-treated wood is protected from fungal decay and termites, but it’s still subject to swelling, shrinking, cracking and warping. Kiln dried wood has had much of the moisture removed at the factory.

Minimize Contact With Vegetation & Dirt

Try to minimize contact with the ground, plants and trees. Anything your fence touches can allow extra moisture into the wood. Trees, plants and vines can also loosen pickets and cause structural issues with posts and pickets.

If you have a sprinkler system try to avoid spraying the fence directly. This will wear down your finishes and persistent spraying can cause the wood to rot sooner.

Inspect and Repair Each Year

Once a year, take a walk around your yard and inspect your fence for signs of damage or rot. Replace broken boards, hammer in loose nails or tighten screws. Check each section of the fence to make sure it’s securely attached to the next one. If any sections of the fence are leaning, make sure the posts are seated firmly in the ground. You may need to replace the posts if they’re in poor condition. Check the hinges and locks on your gates to make sure they’re secure and lined up properly. You can lubricate them with automotive grease if needed.

If you find any splits, cracks or chips in the wood, use a waterproof wood glue to seal the damage. This will prevent moisture from causing further deterioration.

Pressure-treated lumber isn’t completely resistant to water intrusion, so any steps you take to minimize its exposure to moisture will help prolong the life of the wood. Adjust sprinklers so they don’t get the fence wet and cause the wood to rot or lead to the growth of moss. Trim back bushes and vines so they don’t hang on the fence, because they add weight and hold on to moisture.

Make sure the area around the fence has proper drainage so water doesn’t pool around the posts. The soil at the base of each post should be firmly packed, and have a slight slope away from the fence.

Clean Your Fence Every Few Years

Every two to three years, clean the wood to remove dirt, moss, mildew and graying. Then, recoat with a UV inhibiting, water-repellent coating. After making repairs, scrape off any moss or loose, peeling paint until you can see new wood, and clean the fence with a pressure washer.

If you notice mold on the fence, you can mix a solution of 20% bleach to 80% mild detergent and spray it on the fence an hour before washing it. This will help kill any mold spores and help prevent them from growing back.

Reseal or Paint After Cleaning

Paint or stain should be reapplied every 3-5 years, or sooner. Use exterior oil-based stain or latex paint, which will seal out moisture, prevent wood rot, limit the amount of weathering and extend the life of the wood. Choose a stain or sealant with UV protection to help keep the wood from turning gray. Let the wood dry for about a week before applying a stain or sealant. You can use a brush or a power sprayer with a tip that’s main for stain, which is thinner than paint.

Resources found on our website are provided as general guidelines, and Reddi Industries does not assume any liability resulting from the provided information.