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Maintaining Home Wood Fencing?

Nov 8, 2012
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Recently just replaced crappy builder fence that came with the home that I share with our neighbors with some decent Cedar boards - installed, leveled, etc... but also with a rot-board at the bottom.


My question is this: Anyone have experience with how best to maintain a cedar fence (or wood fences in general) so that it doesn't start falling apart? I want it to last as long as possible so I don't have to replace it every 10 years - but also under minimal effort.
 

Steltek

Platinum Member
Mar 29, 2001
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Apply water sealer, 2-3 coats. Wash fence at least once yearly with mixture of 3 Qt warm water, 1/2 cup non-ammonia dish soap, and 1 Qt oxygen bleach (spray on, let sit 10-15 minutes, scrub stains, and rinse with hose). Aggressively clean any mold/mildew from the fence as it appears with a mixture of 4-6 oz of oxygen bleach in a gallon of hot water. Re-apply water sealer at least every 3rd year after fence has been washed (you may be able to alter this depending upon your weather conditions). My neighbor uses a cheapo electric spray gun he bought at Harbor Freight to do his for his fence and deck - they are both almost 9 years old and look as good as they did the day he installed them.

If you have lawn sprinklers, re-aim the heads away from the fence to minimize water spray on the fence as much as possible.

Keep vegetation from physically growing on the fence.

Encourage your neighbor to keep up his side. If you have shared posts in your shared fence, your ability to maintain your fence will be directly affected by neighbor's maintenance efforts (or lack thereof).

Just my 2 cents worth.
 
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mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
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Depends on amount of effort you want to put in, to keep it looking new, versus looking acceptable for longer and overall longer lasting.

Oil based sealant offers better, longer lasting protection with less maintenance. No soap or bleach needed, just power wash and put more sealant on every few years, though you have to assess it at that point, vegetation can cause more cleaning to be needed or at least desired.

Water based looks better the first decade or two, if you want a raw wood look without the slight amber tint of oil which will gradually increase over time. Oil based stain or paint offers a more consistent look longer than that, but still has to be reapplied... nothing lasts forever. Either way a UV protectant will help, though paint automatically gives you some UV protection from the pigments, but will arguably look the worst once it finally needs redone.

Make sure to put enough sealant on the end grain. It will soak up more, or more water if you don't.

As far as falling apart, keep it sealed so the wood does not warp, grain doesn't open up to absorb water, and use screws rather than nails. Drill pilot holes for the screws instead of putting the wood under more stress without them. Stainless screws will last longer.
 
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PowerEngineer

Diamond Member
Oct 22, 2001
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"Depends on amount of effort you want to put in" - truer words were never spoken. 👍

IMHO one of the reasons to go with cedar boards in the first place is for their resistance to rot. I have replaced most of our fence with cedar boards over the past 2-3 years and have just left them to weather "as is". The original boards weren't cedar but lasted the better part of thirty years (more or less) without regular cleaning or sealing. I'm not expecting to have to worry about replacing the boards again in 20-30 years.

All that said, I would pay most attention to the cross-members that the boards are screwed/nailed to. It is also best to be sure that any oil or sealer that you use gets applied to both sides of the boards.
 

zinfamous

No Lifer
Jul 12, 2006
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don't listen to those knuckleheads. What you want to do is set up some syrup feeders and plant daffodils everywhere. This way, you attract as many carpenter bees as possible. They will want to live there. Carpenter bees are, you guessed it: "Nature's Carpenters!" All you do is keep them happy with flowers and they will do all the needed work to maintain your wooden fence! They're carpenters!
 

snoopy7548

Diamond Member
Jan 1, 2005
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From what I've read, you don't really need to do anything special with cedar. It's nautrally rot- and insect-resistant, so anything you might want to do like staining or washing is just for looks. Some people like the weathered look it gets after time.
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
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^ Agreed, but thought we were going for lifetime fence or something.

Is the environment one where a cedar fence falls below SOM's standards after 10 years, or was this more of a generalization about non-cedar fences?
 
Nov 8, 2012
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Thanks for all the tips folks, it might be tough - I don't exactly want to bug my neighbor and go knocking on their door to then go into their backyard to clean the fence.

Instead of doing "eh, every now and then" types of cleaning, maybe every 5 years or so I should let my neighbor know and just get a professional to come out to clean them off then apply sealant.
 

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