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Garden fence maintenance & weather-proofing

Garden fences are essential to protect any property. They’re designed to withstand year-round exposure to the elements and add privacy and style to outdoor spaces. 

As fences inevitably take a battering from strong winds and heavy rain, it’s important to keep on top of their maintenance. There are a few steps you can take before and after installation to ensure your fence remains structurally sound.

What is the best weatherproof fencing?

Fences aren’t a short-term investment, so the first decision is to choose the most suitable fence material. 

The best pick for the job depends on factors such as practicality, the reason why it’s being installed (like enhanced security or to improve the overall look of the area), budget and the property’s location. For example, houses near to the coast or at higher altitudes are more prone to experiencing extreme weather conditions.

Wood fences

Wood fences

Timber fencing is the most popular choice for homeowners. It has a natural look, is easy to install and is affordable. However, it needs to be maintained regularly to preserve its strength and beauty and fight off dirt, grime and algae growth. Wood fences are susceptible to weather damage if treated incorrectly. Keep an eye out for cracking, rotting and warping as these are signs that your fence has suffered and will need replacing.

Steel fences

Steel fences

The heavy-duty nature of steel makes it ideal for anyone who wants to bolster security at a home or business premises. And it’s easy to maintain! However, steel doesn’t have the natural look of timber fencing and its initial cost is much higher than other types of fencing.

Composite fences

Composite fences

Composite fence panels are a good, low-maintenance alternative to traditional wood panels, and are often manufactured using recycled materials. However they tend to fade over time and are more expensive than wood.

Other types of fencing materials available on the market include aluminium and vinyl. However, we will focus on wood fencing as this is the most common choice! 

Wooden fence maintenance tips

Follow these tips to keep your customers’ garden fences in the best condition.

Preserve your panels

Most new wooden fence panels are pressure-treated or treated with a wood preservative to protect them from rot and water damage. However, if the preserve appears patchy, it’s time to breathe new life into the wood.

You’ll need to use a stain stripper to lift the old finish, then clean the fence using a pressure washer or a scrubbing brush to get rid of any dirt, mildew or mould. Doing this will also remove the surface layer of old wood cells, and prevent it from returning after a few months.

Allow the fence to dry completely (about 48 hours), and apply a good-quality wood preservative. Use a brush to apply a generous (but not too thick) coat of the preserve, following the grain of the wood so it penetrates the timber. Be extra generous in the corners and cracks where moisture tends to sit. Ideally you want to do this when it’s warm – anything below 10°C will make it challenging for the preserver to dry properly. Let the first coat dry thoroughly before you apply a second coat. 

Aim to do this every couple of years, but have a look over panels each year to see how they are holding up. A good way to check if garden fencing needs another coat of preservative is to splash the panels with water. If the water soaks into the wood, another coat is necessary. Likewise, if it rains and raindrops soak into the fence, this is a warning that the protective layer is not working.

Consider adding decking oil as an additional layer once you’ve applied your wood preserver to add extra protection.. Decking oil is a natural product with excellent water-beading qualities that penetrates into the timber and protects wooden fence panels from UV rays and pests. 

If you want to retain the natural character of the timber and bring the best out of the grain, choose clear or natural wood preservers and decking oils.

Fence post caps

Install post caps

Fence post caps aren’t expensive but can help increase the lifespan of garden fences. The top of a fence post is hit hardest by weathering, so a post cap acts as a first line of defence against the rain. If the whole post absorbs too much moisture it could begin to rot, split, and warp, eventually become less stable.

Post caps also prevent birds, squirrels and other wildlife from perching on fence posts. Not only can this reduce damage, but it will save you the job of cleaning up after them.

Gravel boards

Install a gravel board

Gravel boards act as a barrier between the panel and the damp soil. Concrete is the best material for gravel boards as it’s robust and will not suffer damage from moisture or rot. As well as the wet ground, a gravel board will protect against debris and insect damage.
Gravel boards offer other benefits, as they can:

  • Keep aggregates in place in the garden
  • Add a bit of extra height
  • Ensure there are no unsightly gaps between the fencing and ground for maximum privacy and a uniform finish.

Set the fence posts

A fence is only as reliable as its posts, which is why correctly setting the posts is crucial to any fence construction. Properly prepare the ground before any installation – it needs to be level and ideally in an area that doesn’t flood or get too muddy after a downpour. Check you also won’t disturb any water pipes or power cables.

Unlevel fence posts can cause the panels to sag or warp, affecting the look and stability of the fence, meaning it can’t be connected with level rails and pickets due to different elevations. An uneven fence will also affect maintenance, as weeds and other plants will flourish in the cracks and crevices created by the imbalance.

Secure the posts into the ground with a mixture of ballast and cement or post mix concrete. It’s a good idea to leave the concrete slightly proud of the ground to prevent rainwater from accumulating at the base of the post.

Check for imperfections

Regularly check both sides for imperfections

To keep the fence in prime condition, it’s good practice to walk along both sides of the fence and look for any parts that need a bit of attention.

The fence’s surface should be as smooth and attractive as possible, so hammer in loose nails, sand any rough areas and use strong clamps and waterproof glue to stick splits and pieces back together. You’ll also protect yourself and your customers against snags and splinters. 

Windproof fence panels

Windproof fence panels

Consider putting up windproof fence panels if your customer's fencing is positioned in an area that is open to the wind. These are designed with small slits to let the wind pass through. The bigger the gaps between the pickets, the greater the resistance. However, this means less privacy compared to a solid fence panel.

Fence cleaning tips

Wood fence cleaning tips

Cleaning a timber fence regularly gives it the best chance of standing the test of time. Cleaning algae, mildew and mould growth from your fence will help stave off wood rot and decay. Follow these directions to help keep panels looking their best.

Cleaning fence panels with a pressure washer

A pressure washer works well for wood fence cleaning, but don’t have the settings too high as you could damage the wood. Begin by rinsing the wood, then hold the pressure washer about eight inches from the fence surface, starting further out and working your way in as needed.

Fill your pressure washer with a suitable fungicidal wash or mould and mildew cleaner (follow instructions on the product to see how much water needs to be added) and apply to the same rinsed boards. Spray in long, even strokes, making sure to take care around interwoven or overlapping fence panels.

Grab a scrubbing brush to tackle mould, mildew stains, tree sap, and other stubborn or troublesome spots. Use circular motions to buff the dirt away. Allow the cleaner to sit on the surface for at least three to five minutes, so it has time to take effect. Make sure it isn’t dry before rinsing – this is why colder, non-windy conditions are ideal for fence cleaning.

Flush out any remaining detergent from your pressure washer and check for any visible grime and mould that might be left. Use your pressure washer or a garden hose with the spray nozzle setting to rinse the fence with fresh water, washing from the top down in small sections to avoid unsightly streaks. When the entire fence is spotless, allow it to air dry.
Once clean and completely dry, you can apply a wood fencing treatment for extra protection from the outside elements by following the steps outlined earlier.

Cleaning fence panels without a pressure washer

You can of course clean panels without access to a pressure washer. Use a suitable fence cleaner, and fill a bucket with the diluted cleaning solution. Use a scrubbing brush to scrub a few boards at a time. Be liberal with your scrubbing but not too aggressive, as this could damage the wood.

Allow a minimum of three to five minutes for the cleaner to work. After this time, you can give the fence another scrub if it’s heavily soiled, but remember not to let the solution dry before rinsing off.

Rinse the fence with fresh water – a garden hose at low pressure is the most practical tool for this part. You can then add additional treatment to help prevent deterioration. In between cleaning and treating a fence is also the optimum time to make any necessary repairs.

Time to replace the garden fence? 

Cleaning and maintaining a fence regularly can add years to its lifespan. However, the cost and hassle of doing this means it’s not always worth it, especially if the fence panels or posts show signs of rot, are discoloured or have become unstable. If this is the case, replace them with new ones to avoid fencing problems that will make maintenance methods a bit pointless.

Take a look at fence care and maintenance products here, and use them to protect your customers’ garden fencing so they can enjoy their outside space for many years.

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