Heat and sunlight cause the most damage to wood, so many people don’t think about caring for their wood fences after the summer. However, there are a number of winter weather factors that can also affect a wood fence including temperature shifts, precipitation, falling tree limbs, and shifting soil. While it may not be fun to spend a lot of time on your yard during the winter, taking a few safety precautions will decrease the number of issues that you face in the spring and greatly increase the lifespan of your wood fence.
Apply a Fence Stain
Before winter arrives, select a high quality, oil based wood fence stain and apply it to the entire fence. The best way to make sure the stain is applied correctly and effectively is to hire a fence contractor for the job.
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Inspect the Fence After Major Storms
After a severe thunderstorm or snowstorm, look for fence damage. Run a piece of string along the tops of the posts to confirm that the posts are still level. If there are rises or dips in the string, you may need to repair certain posts. Check the physical condition of each post as well. The posts shouldn’t move. Any movement may be an indication of breakage or rotting at ground or below ground level. Getting damaged posts repaired right away will minimize the structural damage that takes place during the winter. After a heavy winter storm, clear out snow from in between the boards so that moisture doesn’t get trapped and weaken the wood.
Keep an Eye Out for Leaves and Other Debris
Over time, leaves and other organic matter can settle on the rails or become wedged in between the boards. Remove these items periodically so that they don’t rot the fence, compromising its stability. You should also watch for dirt, bark dust, and other debris that may settle around the cement footings. Keeping the footings clear decreases the chance of cracking and erosion due to temperature changes or trapped moisture.
Check for Knotholes
The wood may contract and expand as the temperature shifts, resulting in knots in the wood falling out and leaving empty knotholes behind. These holes make ideal homes for particles and insects, increasing the potential for rotting.
Prevent Falling Limbs and Overgrowth
If there are large tree limbs hanging over the wood fence, trim them back before winter arrives. You should also trim plants and shrubs growing in close proximity to the fence. Leaving plenty of space between the fence and plants reduces the risk of damage to the fence. Keep an eye on nearby trees during the winter as well. Snow can overload heavy limbs, causing them to break, snap, and fall, damaging the fence.
Address Issues Quickly
If you notice that a board has become damaged during a recent storm or that one of the cement footings has started to crack, take care of it right away. The sooner you fix smaller issues, the less likely it is that major problems will develop.
Resist the temptation to neglect your fence during the winter months. Keeping up with a few basic maintenance tasks will minimize the damage that your wood fence undergoes during the winter, making spring yard work much more enjoyable.