Fence Maintenance and Repair

Photo: vastateparkstaff/flickrYour fence takes quite a beating over the winter. It's continually exposed to wind, rain, and snow, not to mention freeze-thaw cycles and underground shifts. So spend some time now to give your fencing a little TLC. Inspect it carefully for any traces of damage or decay and fix it promptly. If your fencing is used to protect your property against intruders, or to keep children -- or animals, for that matter -- safely out of dangerous areas or inside your yard where they belong, it's doubly important to keep your fence in good shape, before you have an emergency on your hands.

Fence Inspection

Depending on the extent of your fenced land, walk, ride, or drive along its length and breadth to check for signs of damage. Bring your tool kit with you for basic fence repair on the spot. Should you see any larger problems, make a note of exactly what and where they are. That way, if you decide to hire fence repair professionals, you can readily guide them to the trouble source.

Rotten wood fencing will need repair ASAP -- in fact, wood rot is the number one culprit when it comes to fence damage. Pay special attention to where the base of the fence posts emerges from the ground, because this is particularly vulnerable to decay. Inspect for broken, sagging, sinking, or loose posts or boards as well. Be sure to search out signs of mildew or rust. Not just unsightly, these can eventually cause serious harm to your fence if they are not repaired promptly.

Regular Fence Maintenance

Fencing that is only dusty or moderately soiled can be cleaned by simply spraying down with your garden hose. Rent or buy a power washer in order to remove more serious dirt, stains, rust, or discoloration, as well as biological growths like mold, moss, or algae. Use a gentle pressure and make sure you understand how to operate the washer before directing it at your fence. Power washing is good for more than just cleaning -- in the case of an aging wooden fence, it will also strip off the discolored top layer of wood. If your fence is still under warranty, make sure that power washing will not violate the manufacturer's terms and conditions.

After washing, thoroughly dry the fence before you repair or paint it. Regular painting or sealing will help to protect a metal or wood fence against corrosion and other damage in the future.

Fence Repair

Job #1 is to repair or replace damaged fence posts that are broken or rotting, because they serve as the support system for your fence as a whole. Use splints to shore them up, if possible. Otherwise, replace with new posts; these should be fastened in place with cement, mounding the cement an inch or two over the surface of the ground at a downward angle. This directs precipitation away from the fence post and helps prevent problems with rot in the future.

A broken wood fence rail may be reparable by gluing it together or by nailing on a patch made from a scrap of 2x4. In the case of a barbed wire fence, the repair of strands that have snapped can often be accomplished quickly and easily, eliminating the need for complete replacement.  

If replacement of a section of your fence is unavoidable, it need not be with new material. You can often save money and do your bit for the environment by repurposing old, but still soun, fence components.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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