Summer Fence Maintenance Tips
Posted on January 1, 2012
In North Texas your fence is more than just a property boundary. It is a stylish and functional part of your outdoor living area. Contrary to media stereotypes we are not all blessed with an expansive back 40 acres! Many of us live in homes with rear entry drives or in Zero Lot properties that require us have an up close and personal relationship with our fences. When a fence in this setting is well maintained it creates a warm and inviting setting for your outdoor living areas. Here are a few tips to help you keep your fence in top shape through the North Texas summer.
Keep you lawn irrigated – North Texas is notorious for having highly expansive clay soils (they shrink when dry and expand when wet). Ask any civil engineer and he will tell you the challenges of building roads and foundations in our area. This issue raises its ugly head in the heat of summer. With the extreme heat and drought conditions of 2011 I’ve seen cracks in lawns that are easily 3 feet deep. These extreme conditions can easily cause issues with your fence no matter how well built they are. Properly irrigating your lawn maintains a constant level of moisture in the soil and helps prevent or limit fluctuations in soil contraction. This will help maintain the line of your fence over time. In extreme heat conditions soaker hoses placed along the line of the fence or gate areas can really help alleviate any issues cause by the contracting soils. This is not only good for your fence but for all concrete slabs and your homes foundation.
Adjust your sprinkler heads – Sprinkler heads that are spraying directly onto your fence will cause permanent discoloration to the wood on your fence and shorten the service life of your stain. Drive around your neighborhood and you will see the nice white arc’s across your neighbors nice fences. A few simple adjustments to your sprinkler heads will prevent this from happening.
Tighten Loose Screws & Nails on Fences – Wood expands and contracts with changing temperatures and weather. Boards can loosen and warp if not maintained. To ensure your or fence last longer, tighten screws and hammer protruding nails carefully to make sure you don’t cause the wood to crack by over tightening.
Test & Adjust Gates – If gates are allowed to sag the bottom boards can break and repetitive dragging can accelerate the deterioration of the gate and surrounding fence panels. Boards may need to be replaced and sagging can be fixed by adding diagonal cross braces. Gates can also sag if they do not have enough hinges. To save money, many fences are built with 2’ x 3’s instead of 2’ x 4’s and 2 hinges are used instead of 3 (for 6’ gates) or 4 (for 8’ gates). If a sagging gate has less than 3 hinges, adding hinges will prevent future sagging.
Clean & Seal Your Fence– Do this every 3-4 years to extend your fences life. If you choose to do this yourself make sure that once you use one kind of product for this that you continue to only use the same type product every year in the future to prevent any incompatibility problems. If you plan on using a contractor for this make sure you talk to your fence builder first. They can tell you what products/colors they used to stain your fence initially and may be able to direct you towards more reputable staining contractors.
Remove overhanging tree limbs – A loose, low-hanging tree limb can be bad news for a cedar fence during a wind or thunderstorm. This is the growing season so check your trees and landscaping regularly to make sure you don’t have any branches that are rubbing up against your fence.
Inspecting Your Wood Fence for Weathering – It’s important to check your fence periodically for irregularities and to address them promptly. Here are some key problems to look for when inspecting your wood fence:
Rotten or decaying wood – This should be replaced before it can spread.
Splinters and broken nails. Replace any broken nails, and sand down any splinters. If pressure- or chemical-treated materials were used for any components of your wood fence, be particularly careful about possible splinters, as they can lead to infection.
Weakened fence posts – Make sure your fence posts are sturdy and strong, since they form the backbone for the rest of the fence. Grab each one from the top and apply pressure to all sides. If the post is secured in the concrete base, it won’t move. If it reacts to your force, that may signify a rotting or rusting post, or another issue that needs attention.