As the cold winter weather approaches, it's time to start thinking about what that season can bring for your wooden fence. Unfortunately, winter weather can batter your fence and leave it cracked, worn or otherwise damaged. If you want to be sure that your fence gets through the winter season with minimal wear and tear, you need to be proactive. The steps you take before cold weather hits can make all the difference. Here are some of the things that you should know to keep your fence protected from the harsh weather that's likely to be headed your way.
What Winter Can Do to Wood Fences
You might consider the summer sun to be the biggest threat to your fence, and it is certainly a concern since ultraviolet rays can be damaging. Unfortunately, winter also bring a variety of hazards, including frequently fluctuating temperatures and a large amount of moisture due to the snow and rain.
- Temperature Fluctuations – When the winter temperatures shift from freezing to mild and then back to freezing, those temperature changes can cause the wood to contract and expand repeatedly. Any knots in the wood can separate and fall out as a result of the contraction and expansion, which can leave holes behind in the wood. Those holes will make your fence vulnerable to insect infestations and rotting.
- Moisture, Snow and Rain – The fibers in your wooden fence panels are vulnerable to damage from prolonged moisture exposure. Since the winter season brings a consistent level of moisture from the snow, ice and rain, it can make your wooden fence susceptible to mold, rot and mildew.
- Shifting Soil – Heavy winter rains can be destructive to your yard. The pressure of the water paired with the runoff of snow and ice melt can cause the soil to erode and shift. If this happens, it can weaken the fence's structural integrity.
How to Combat the Threats
As the fall season settles in, you can protect your wood fence from some temperature hazards and moisture by treating it with a waterproof stain. Choose either a clear or tinted stain depending on the look you want for your fence. If you have a lot of trees in your yard, make sure you clear away any leaves that are stuck on the fence, too. Leaves can trap moisture, which can cause the wood to decay.
Keep an eye on the fence posts throughout the winter, especially after heavy rains or a warm-weather stretch. Look for any signs that the posts are leaning, shifting or otherwise affected by eroding soil. If you notice your fence posts shifting at all, you'll want to add some braces to the wood to keep them secure until the spring. When the weather warms up enough in the spring, you can replace the posts or reinforce the post holes with concrete.
After every major storm, take time to examine the condition of your fence all the way around the perimeter. Look for any signs of damage, such as cracking, splitting or shifting. Grab the top of each fence post and try to move it. You shouldn't feel any movement at all. If you do, reinforce it as you would a fence post that's shifted due to erosion. Also, make sure you replace any damaged fence boards right away. You might not want to do it during the cold weather, but it'll be worth it if you do – otherwise, another storm might cause a complete fence failure.
The more attentive you are to your fence both before and during the winter weather, the better chance you'll have of your fence surviving the winter without damage. Talk to a local fence contractor about any other steps you can take to preserve your wood fence, or check out the sites of fencing companies for more information.