How To Care For a Wood Fence

A wood fence can be a great way to give a home a definitive border. It also changes the look of the house. But over time, wood fences rot away.

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Wood Privacy Fence With Grasses

A gorgeous cedar fence is a beautiful addition to the HGTV Smart Home 2015 backyard that also serves to keep the area private and intimate.

Photo By: Eric Perry

Gravel Footpath and Open Wood Gate

The cedar fence includes a door for easy access to and from the back deck, while the gravel footpath is a smart addition that looks fantastic and works well as a groundcover in an area that doesn’t get much rain.

Photo By: Eric Perry

Landscaping Along Privacy Fence

Native, drought-tolerant plants were chosen to line the beautiful cedar privacy fence at HGTV Smart Home 2015.

Tall Wood Fence in Front of House

A tall, cinnamon-colored wood fence gives privacy and curb appeal to the front of the home. The address is called out in simple, clean-lined numbers.

Photo By: Carley Montgomery

Tropical Plants Among White Fence

An innovative pool fence is designed to weave in and out of view. ArquitectonicaGEO, a Florida ASLA Annual Design Award winner, designed the new landscape plan for the Coral Gables, Fla.

Gray Fence in Courtyard

Decorative panels are cut and applied to a traditional solid fence. The fence is by Topiarius, a full-service landscape design, build and maintenance firm in Chicago.

Horizontal Wood Fence Addition

Horizontal fencing is a smart upgrade to make, especially when the exterior of a home, such as this Georgia property, has horizontal details. This fence will complement the existing architectural style of the home, says Danna Cain of Home & Garden Design.

Photo By: Danna Cain, Home & Garden Design

Urban Rooftop Fence

On a Chicago rooftop, a stunning panel made of COR-TEN steel is cut out in the shape of a tree to accent the metal fencing. The panel, added by Topiarius, which specializes in outdoor living on rooftops, also offers some privacy without completely blocking the views.

Deck with Patio Seating and Horizontal Fence

A horizontal fence provides safety without blocking the views from a deck perched high above a lake in a wooded setting. The project is by Johnsen Landscapes & Pools.

Photo By: Jan Johnsen

Horizontal Wood Fence in Pastoral Setting

A horizontal split wood fence creates a dreamy backdrop in a rural setting. The white Adirondack chairs are by Summer Classics.

Outdoor Wood Fence

Outdoor Wood Fence

A wood fence can be a great way to give a home a definitive border. It also changes the look of the house. But over time, wood fences rot away. However, you can you can make wood fences last longer with a little care.

A wood fence can be a great way to give a home's property a definitive border. It keeps both kids and pets safely in and stray animals out. It also changes the look of the house. But over time, wood fences rot away. However, you can make wood fences last longer with a little care.

Typically, wood fences, especially those going up around newly constructed homes, are made of cedar or redwood.

"They are more resistant to rot and decay than other species," says Jack Holt, owner of Holt Lumber in Fresno, Calif. "They're not structurally as strong as Douglas fir, which is used in framing a house, but for anything that is exposed to the elements, those are the two species of wood used."

In buying wood for fences, people should get pressure-treated wood for posts, says Ethan Elaison, co-owner of Elaison Lumber in Fresno. Posts should be pressure-treated because they go into the ground, where they are susceptible to insects and moisture.

"When they go through the mill, they are chemically treated to resist bugs and water damage," Elaison says. Addressing concerns about the effects of arsenic and other chemicals used to treat the wood leaching into the ground, Elaison says they "are not anything to worry about. The chemicals aren't extremely potent, especially lately. The chemicals have been toned down a little."

Pressure-treated posts, which are indicated with a label or stamp, cost about $10 each.

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Pickets don't need to be pressure-treated because they are above ground, say Holt and Elaison. Fence pickets cost between $1.70 and $3.

Within the first year of installation, the wood may warp or split as it dries, says John Elaison, co-owner and founder of Elaison Lumber. In five to eight years, the fence may start to lean, but it should last 10 to 15 years overall. To keep the wood from rotting, apply a wood preservative to seal it. "It's like wax on a car," Holt says. "It helps protect it from the elements, from water, from sprinklers."

Water-repellent preservatives and sealants are sold at home-improvement and hardware stores. They cost $10.99 to $18.99 for a gallon. Exterior stains, which usually also are sealants, are another option if homeowners want their fence to coordinate with the exterior of their homes. Semi-transparent stains costs $17 to $18 per gallon.

If wood has been pressure-treated, a sealant isn't necessary, as the wood already has been injected with preservatives, John Elaison says.

Homeowners also should keep sprinklers from wetting the fence, which causes the wood to rot faster. And bushes and vines should be kept off the fence.

"The less weight on the fence, the better," Ethan Elaison says. "The vine will help keep it moist and help it rot faster."

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