Help Your Fence Survive the Winter

Let’s face it – it’s starting to cool off, and winter is near. The trees lose their leaves and vegetation is sparse, revealing the true condition of your wooden fence. To keep your fence attractive and welcoming for the holidays, keep wood fence maintenance in mind!

How does winter weather affect my fence?

In the summer, sunlight is the largest threat to a wooden fence, as it can cause the wood to fade and even warp. However, excess moisture and changing temperatures are the trouble-makers in the winter.

Rain and snowLong winter months mean long exposure to wet conditions without any warm weather to allow the wood to dry. Moisture softens the wood fibers, leading to mold, mildew and rot. In order to protect your wood fence against rain and snow, use a waterproof stain or sealant and keep the spaces between boards and rails clear of leaves and debris to allow airflow.

Changing temperatures: Wood fencing expands and contracts as temperatures get warmer and cooler. The knots in the fence boards expand and contract at different rates than the surrounding wood, which may cause them to fall out during the winter and leave knotholes. These holes are breeding grounds for rot and pest infestation.

Shifting soil: During rainy or snowy winter months, water may saturate into the soil, causing sinkholes, landslides and shifts in the soil that can affect the posts of the fence. Check the fence posts throughout the winter to make sure they are straight, stable and free of rot.

Falling debris: Snow or ice storms weigh down the branches of any overhanging trees. The branches may not be able to support the weight and could break, causing damage to structures including your fence. Keep an eye on trees near the fence, and trim back branches that appear to be a possible threat.

How do I maintain my fence in the winter?

Applying a stain before winter can solve many maintenance issues. However, there are a few things to do throughout the season to keep the fence in shape and as damage-free as possible.

  • Inspect your fence for damage after every major storm to make sure it is still stable and level. Run a piece of string along the tops of fence posts – if you spot any dips or rises, check the posts and replace them if needed.
  • Regularly clean off leaves or debris that has landed on the fence rails or has become lodged between boards.
  • Keep the cement footings free of dirt or other things like bark dust. This lessens the chance that the cement will be cracked by trapped moisture or temperature changes.
  • If possible, replace any damaged boards promptly.

It is easy to ignore the condition of your fence during winter months, but by taking a few simple measures, you can minimize damage and avoid extensive work come spring.