Between the rain, wind and cold temperatures, winter can be hard on a Long Island wood fence. Spending time outdoors may be the last thing most homeowners want to do this time of year, but a little extra maintenance now can help increase the life span of your fence and reduce the problems you’ll encounter come spring.
What Winter Weather Does to a Wood Fence
While heat and sunlight are generally the biggest culprits when it comes to wood fence damage, winter’s unrelenting moisture and shifting temperatures can also cause problems. Here’s a look at how winter weather affects your fencing materials:
Rain and snow. Prolonged exposure to moisture weakens the fibers of a wood fence and opens the door for mold, mildew and rot. A waterproof stain or sealant is your best defense against the rain. It’s also important to keep leaves and other organic matter from becoming wedged between fence boards, as this inhibits air flow and creates a trap for moisture.
Changing temperatures. Shifts in temperature cause the wood to expand and contract, which can cause knots to fall out and leave knotholes in your fence. If left unaddressed, knotholes can invite rot and pests to infest your fence.
Shifting soil. Heavy precipitation can cause water to soak into the soil and form sinkholes, landslides and shifts that could impact your fence’s supporting posts. Keep an eye on your fence posts throughout the winter to ensure they remain straight, strong and rot-free.
Falling debris. Overhanging tree limbs can break under the weight of snow and ice, causing damage to your fence on their way to the ground. Monitor any trees within falling distance of your fence, and trim back any branches that pose a threat.
Winter Maintenance Tips for Wood Fences
Applying a quality fence stain before winter is your first line of defense against seasonal damage. However, there are a few steps you should take throughout the winter months to ensure the ongoing health of your fence:
— Inspect your wood fence following significant storms. Check for damage and ensure the posts are still level by running a piece of string along the tops. Look for dips or rises in the string, and examine those posts to see if repairs are needed. Making structural repairs now will prevent the damage from worsening throughout the winter.
— Routinely clean your fence of leaves or other organic matter that has settled on the rails or become lodged between boards.
— Keep the cement footings clear of dirt, bark dust or other matter. This may seem counterintuitive, but doing so reduces the likelihood that the cement will become cracked by trapped moisture or changes in temperature.
–If possible, promptly replace any boards that have been damaged.
Like the rest of the yard, a wood fence can easily become neglected during the winter months. By keeping up on these basic maintenance practices, however, you can minimize winter damage to your fence and prevent further problems in the spring.