How Long Does a Wood Fence Last? Best Fence Maintenance Tips

DIY projects  like fencing gives you sense of satisfaction whenever you walk around your home to see your individual finished projects. Fencing is easy even for starters, setting up a wood fence requires minimal effort and a few tools. Installing a wood fence increases security, privacy, and curb appeal. It also provides boundaries that keep pets from leaving your home and restrict children from wandering. Most fences are wooden which begs for question, how long does a wood fence last?

Wood fences are a beautiful addition to any home, providing charm and privacy. However, they don’t last forever, primarily if you fail to protect them from the damp climate. A well-maintained wood fence can withstand 20 years of exposure to elements. Expect the wood fence to last less than 15 years if left vulnerable to the elements. 

This post offers so much with regards to wood fence, installation, maintenances and general factors affecting its durability. Keep reading for more information.

How Often Should You Replace a Wood Fence? 

Image of Wood Fence but How Long Does a Wood Fence Last?Wood is a natural material that complements any landscape to give your home various advantages, including security, safety, and privacy. However, this opinion changes when your wood fence begins to succumb to the elements, and its rotten bits start falling off.

Replacing a wood fence is expensive, depending on the length and height. But how often should you replace a wood fence? It’s recommended that you replace your wood fence after ten years. So how will you know it’s time to replace your fence rather than fix it?

The following signs should tell you that you need to replace your wooden fence: 

  • Rotting

With wooden fences, you will quickly notice rotting in the areas where your fence is nearest to the ground. This is where the boards endure the most sustained moisture, causing rot.

You can keep your wood fence from rotting using different methods like those within your control, such as maintenance and applying a preservative. However, nature will take its course with time, and the rot will set in. 

So if you notice rotting signs on your wood fence, it’s time to replace the whole fence, depending on the severity of the damage. If you only have a few rotten boards, you can repair them rather than replace them.

  • Split and Missing Boards

Aesthetics play a critical role in determining whether replacing your wood fence is necessary. Even the best wood starts to split and crack after long-term exposure to sun and rain.

Warped boards perform poorly on your fence, resulting in structural problems. So if there are many missing boards, nails, or split boards, you will have to replace the fence instead of repairing it.

  • Leaning

Wind, shifting ground, and rain can make your wooden fence start leaning to one side. This happens because your fence’s general structure loses strength after years of service.

Slight leaning in a small section can be addressed by adjusting a few fence posts. However, leaning too much on a wide area across your fence indicates irreparable damage, therefore needing replacement.

  • Repairs Are Too Costly

Sometimes, it makes financial sense to invest in a new fence that will offer you many service years rather than repairing the fence that won’t survive more than two or three years. 

Tip:  Before opting to replace or repair your wood fence, assess the damage to see if it’s acute damage like that resulting from a neighbor backing into the fence. Or chronic impairment that will get faulty if the issue isn’t addressed, like wood rot.

Ideally, acute damage is easy to fix, but chronic damage will possibly reoccur. Therefore, it’s only advisable to repair your wood fence if the underlying causes like extreme moisture can be alleviated. 

How to Fix a Wood Fence? 

Wood fences are susceptible to damage from degrading elements. However, it may not be necessary to replace the whole fence, depending on the severity of the damage. Instead, you can save it by fixing it to resume service. 

Check out these steps to fix a damaged wood fence. 

Fixing the Posts

  1. Shake the fence posts to identify which one is defective. Fence posts may shake a little, but they must feel firmly rooted into the ground. 
  2. Choose the fence materials. Pressure treated lumber should be your best option considering it resists the elements better and protects the fence parts in the ground. 
  3. Dig holes to insert the new posts. Use a post-hole digger for this step. But if your ground proves challenging to dig, hire a power auger: a powerful drill for digging holes for fence posts. 
  4. Put at least 2″ of gravel in the hole to keep the fence post from rotting. Next, place the fence post on the gravel and use a level to ensure it’s straight. You can nail wood braces on the sides to ensure it stands straight. 
  5. Mix concrete with a stick until it’s wet, chunky, and free from air bubbles. Then fill the post hole until the concrete is flush with the ground. 

Fixing Rails

  • You can stabilize a leaning rail by nailing a pressure treated 2 × 4 scraps of metal T-brace or wood to the post to keep it straight.
  • Caulk around the wood or T-brace to avoid water damage. You can paint the wood or metal to complement a painted fence.

Fixing the Slats

  1. Remove any damaged slats using a crowbar. Then measure and cut new slats to a reasonable length using a handheld device fitted with a 3″ multipurpose carbide wheel accessory. 
  2. Nail your new boards above and below the slats. The space between the panels should be identical to the board’s width. 

How Do I Keep My Wooden Fence From Rotting? 

A high-quality wooden fence can withstand years of abuse but can quickly rot due to prolonged exposure to moisture. Many wooden fences are pressure treated to enhance longevity, but you can go to extreme lengths to keep them from rotting using an inexpensive addition: stain. Applying wood stain to the slats and rails prolongs the lifespan while keeping rot at bay. 

For professional quality results, use semi-transparent oil-based stains for exterior applications. Such options highlight the natural beauty of the underlying wood and have formulas that slow down rotting and protect the wood from UV light exposure. 

You can revamp your wooden privacy fence with a few cleaning supplies and this tutorial on staining your fence to keep it from rotting.

  • Step 1

Scanning the weekly weather forecast before staining your wood fence is always good. Choose a day with temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees with no precipitation expected for 24 hours.

Remember that extreme moisture can prolong the drying time of wood stain, whereas high temperatures can dry the stain quickly, leaving unsightly lap marks on the fence. 

  • Step 2

Depending on your wood’s condition, you may want to sand or strip the surface for painting. If you have a previously finished or stained fence, apply a finish stripper to the slats referring to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Then use a bristle brush to scrub the slats to ease the existing varnish.

Next, use a garden hose with a high-pressure spray nozzle to clean the wood fence with water. This will wipe away light to moderate dirt buildup. If using a power washer, choose a low powered unit working at less than 2,000 psi to avoid weathering the wood slats. Ensure the wood dries entirely before continuing to step 3.

  • Step 3

If you notice mildew deposits on your wood fence, prepare a water mixture diluted with bleach in a bucket. Wear your rubber gloves and spray the bleach to the slats using a garden sprayer.

Allow the bleach solution to stay in the slate for a couple of minutes before rinsing with a power washer. Again, allow the wood to dry before continuing.

  • Step 4

Use wood filler to fix imperfections like chips and gouges in the fence slats. Then protect the nearby plants to keep them from catching stains. You can use drop cloths to protect the plants and use painter’s tape to protect fence hardware that you don’t want to stain. 

  • Step 5

Choose your preferred delivery method to apply the stain. Using a bristle brush is the best approach to encourage the oil-based stain to penetrate wooden fence slats.

Soak the brush tip into the stain, and coat the horizontal fence slats from left to right. Work your way up and down the entire length of the vertical slats, maintaining a wet brush tip always.

Stain each slat at a time to avoid forming lap marks. Also, remember to stain the end grain whenever you reach the bottom of each slat. 

If using a roller, saturate it with the stain and apply 2 to 3-foot sections of the fence at a time, ensuring you re-paint the uncovered areas left by the previous strokes. The stain will penetrate the confined grooves, recesses and guarantee a uniform coat free from lap marks. 

If staining with a sprayer, follow a similar approach with staining using a roller but stand at a distance from the fence.

  • Step 6

After staining the entire wood fence, let it dry as stated in the user’s instructions, then add extra coats for more protection and achieve the desired color depth.

  • Step 7

A good quality stain is enough to protect your wooden fence from everyday abuse, but adding a durable coat of sealant can extend your fence lifespan.

For best outcomes, apply a coat of clear waterproof sealant using a roller, sprayer, or brush. You will want to quickly back-brush unsealed recesses and grooves using a broad brush for even appearance.

Tip: To protect the bottom part of your fence post from rotting, dig a hole 2 to 3 times the diameter of the fence post and 24 to 48″ deep. Fill the hole with 6 inches of ¼ minus gravel, which integrates gravel dust for better compaction.

Pour waterproofing sealant into a bucket and insert the end of the post that will enter the ground into the sealant. Then let it air dry. Insert the post in the hole, fill it with more ¼ minus gravel tight against the fence post’s sides, and tamp down the gravel. 

Squeeze soil around your fence post to cover the gravel. Note that moist soil around your fence post can encourage the post to rot. Therefore, you should treat a section of the wood exposed on the ground.

Build up the soil at a slight slope around the fence post to enhance drainage and block water from settling at the base of your post.

Here’s More On How to Stop Fence Post from Rotting:

Should Fence Posts Be Set In Concrete?

Good fences begin with a durable foundation. Therefore, you should ensure your fence posts are firmly rooted in the ground because if one of them leans away, the entire fence will likely fall with time. So should fence posts be set in concrete? 

Yes, it’s wise to set your fence posts in concrete to keep them sturdy and protected. So instead of filling the top of the hole with soil that might introduce moisture at the base of the fence post, add concrete to draw away rainwater from the post.

You will only need a wheelbarrow to mix your concrete and a dedicated trowel to smooth it around the fence post. 

After the fence posts set and concrete cures, mix some Quikrete Fast-Setting Concrete Mix in a bucket, adhering to the mix-to-water ratio listed on the bag.

Use a trowel to shape the semi-solid wet concrete around the fence post to form a gentle slope away from the post’s bottom. Ensure you top off all the holes similarly so that the water will spill down away from the fence post whenever it rains.

How Long Will a Treated 4 × 4 Post Last In The Ground? 

Treated wood differs from other wood products. From how it’s assembled to its intended use, like building fence posts, treated wood is a product on its own.

If you plan to set up a fence, you should know how long a 4 × 4 post can last in the ground. This way, you can determine if you can reinforce the 4 × 4 posts to make them more durable and last longer. 

So how long will a treated 4 × 4 posts last in the ground? A treated 4 × 4 post will withstand 20 to 25 years underground if the conditions are conducive. The same post can last for 40 to 75 years if you install it in a cement ring instead of soil. 

Several factors can influence how long your treated 4 × 4 posts can survive in the ground. So let’s look at the aspects that can cause your post to degrade faster in the ground. 

  • Soil

Soil is one of the contributing factors in wood deterioration. If the soil has plenty of moisture, mould and fungi will multiply because the conditions already favor this growth.

Also, if the soil is highly acidic, it will eat away any pesticides on the treated 4 × 4 post. After the pesticides are eaten, fungus and insects are free to begin eating your treated wood. 

  • Humidity

Treated 4 × 4 posts Installed in high humid areas are likely to fall victim to quick deterioration than those in non-humid climates. High humidity renders your post susceptible to consistent moisture. This wears down the sealants and pesticides that protect the wood from water.

  • Termites

Most treated 4 × 4 posts are sealed with products that will prevent termites from eating the wood. However, not all the treatments use pressure; instead, they use a topical treatment. The problem is that topical treatment can’t last longer than pressure treatment.

  • Type of Wood

Another significant factor that affects a treated 4 × 4 post is the type of wood. There exist two types of wood: hardwood which is more sturdy but expensive, and softwood which isn’t as strong as a hardwood.

If you have the budget, you should purchase a treated 4 × 4 post made of black locust or Red Cedar. These two options have more excellent resistance to water and insects.

  • Using a Cement Ring

If you want your post to last long on the ground, you need to start with a strong foundation. Burying your treated 4 × 4 posts in the ground with a cement ring gives it a longer lifespan because it keeps wood from water and insect deterioration. 

Lastly, a cement ring adds stability to your treated post. The weight of a 4 by 4 post can cause it to lean in the soil with time, especially with moist soil.

This interferes with the forces holding the entire structure, and the other posts will lean too. So it’s wise to place your post in a cement ring during installation to avoid premature degrading.

How Far Apart Should Fence Posts Be? 

The structural integrity of your fence greatly relies on the materials you select and how far apart the fence posts are spaced. If you space too far apart, you risk compromising the strength and stability of your fence. Too close, and the fence might appear strange.

How far apart you space your fence post depends on the fence length. But for most general purposes and privacy fences, 6 or 8 feet between posts is enough. You can refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for the correct spacing. 

  • Wooden Fence

If you plan to build a wood fence, choose a spacing distance between 5 and 8 ft. The ready-made fence panels always have a predetermined recommendation. 

  • Wire and Other Fences

Most wire fences can stretch at 15 ft intervals, depending on the intention of the fence. For other fencing materials, the spacing ranges between 6 and 20 feet.

Does Vinyl Or Wood Fence Last Longer?

Choosing a fence material is a tough decision, considering the high costs of fencing and the role fences play in the appearance of a landscape. You need a fence material that is easy to maintain and lasts longer.

All the fence materials, including vinyl and wood, have many benefits and setbacks. Comparing vinyl and wood fences before purchasing and installing will help you settle on a material that best suits your demands.

Wood fence has an organic texture, and the exceptional grain on each board accurately testifies why many folks prefer a wood fence. On the other hand, vinyl gives wood stiff competition.

The type of fencing material you choose depends on your aesthetic taste, budget, and how much maintenance you are willing to take.

Ideally, vinyl resists elements better than wood, meaning it lasts longer. Wood fence posts go deep in the ground, rendering them vulnerable to moisture and termites, which shorten their lifespan.

Here are other differences between vinyl and wood fences:

  • Maintenance

Vinyl fences are becoming more popular because they have low- maintenance. Wood fences need periodic staining or painting after some years or annually, based on the weather. A vinyl fence only needs thorough cleaning with soap and clean water.

If you notice a heavy coating of green mildew on your vinyl fence, you can quickly remove it with a power washer. Moisture, wind, rain, and UV rays have minimal effects on a vinyl fence.

However, these elements can damage wood fences. A wood fence is also vulnerable to rotting and wood-chewing damage by squirrels and other creatures.

  • Cost

Vinyl is more expensive than wood fences. However, if you include the cost of purchasing stains and paint to restore your wood fence, vinyl is less expensive.

  • Appearance

You can’t beat wood for visual appeal and a traditional feel. It is available in many design styles and options. The choices of paints and stains for wood is vast. The appearance of vinyl is also impressive but not like wood. However, the design, quality, type, and colour choices for vinyl fencing have improved.

Final Thoughts

A wood fence introduces privacy and enhances curb appeal to your home. It’s good to keep your wood fence in good shape to resist the elements, extending the lifespan. The best way to achieve that is by following the valuable tips highlighted in this guide.

With these tips, you can increase your property’s value and prevent kids from assessing dangerous situations beyond the boundaries at home. Even so, we still need to revisit our question…

How Long Does a Wood Fence Last?

With the proper maintenance, your wood fence should last up to 20 years or more. There are many ways of maintaining and protecting your wood fence, they include staining, painting and regular check for molds and mildews.

I hope you have gained valuable information on how to look after your fence from this article, do you have a question that you would like to share with me? Kindly drop it in the comment section below and I’ll get back to your right away.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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