Good Fences

Robert Frost said that ‘Good fences make good neighbors’ in his 1914 poem, Mending Wall. A century plus later, this still holds true. Fences keep my pets, kids, and ‘stuff’ out of your yard, and vice versa.

How then does one take care of a good fence, keeping it upright and in good shape as long as possible? Today, we will discuss this and offer some advice.

By far, the most common material for fences in greater Jacksonville is wood. Even most vinyl fences have vinyl sleeves over a wooden post to which vinyl panels or cross members attach. With wood being the most popular fence material, we need to focus on how to help wood last and that comes down to keeping it dry, and keeping it sealed.

Keeping a wooden fence dry means keeping vines, shrubs, trees, and other plant growth off the fence. Air needs to freely circulate, and ideally, the sun needs to reach the fence to dry it out after rain or morning dew. As shrubbery, vines and trees crowd the fence it stays damp longer, allowing for algae growth, and rot, and shortening its life. Honeysuckle, passion vines and others have pretty flowers and attract pollinators but destroy your fence. You have to make a choice.

Consider a trellis, made of metal, or designed to be replaced periodically, for a vine you simply must have in your landscape. This keeps it off the fence. Similarly, adjust the sprinkler heads to only water your grass and beds.

Sealing the fence involves applying a stain or sealant that will help shed the water versus allowing it to soak in. Just like those with wooden decks do, every 1-2 years (depending on condition and need) they clean and then seal the deck with a stain or sealant. While most fences you may observe in your neighborhood do not appear to have been stained or sealed, those fences are not lasting as long as the average deck that gets this treatment.

Avoid hanging things on your fence, planters or hanging baskets for example, as these put stress on the posts and cause the fence to lean. When a post breaks off in the ground, or other damage is sustained, fix it promptly. A properly installed wooden fence panel typically has 6 anchor points carrying the weight evenly. As anchor points fail, or are damaged, the others carry more weight and are more likely to split or warp, thus increasing the damage to be repaired.

By following these tips you will get a longer useful life from your fence, and you and your neighbor might just have a better relationship because of this.

If you like all this advice, but simply do not want to repair, clean and stain or seal your fence every few years as needed, then know that Mr. Handyman can help. While we are not the fence company you want to call to install a fence all the way around your yard, repairs are common work for us. It is often difficult to get a fence company to come out for a minor repair to a gate or fence. So, this is something we regularly do as part of working through a homeowners ‘to-do’ list.