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Fences and gates serve multiple purposes in a residential property, from defining the boundaries of the property to providing security and privacy. However, like any other outdoor structure, fences and gates are exposed to different environmental factors that can lead to various problems. In this article, we will explore some common problems that homeowners face with their fences and gates, and how practical ways to avoid them if possible, and for the problems that are unavoidable, find ways to prevent the progression of the problem or slow it down.
A Leaning fence
A leaning fence is not only unsightly but also poses a security risk. Especially if your fence that is leaning is a pool fence, the safety barrier will not be intact if your fence is leaning making it easier to climb, or be knocked over with wind or by pushing.
The primary cause of a leaning fence is the use of inadequate or poorly installed fence posts. To avoid this problem, fence installers need to ensure that the fence posts are dug deep enough into the soil and that the soil type is considered. For instance, if the soil is reactive, such as clay-based soil, the installer needs to dig deeper to create a stable foundation for the fence.
Consideration for cementing the posts into the ground with concrete or gravel could be necessary, especially in locations where the weather patterns fluctuate between wet and dry very often. Some soil is more reactive than others, therefore hiring someone that knows the soil type and the normal patterns of reactivity will build you a fence that will last a lot better than someone who is not experienced with the soil type at your property.
Rotting timber posts or palings
Timber fences are popular due to their natural look, but they are prone to rot when exposed to moisture, if their protective coatings are inadequate or compromised. To prevent rotting, it is essential to choose quality, pressure-treated timber that is resistant to decay and to treat it with a preservative. Most wood that fencing contractors purchase for their jobs is treated, as it is designed to be outdoors and exposed to the elements. It is always good to specify and ask what kind of treated wood your contractor will be using, this will ensure that you know what you are paying for.
Regular maintenance, such as cleaning and resealing, can also help prolong the life of a timber fence. Depending on the weather patterns where you live, you could be required to maintain your fence annually, whilst other more mild locations could get away with fence maintenance every 5 years.
Rust with metal fences
Metal fences, such as steel and aluminum, are durable and low maintenance but can rust when exposed to moisture or salt air. To prevent rusting, homeowners should choose a high-quality, rust-resistant metal fence and maintain it by regularly cleaning it with soapy water and a soft brush. Aluminium is a popular material for coastal areas as well as treated steel, as these materials when treated can have anti corrosive properties.
If you notice a scratch, dent or crack in your panel or post, apply a rust inhibitor to the affected area and this will prevent the spread of rust. You may need to apply paint after the inhibitor as it usually has a white appearance.
Splitting timber is a common problem with timber fences and gates, especially when exposed to direct sunlight in hot, dry climates. To prevent splitting, homeowners should consider using treated timber that is resistant to splitting, or they can choose composite materials that offer the look of wood without the splitting problem. Splits in the timber are usually caused by a lack of moisture and oil in the timber itself, this is caused by the protective coating being compromised by strong UV and heat, making the natural oils evaporate and the timber dries out. You can add this natural oil back to your timber by buying it in your local home improvement store.
Warping of material
Warping is a common problem with wooden fences and gates, especially when exposed to extreme heat or moisture. To prevent warping, it is essential to choose quality timber that is straight and has minimal knots. Regular maintenance, such as resealing and painting, can also help prevent warping altogether. When timber is fresh and has not matured yet, it is susceptible to warping because it will expand and contract with temperatures more dramatically than mature timber. Spray your treated timber with water once a week for the first 6 months and you will prevent warping, especially on very hot, dry days. You won’t have to do this if your region’s climate is not hot and dry.
Pest damage is a significant threat for wooden fences, especially in warm and humid climates. Pests such as ants, other insects, beetles, rodents and more pose a threat to the integrity of the wood and therefore to the longevity of your fence. To prevent pest damage such as termite damage, homeowners should choose termite-resistant timber or use alternative materials such as metal or composite. Regular inspections can also help detect termite activity early and prevent significant damage. The same goes for other types of pest infestations, the best way to treat pests is to prevent them.
In conclusion, while fences and gates offer several benefits to the average home, they are susceptible to deterioration. Fences, by nature, are exposed to different environmental factors that can cause various problems. By choosing quality materials and ensuring proper installation and maintenance, homeowners can avoid common problems such as leaning fences, rotting timber, rust with metal fences, splitting wood, warping of material, and termite damage. If you are facing any of these problems, it is essential to seek professional help to prevent further damage and ensure the longevity of your fence or gate and to treat the cause of the problem as best you can, as fast as you can to get the best long-term outcome for your fence and your resources.
By Brendan Duffy
who is committed to sharing all he knows about the craft of woodworking and especially fencing, to the community of Northern Beaches, Australia. His projects incorporate innovation and modernity. Brendan specializes in timber fencing because that is his passion, wood working. His fencing company offers simple fences and customized wood fences that only a true craftsman can bring to life.
Member since April, 2023
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