The winter season – with cold, snow, and ice abound – is hard on even the strongest of our outside home features. Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to maintain the longevity of your fence to last winter after winter.
All good fence maintenance starts with a thorough physical inspection of your fence. This is about more than just looks, inspections can help you extend the life of your fence by many good years if you know what to look for. You are looking for damage to the wood, like splitting and holes, along with structural damage, like loose fence posts. Identify any damage and address it immediately, and especially before winter sets in. The damage can get worse- and more costly to repair- the longer you wait.
Before fall and winter weather arrive it is important that you remove overhanging limbs, and trim shrubs away from the fence line. Overhanging limbs drip with water, snow, and ice melt throughout the winter. This drip can freeze, creating a heavy volume of ice on your fence. This additional volume may be heavier than you think, causing additional and unnecessary wear and tear. Tree limbs can also break off from the weight of freezing water and fall on your fence, causing major structural damage and disrepair. Proactive trimming will bring some peace of mind and avoid these problems in the first place.
Trimming should also be done on any shrubs that border your fence line. A big worry in the winter months is rot. Over a months-long period, the melting and re-freezing cycle of shrubs can create damage to your wooden fence, exposing it to the conditions for rot. Trim shrubs so that there is a gap between the leaves and the fence to mitigate this risk.
Along the same lines, man-made hanging objects should be removed for the same reasons as natural hanging objects. Leaning toys, shovels, and yard equipment can create snow and ice pile-ups and create the same damage as overhanging trees or shrubs. Proper fence maintenance is about mitigating the risk of rot as much as possible. Move these items to a covered location until the risk of a freeze is over.
While you can trim trees and shrubs and move yard tools away from the fence, you cannot control falling leaves from piling up around the yard, or from blowing to the fence line with the winter wind. While you may have the urge to rake leaves and yard debris to the edges of your yard, it is important that you do not leave this debris on the fence edge all winter. While piles of leaves and debris do not add a weight burden to your fence like overhanging trees, in colder months they will trap moisture that can cause warping in wooden fences and rusting in metal ones. Move leaves and debris away from your fence throughout the fall season, rather than in one large purge. If you wait until the end of the leaf-changing, you may be overwhelmed by a pile of leaves as large as all of the trees in your yard, and put off the task. If you pick up leaves and debris regularly throughout the fall and beginning of winter, especially at the beginning of the leaf change season, you can create a more manageable workload for yourself and avoid one big clean up at the very end. As with all of these winter maintenance tips, proactive care keeps the work of maintenance affordable and manageable.
Just as you would move leaf and yard debris, you should take care to move snow and ice piles away from the fence edge. As with leaves, snow may blow to the edge of the yard, or you may be in the habit of moving it to the yard edge to get the yard clear. You know by now that this should be avoided if you are looking to maintain the integrity of the fence material, whether it is wood or metal. Take care to shovel snow and ice away from the yard edge so it is not sitting on the edge warping or rusting your fence throughout the winter. Do not worry that you will have to get rid of the snow entirely as it will melt on its own. Moving tall piles so that they are not sitting against the fence material just makes it possible for the wood to have time to dry out rather than sitting wet for months. While you may already be overwhelmed with snow shoveling your home’s trafficked pathways, this little bit of extra work makes a world of difference for fence longevity.
In the middle of the tedium and doldrums of winter you may feel like the cold and dark days will never end. But spring always springs eventually! When it does, you’ll want to make sure your fence and yard are ready so you can enjoy the much-awaited spring sun with your family and friends. You can make sure your fence is ready with a thorough inspection and a good spring cleaning.
Just as you did at the beginning of the season, at the end of winter you will want to inspect your fence thoroughly for winter wear and tear. As the snow melts away check and recheck each part of the fence for any signs of decay, wood splitting, or holes. Even if you checked before the winter set in, look for loose fence posts that may have come loose from the weight of winter melt and other wear and tear. The weight of snow and ice throughout the winter could cause your whole fence to fall over if each post is not secured. Aesthetically, you should check for wear on the wood stain. You can restain the wood in parts where it has faded so that you may avoid the cost and work of a full restain.
If you keep up a thorough maintenance routine, you may be able to avoid major costly fence repairs and enjoy a beautiful fence upwards of twelve years. When spring comes your fence will be in tip top shape for spring and summer entertaining.