Wooden Fence Care

Home-maintenance expert Darcy Westlind shares tips and techniques for maintaining a wooden fence.

Because fences are exposed to the elements of nature, inspect your fence for damage each spring.

Check all sections for splits, loose nails, rot and termite infestation. Inspect the posts for decay both below and at ground level, along areas where rails are attached to the posts and at the tops of posts. To check below ground level, dig about six inches below the surface.

If a post is rotting below ground, it should probably be replaced. But here's a quick fix that will get you through the rest of this season. Drive a 3- to 4-foot piece of 3/4-inch pipe into the ground adjacent to the post, leaving about a foot above the ground. Attach the pipe to the post with a couple of U-straps, which are available at hardware stores.

To steady a wobbly, decay-free post, drive wooden wedges made from pressure-treated 2 x 4s into the ground around the post. Wrap it with wire, then attach firmly to the post with screws. Take preventative measures. If a post has a flat top, cut it at an angle to allow water to run off, or purchase a metal or wooden cap from a hardware store. It may cost a bit, but in the long run, it will save money. Using primer and a good, quality paint, you can then paint the caps to match the rest of the fence.

When applying water sealant, spray it on with a pump sprayer rather than trying to brush it on. Stabilize loose planks by replacing nails with screws. When painting, use a rough-surface roller for the job. This type of roller can be found at a hardware store.

Buy a 5-gallon can of paint rather than a couple of 1-gallon cans because the 5-gallon can comes with an in-can roller tray. This way you don't have to pour the paint into a roller tray and carry that around. Simply dip the roller straight into the can. A painting mitt is another great tool to paint a fence with because you can easily reach into the tight corners and seams. Just put on the mitt, dip and dab.

To keep paint from dripping onto your grass while you paint, slide a large flat piece of cardboard under the fence.