How to Maintain a Cedar Fence

Overview

Many people choose cedar when they put up new fences. After all, cedar is a durable wood that resists rot and insect damage. Even this material can still deteriorate, though. Weather and dirt can dull the surface, and constant exposure to moisture can weaken it. Careful maintenance can keep a cedar fence from lowing its warm glow and becoming weak or unsightly. Fortunately, cedar requires very little work to keep it in good condition.

Inspection

Step 1

Inspect the cedar fence for damage. Do this at least once per year, and ideally once every few months. Perform a visual inspection from a few feet away; then look closer at potential problem areas.

Step 2

Pay attention to signs of damage to your fence, which may include staining around nails and screws, cracks, dulled or dirty patches, and rot. These will only get worse if neglected.

Step 3

Make a list of areas that need to be repaired or cleaned. Don't put off repairing weak posts or rotted boards.

Cleaning

Step 1

Wash the fence. Over time, cedar fences can develop a layer of dirt and accumulated grime that dulls their appearance. Use a pressure washer to clean your cedar fence and restore it to its old beauty. You can usually rent a pressure washer for a few hours at a relatively low cost.

Step 2

Choose a pressure washer that operates at a relatively low pressure (between 1,500 and 2,000 psi) since high pressure can damage your fence. Choose 15 and 25 degree spray tips. Ask your rental company to demonstrate use of the pressure washer.

Step 3

Tie back plants near the fence. Dress in water repellent clothing. Pressure wash on a warm day, when you don't mind getting wet.

Step 4

Begin spraying with the wand about 18 inches from the surface of the wood. Use a swinging motion to move the wand slowly across the length of the board, keeping the width of the spray aligned with the width of the board. You'll see the wood start to look brighter as the surface is washed away. Stop washing when the wood stops changing color.

Repairs

Step 1

Remove corrosive fasteners from the fence. Some types of fasteners will react with your fence to create brown or black stains. Remove nails and screws around stained areas, then clean the stain with oxalic acid or TSP. Both of these chemicals are available at most hardware stores.

Step 2

Replace the old fasteners with new, noncorrosive ones made from stainless steel, aluminum, or double-dipped galvanized steel. These fasteners are more expensive, but will keep your fence from looking dirty or dingy.

Step 3

Remove any damaged boards and replace them with new cedar. It will soon weather to match the rest of the fence. Countersink protruding nails, or replace them with new, noncorrosive fasteners.

Sealing

Step 1

Apply wood stain to a new or weathered fence to bring back some of the original glow, or leave the fence in its naturally weathered condition. Use a semitransparent oil-based stain made for exterior use. Apply with using a brush or medium nap roller.

Step 2

Allow any stain to dry for at least 24 hours. Then coat the fence in a clear, UV-resistant sealant to reduce future damage. Use a similar brush or roller to the one you used for the stain. Allow the wood to absorb as much sealer as it will accept, and use more than one coat if you need to.

Step 3

Work sealer into all niches and corners with a brush. Keep your edges wet to prevent marks where the coats overlap.

Tips and Warnings

  • Regular nails and screws may stain your fence over time. Pressure washers can damage fences if used improperly. Never run a pressure washer without filling the hoses and pump first.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil and paper
  • Pressure washer
  • Oxalic acid or trisodium phosphate (TSP)
  • Non-corrosive nails or screws
  • Hammer or screwdriver
  • UV sealer
  • Paint brushes
  • Wood stain (optional)

References

  • Reader's Digest: How to Renew a Wooden Fence
  • Master Halco: Wood Fence F.A.Q.
  • Fence All: FAQ for Wood Fences

Who Can Help

  • The Stucco Company: Cedar fence need any maintenance?
  • Rafter Tales: Wood Fencing Options & Maintenance
  • American Fence Company: Wood Cedar Fence FAQs
Keywords: cedar fence maintenance, maintain cedar fence, cedar fence care

About this Author

G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, WI. She has been producing print and web content for various organizations since 1998, and has been freelancing full time since 2007. Articles have been published throughout the web. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, WI.

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