As weather changes, once again, in most parts of the world, we begin to look at taking care of outdoor areas, protecting them for the cold winter months. Such is the case with our garden gates and fencing. You may not consider these areas to be much of a maintenance concern, but with a little protection and loving care, you’ll find that your gates and fences will be much more durable.
Wooden fences and gates, even if they are made of resilient cedar or redwood, need to be waterproofed. The best thing to do is, at least once a year, power wash your fences and gates. This removes embedded dirt and cobwebs, and will break loose any insect eggs that may have been laid in crevices and cracks. If the fence has a good waterproof paint or stain already, you may be able to stop there. However, if the finish has deteriorated, you are much better off re-staining or painting the wood. This is usually easily done, depending on interference from landscaping.
Stains are available in both oil base and water base. Whichever you use, you should be sure to protect surrounding plants from overspray or from drips. Saturate the wood of the fence with the stain. The wood grain will swell with the stain, making the surface smoother. Besides reducing the likelihood of splinters, this will also reduce the amount of drag the fence encounters in a high wind, and provides less texture for bugs and dirt to cling to.
Paint should be carefully applied, as well. Paint will create a seal over the surface of the wood, rather than soaking into the grain as much as stain does. It may also take longer to dry. be careful if you’re spraying stain as you don’t want to get it onto your plants, maybe bring turn your outdoor plants into inside plants whilst the stain dries. Both stain and paint that are oil based will take longer to dry than water based products.
Different climates, of course, experience different amounts of earth instability. Extremely dry climates with clay soil may experience soil that draws back from the fence posts. Very moist soil may swell, creating an uneven perimeter along the fence line. Either of these situations can create a strain on the fence as fence posts “settle”, putting a bind on sections of the fence. In these cases, you may find that pickets or boards of the fence begin to pop loose or twist. This can also keep your gate from shutting properly. Check your fence at least once a year to see of you need to refasten loose boards or re-align sections of the fence. This will keep the structure from becoming weakened and, basically, tearing itself to pieces over the course of just a few years.
Remember that for a security gate to do its job. It must close solidly. As a fence and gate age, there may be some torque in the frame, posts, or boards. There may also be some failure in the hinges, causing the gate to droop. Either of these situations will keep your gate from closing or remaining closed, and should be dealt with promptly.