How Can Winter Weather Affect Your Fence?
Living in the Chicagoland Area, harsh winter conditions are a fact of life. The same things you don’t like about winter, especially snow and cold, can also affect your fence. The winter preparation and care needed to preserve your fence for years to come will depend on the type of fence you own and the winter conditions that will affect your yard.
Wood fences require some maintenance prior to winter weather to make them last and look their best. A vinyl or aluminum fence will be fine without any preparation, which is one of the top benefits of those fence materials. No matter the type of fence you own, you should do some minor yard maintenance before and during winter, since things like snow and leaves can damage your fence.
If You Are Preparing Your Wood Fence
Winter creates a lot of moisture issues, which can be bad for your wood fence. Mold, mildew, and even rot can be the result of a harsh winter or can be created over time if your fence is not prepared for winter weather year after year. Choosing the right type of wood can help prevent moisture issues, but wood fences still need some annual care. Falling limbs and debris from nearby trees can also damage your fence over the winter.
What you can do to maintain your wood fence:
- Make sure your fence is in good condition before snow falls.
- Check for softwood, indicating rot, or tunnels with sawdust that are a sure sign of invasive wood-destroying insects.
- Use wood putty to patch small holes or cracks, and replace any boards that are damaged beyond repair.
- Gently clean snow and ice buildup off your fence with a broom
Prevent Moisture Build Up
Winter snows expose your wooden fence to excess moisture. Unlike a rainstorm in warmer months your fence won’t get many warm days to dry out. In particularly harsh winters you won’t get any warm days to work with.
Winter snows can expose your fence to the usual suspects: mold, mildew, and rot. If you take the time to stain your fence properly with a good oil based stain before the winter months come, however, you’ve won half the battle.
During the winter you’ll want to make sure you keep the spaces between your fences clean. Fallen leaves, debris, and snow can trap additional moisture where the wood is weaker.
Prevent Warping by Using The Right Kind of Wood
Temperatures don’t just take a steady plunge during the winter time. They rise and fall just as they do in any other season.
The extreme cold and the sudden rise in temperature can cause the wood to expand and contract at a rapid rate. This can create knotholes in your fence.
Knotholes aren’t just unattractive, they’re also places where pests like to hide. Furthermore, knotholes exacerbate pests.
Fortunately, White Cedar fences don’t create knotholes easily, especially if you’ve treated them with stain. There’s not much you can do about this except choosing the right wood to build your fence with in the first place.
Prevent Shifting Soil
The soil beneath your fence can shift when the frost thaws causing your posts to shift. Your fence posts can also loosen when the soil shifts. As a result of this shifting soil, the entire structure of your fence can be compromised.
When we install fences, we put our posts 3 feet underground to ensure we get past the potential frost line. By doing this deep, you eliminate any worries of your posts shifting or getting loose during the spring thaw. If you didn’t go deep enough, you’ll want to check your posts in earlier spring. Make sure they’re staying stable and straight.
You can run a string along the top of the fence to make sure it’s still level. If it’s not you’ll have to get your fence posts repaired. We do repairs in early spring, but only when the weather is warmer than 25 degrees as it’s nearly impossible to work with cement when temperatures are extremely cold.
Keeping the cement footings of your fence free of debris, dust, and dirt can go a long way as well. It can keep additional moisture from getting trapped next to the concrete, eroding it.
If You Are Preparing Your Vinyl Fence
One major benefit of vinyl is that it doesn’t need to be sealed or painted, but this doesn’t mean there’s no winter work to be done in your fence area. The big risk to your vinyl fence in winter is damage from ice and snow. While some festive decorations are fine, the weight of snow can cause sagging, warping, and even cracking in your vinyl fence.
What you can do maintain your vinyl fence:
- Keep snow away from your vinyl fence.
- Shovel snow towards the middle of your yard so it doesn’t drift and pile up along your fence panels.
- Gently brush off large amounts of snow off your fence and any decorations, being careful not to hit or scratch the fence itself.
- Use a broom instead of a snow shovel if possible to clean snow off your fence
Generally, as long as you keep ice and snow from piling up, your vinyl fence should little maintenance.
If You Are Preparing Your Aluminum Fence
Like vinyl fences, aluminum fences don’t have problems with rot or insect damage and are also fairly low maintenance. That doesn’t mean that aluminum fences don’t suffer under winter weather conditions. While some aluminum fences can be damaged by the weight of snow, shifting soil or gravel is a winter concern that can displace your fence and make it less stable and secure. The constant thawing and refreezing of winter precipitation causes the soil to expand and contract, which may compromise your fence posts.
What you can do to maintain your aluminum fence:
- Remove autumn leaves, snow, or ice dams to keep them in tip-top shape for the life of your fence.
- Make sure you use a reputable fence installer who will create proper cement footings for your fence post.
- Do not install footings when it’s very far below freezing since the cement will not set properly.
- Check the area around the footings throughout the winter.
- Keep trees and shrubs trimmed so your aluminum fence isn’t damaged or compromised by falling debris, such as tree limbs.
Maintaining a wood fence takes a bit more effort than a maintenance-free vinyl or aluminum fence that just takes some forethought when working on your driveway, sidewalk and yard over the winter months.
Taking these measures for preparation and maintenance will ensure that your fence will last for seasons and years to come and that you’ll get lots of enjoyment out of it. If you find yourself in need of a new fence, you’ll want to get this project out of the way before the weather turns. If you had a wood fence that you were unable to properly maintain, you may want to consider vinyl or aluminum next time, which requires less upkeep and may fit into your busy life better. Like it or not, we are in store for colder weather, but if your fence is in pristine condition, it will make a beautiful backdrop for snow and fallen leaves!