How to Make a Wood Fence Last
LESLIE: Vinyl fencing versus wood, that’s Graham’s question in Ohio.
How can we help you?
GRAHAM: Hey, well you can kind of answer my question regarding vinyl or wood.
GRAHAM: I want to replace a very hideously-ugly metal fence, chain link, with – originally I was looking into vinyl, got an estimate and got off the floor after they told me it was about 8,500. (Tom chuckles)
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s expensive.
GRAHAM: Oh my gosh. I was just – I mean it was funny, it was so expensive. So my question is, I’m planning to stay here for – we’re planning to stay here for a long time.
GRAHAM: I’m thinking about maybe putting up a wood instead and we want to do the total suburbia white picket fence kind of thing.
GRAHAM: Is it possible to do a wood picket fence and spray paint it white or do whitewash on it?
GRAHAM: And can I get a decent amount of years use out of it?
TOM: Yeah, you could clearly get 10 or 15 years out of a fence that’s properly installed and properly maintained. Here’s what you want to do. First of all, the posts are important. You’re going to use pressure-treated posts and when you install the posts, do not set them in concrete because concrete holds water against them and even pressure-treated wood will eventually rot. You want to set them in gravel. You want to dig a hole with a post-hole digger that’s not too much bigger than the post itself; drop the post in, surround it with gravel; and with a small tamping iron that looks like a long, steel rod with a small, metal disk on the end, you pack the area around the post. You will be surprised how sturdy those posts get with no concrete. They’ll be rock solid.
Then, with the fencing itself, I would recommend that you prime it and then put a solid stain on it as opposed to a paint. Because a solid stain is not going to peel and a paint will peel. So prime it first. And it’s easiest to do this before the fence is installed. So if you’re doing it yourself, you get all the fence sections delivered, set yourself up a little spray factory somewhere and you can go ahead and prime them and let them dry and turn them. And if you do a really good job with that, then you’ll get more years out of them.
And lastly, when you set the fence sections, don’t make the mistake of setting them too low on the ground. Leave a good 4 inches between the bottom of the fence and the top of the ground.
LESLIE: Otherwise, snow and water, it’s just going to destroy it.
TOM: And plus you’re going to get settlement and eventually you’ll find that fence planted right in the ground which readily accessible by termites. So if you do all those things, I think that you will find that you can get a good number of years out a wood fence. And by then, perhaps the cost of vinyl fencing will be down. (Leslie chuckles)
GRAHAM: Yeah. Let’s hope. Is there any truth to the do-it-after-a-full-moon type of philosophy?
TOM: I’ve never heard that one. Do share, Graham.
GRAHAM: Someone told my wife that if you do it during a full moon and you put the fence in, it’s going to keep it straight. And there was a story where they did half a fence that way and the other half not and then, down the road, part of the fence was straight and the other part that wasn’t done during a full moon wasn’t. And I think it was according to the Farmer’s Almanac.
TOM: I don’t know if it’ll make it straight but the installation will be much more romantic if you do it in a full moon. (Graham and Leslie chuckle)
LESLIE: But watch out for the werewolves.
TOM: Exactly. (chuckles)
GRAHAM: Yeah. I think my wife will like that answer, regardless. (Leslie chuckles)
TOM: Graham, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and good luck with that fence.