Fences around a home help to create a more peaceful and safe space where pets and children can use the yard freely without being open to the street or neighborhood beyond. A fenced-in home gives more privacy and can also help to increase the curb appeal of a home and raise home value. However, a poorly constructed fence can be an eyesore, as well as perform poorly and fail more quickly than one that is properly constructed.
Fences are typically composed of either wood, metal, composite, PVC, and masonry. While there are pros and cons to each of these types of fencing materials, wood is the most common type used at most homes today. The most popular wood types include Douglas fir, pine, cedar, cypress, and redwood. Pine and fir woods are typically inexpensive and easy to work with while cedar, cypress, and redwood are more expensive but usually last longer.
Using pressure treated wood for the fence posts is recommended as this will help to prevent early deterioration and decay. Pressure treated wood is wood that has been put through a process that uses high pressure to force a mixture of water and preservatives deep into the wood to help extend its lifespan. This type of wood is commonly used for fence posts as these posts are in contact with the ground, which increases the potential for moisture in the soil to cause rot and decay.
Similar to the pressure treated wood, the wood used for the fence boards should be painted or stained in order to extend their lives. This is typically only necessary when using regular wood (such as fir or pine) and is not required when using more naturally resistant woods (such as cedar or redwood), although staining can be beneficial and help to protect these woods more effectively. These types of naturally resistant woods have natural rot and insect resistant oils that help prevent premature deterioration of the wood. If the wood used for your fence is softer fir or pine type, painting or staining the wood will help keep the wood protected from the elements.
Hardware in the fence should also have all of the holes filled with the appropriate fasteners. A common cause for early failure or sagging in a fence is hardware that was installed without all of the necessary fasteners, leading to the fence framing members to become loose or to become disconnected. Check for missing hardware and fence connections and for gaps in the hardware where fasteners should be driven.
Fence boards should be installed with a small gap between the wood and the ground to help prevent early deterioration. This gap should be a minimum of two inches in order to prevent the wood from absorbing moisture. Moisture and soil contact can cause the boards to swell and rot and can make the wood an easier target for wood destroying organisms. Wood in contact with the ground can allow pests such as termites and carpenter ants to gain a foothold and significantly damage a fence. If having a gap under the fence is a problem due to pets or children, a rot board can be used instead. These boards, also called kickboards, are set horizontally under the fence boards and are composed of pressure treated wood like the fence posts to help prevent deterioration and discourage pests while in contact with the soil.