Wooden fences are a useful addition to any home when they are properly maintained. In addition to providing privacy and security for your property, a traditional wood fence can also enhance the appearance of your home. There are also other types of fences, including vinyl and aluminum, that can enhance your home's appearance for a more unique look or match your neighbors. The fence you choose reflects your style and personality, not just its practical use. The fence may need to be repaired or replaced eventually if you want to keep it looking its best.
An old fence can become a nuisance instead of an asset when it starts to wear down. Your homeowners association may also be notified if your fence is in poor shape. Fences are required to be in good condition by many homeowners' associations, since rotting fences can make the neighborhood appear run-down. You have two options if your fence has begun to deteriorate: repair it or replace it. You must examine your fence closely, evaluate the damage, and decide how much you are willing to invest in its future before deciding which option to choose.
Examining the damage
Assessing the damage to your fence is the first step to deciding if it needs to be repaired or replaced. It is crucial to determine the condition of your fence before estimating the cost and labor involved in repairing it. To understand what sorts of fence repairs each type requires, let's take a look at some of the most common fencing materials.
Fences made of Wood
The most common type of residential fence is a wood fence. They are a hallmark of suburban life, and for good reasons. The benefits of wood fences include their cost-effectiveness, good looks, and ample privacy and security. Unwanted guests and prying eyes can be kept out and children and pets can be kept in.
It is also unfortunate that wood fences are most likely to suffer damage from wear and tear over time. As time passes, the sun, wind, and rain will age the wood, causing your fence to deteriorate. Wood fences degrade differently depending on the type of wood. The lifespan of an inexpensive spruce fence may be only 4 to 7 years. The lifespan of a pine fence is 5 to 12 years. In terms of durability, cedar can last anywhere from 15 to 30 years, depending on weather conditions and maintenance. Treated lumber can be used for wood fences for 20 years or more, so it makes sense that treated lumber is also one of the most common materials.
What to look for when spotting damage to a wood fence
A wood fence may have cracks and holes as the first signs of damage. It is usually possible to repair these with wood putty, but if you want the fence to match, you will need to paint over the repairs. It's also important to look out for discoloration if you've left the wood its natural color. If you notice yellow or gray spots on your fence, the wood is deteriorating, and either the affected pickets or the entire panel may need replacement. In most wood fences, rot at the base of the posts is the most serious problem. Your fence's posts hold it up, but over time, they'll start to show wear at the bottom, even on a well-maintained fence.
If your property has inadequate drainage or is in a humid or rainy climate, posts can deteriorate more quickly. The shifting soil and rot of wood posts can cause the fence to lean, warping the entire structure. The footing of a post is usually cemented, so replacing a damaged post requires digging out the whole footing. If only a few posts are leaning, you may be able to fix them rather than replace the whole fence.
The best way to inspect your wood fence is to start at the posts and work your way up. Keep an eye out for signs of rot or insect damage close to the ground, then follow the post upward, checking for cracks or leaning. Make sure the pickets are in good condition by inspecting them for cracks, holes, and discoloration. Count how many posts and pickets are damaged on the entire fence.
Fences made of Aluminum
The longevity of aluminum fences can be extended if they are properly maintained. The cost of proper maintenance, however, can be high. Keeping an aluminum fence free from rust or bubbling paint will prevent it from prematurely aging. It's important to sand down any rust or bubbling paint on the aluminum and re-paint it to prevent further damage. Maintaining an aluminum fence this way can extend its lifespan by decades. In contrast, there are other types of damage to aluminum fences that can't be resolved by responsible maintenance.
We see a lot of problems with older aluminum fences that don't have anything to do with the fence itself. Rather, it is the ground beneath the fence that is the problem. It is possible for soil to settle and shift over the years and decades. It is possible for the posts to slip out of place when the ground below shifts, putting strain on the rest of the fence. Railings and joints made of aluminum have very little give, so a shift of just a couple of inches can cause warping or cracking. Due to the fact that aluminum fences are often welded together, repairing a warped fence may require the assistance of a professional builder.
A falling tree or a collision with a vehicle can also damage aluminum fences. Aluminum fences can be dented or bent by a strong impact, and there is no way to remove the dent. Whenever a fence section becomes bent out of shape, it must be removed and replaced by an expert.
Fences made of Vinyl
If you want to build your fence and then forget about it, vinyl is your best friend. Basically, vinyl fences are plastic. The color is built-in, so it is not subject to cracking, peeling, or fading, and it is water and insect resistant. Only an occasional watering with a garden hose or power washer is required to keep it clean.
Vinyl is not prone to rot or water damage. It is usually the UV rays in sunlight that degrade vinyl fences, and shifting soil that causes them to warp. In the long run, sunlight can cause vinyl fences to become more brittle and susceptible to cracking.
There is no rot in vinyl fences, so cracked panels are likely to be found. Typically, vinyl fence panels come in complete panels, so repairing cracks requires removing and replacing the damaged panel. Fortunately, vinyl fence panels are relatively inexpensive, and replacing one is substantially less expensive than replacing an aluminum fence section.
What to look for when deciding whether to repair or replace your fence
Considering the cost and longevity of your fence can help you decide whether to repair or replace it. It makes sense to replace your fence if repairing it is more expensive than replacing it. Even if repairs are less costly in the short term, replacing may still be a better option in some instances. Repairing a fence a little at a time may not be worth it if it has reached the end of its useful life. Even if you make a small repair today, you'll need more repairs very soon, and the repairs will only continue to accumulate. You may want to consider replacing your fence if it is nearing the end of its expected lifespan before getting locked into a cycle of constant minor repairs.
Taking 20% into account
According to most fencing professionals, a fence should be replaced when more than 20% of its components need repairs. It is determined by the fence material and style how much of the fence needs to be repaired. It may only require a few pickets to be repaired on a wood fence, whereas entire panels must be replaced on a vinyl fence. Estimate the damage by looking at what needs to be repaired. It's probably time to replace your fence if more than 20% of it needs work.
There may be some exceptions to this rule depending on the material. For example, aluminum fences can be expensive to repair, but they can also be expensive to replace. It is recommended that the 20% rule be applied along with a cost comparison. It may make more sense to keep your existing fence if replacing it is significantly more expensive than repairing it, even if 20% of it is damaged. Professional estimates are the best way to determine whether your fence needs to be repaired or replaced.
Get a free estimate from Buckhead Fence if you're considering replacing your fence. If you need a new fence, we'll let you know what it will cost and whether we recommend replacing it or repairing it.