A quality fence is an excellent addition to any home. Fences can keep your home secure, improve your privacy, and block unwanted views and noise from your backyard. Fences are also ornamental, and a useful fence can also be a beautiful fence. A high-quality fence that complements your home can increase its value and its curb appeal. But fences, like the rest of your home, are not impervious to the ravages of time. Over months and years, weather and wear can break down even the best fences. Regular maintenance can do a lot to keep your fence looking like new for as long as possible. But as your fence starts to show its age, many homeowners are left asking whether they should repair or replace a fence. Here are some tips from our TrustDALE certified fencing companies.
The 20% Rule
Let’s begin with perhaps the most straightforward metric for deciding if you should repair or replace your fence. Fence builders call this the 20% rule. The rule states that if more than 20% of your fence needs repairs, you should probably forego repairs and jump right to replacement. It’s an easy rule to follow because it’s based on an easily measurable metric. But as straightforward as it is, there is also more nuance to the rule than it would appear.
The first thing to know about this rule is why it makes sense in the first place. After all, it would seem that if a fence only needs 20% repaired, that should be cheaper than replacing 100% of the fence. While that might be true, it does not take into account what a 20% damaged fence really means. Your fence will never be 100% damaged—that is unless it has completely crumbled. A fence that needs repairs over 20% of its length is basically completely shot. With 20% of the fence broken down, the fence is no longer useful.
Another factor in the 20% rule is what may happen after you make the repairs. Damage does not occur in a vacuum. Instead, as one part of your fence shows signs of wear, the rest of your fence is also aging. If 20% of your fence shows signs of obvious damage, the rest of your fence is likely not far behind. So fixing 20% of your fence now doesn’t mean the other 80% is fine. It just means that you may have to repair more of the fence in a few months or a year. At that point, you may end up spending as much money restoring an old fence as you would installing a new one. And after spending all that money on repairs, you still have an old patchwork fence. If you spent that money on a new fence, you could have a brand new product that looks great and can last for years with minimal maintenance.
Finally, repairs are actually more expensive than new fencing. To explain, repairing 20% of your fence will likely cost more than 20% of what a new fence would cost. And when the repairs are done, you still have an old fence.
Repairing a Wood Fence
Wood is a forgiving material that is easy to work with without specialized tools. This can make do-it-yourself repairs relatively straightforward for most homeowners. But wood is also a natural material subject to rot, insects infestations, and damage from the elements. These two facts taken together mean that you should work fence repairs into your standard maintenance schedule for a wood fence. Making small repairs as necessary will keep your fence in the best shape possible for as long as possible.
One type of damage to look for is insect infestation. Wood is a natural material, and all sorts of insects are happy to make their homes in your wooden fence or even eat it. Left unchecked, insects could destroy your fence, damaging it beyond repair. However, if you keep an eye on your fence and squash infestations early on, the necessary repairs are easy to make.
One telltale sign of insect damage is sawdust on the fence or beneath it. Carpenter bees and other insects that burrow into your wood may leave debris in the form of sawdust. If you find sawdust, look upward to find the source, usually a small hole in a post or picket. Depending on the type of insect, the remediation process may vary. But in every case, once the insects are gone, you need to fill the hole. Numerous products are available at your local hardware or home improvement store just for this purpose. If you’re not sure what to use, you can ask an employee for help.
Moss, Mold, and Algae
In addition to insects, moss, mold, and algae are more than happy to consume your wood fence. Luckily, it is not hard to minimize the damage. If you spot moss, mold, or algae, you need to kill it and then remove it. You can usually kill it with a bleach solution and remove it with a hose or power washer. In some cases, cleaning fluids can be added directly to the power washer to clean your fence in a single step.
Most wood fences are held together with nails and occasionally with screws. Over time, heat, cold, and moisture cause the wood to expand and contract. That motion can loosen the nails, and boards may begin to come loose. In many cases, simply hammering a nail back into place can solve the problem. In other situations, you may need a new nail or screw. Either way, this is an easy fix that can head off much more expensive repairs down the road.
Cracks and Holes
Wooden fences can develop cracks and holes in the wood from slow weathering or impact damage. Either way, if you can catch the damage before it spreads, it’s not hard to fix. For small holes, a little wood putty and a fresh coat of paint can make your fence look like new. If a board is cracked, it should be easy to replace just the broken board. A fresh coat of paint will help it blend.
Repairing a Metal Fence
Metal fences are a bit harder to repair. Unlike wood, working with metal requires specialized tools that most homeowners, even the handy ones, don’t have just lying around. However, you can make some small repairs yourself.
The most common damage you’ll find on a metal fence is rust or corrosion. Metal fences are coating with a powder coating, paint, or both to seal them from moisture and other weather. That can help reduce corrosion. But if the paint or coating is breached, your fence can begin to rust or corrode. About twice a year, you should do a full inspection of your fence. Walk its length and look carefully for any cracked, flaked, or bubbling paint. Also, look for powder from corrosion or rust-colored streaks. If you find an area with rust or corrosion, the remediation is simple if you have the right tools.
First, you need to remove the damaged paint. To remove the paint, you need a sander, usually a rotary sander with a special head for metal. If you don’t have one, you may be able to rent one from a home improvement store. Use the sander to remove any damaged paint and smooth the transition from the painted area to the bare metal. If there is any structural damage from the rust or corrosion, fill it in with anti-rust filler putty. You can often find metal filler material at auto body shops. Apply the putty according to the instructions on the packaging. When the putty is dry, you can repaint the area to blend it with the rest of your fence.
Replacing a Damaged Fence
If your fence is more than 20% damaged, or if the damage is too extensive to repair, you may have to replace your fence. Luckily, finding a reliable fence company isn’t hard when you have TrustDALE. Select a TrustDALE certified fence company like Bravo Fence, and you will get the best customer service, competitive prices, and a quality product. And every TrustDALE certified business is backed by Dale’s trademark $10,000 Make-It-Right™ guarantee.