How to Choose between Repairing and Replacing Your Northern White Cedar Fence

Even the best fences start to show signs of wear and tear eventually. Though a northern white cedar fence lasts longer than most (15-30 years) eventually it will come to the end of its lifespan. And even before it does, winter weather, neighbors, and other unforeseen events can cause damage.

If you want to save money, it’s important to know when a fence can be saved, and when it can’t. Much depends on what’s wrong with the fence.


Discoloration is, in general, one of the easiest and cheapest problems to solve. A good pressure washing will kill mold and blast dirt away. It will also help you remove the topmost layer of dead wood cells.

A good oil-based stain should take care of the rest, just make sure the fence is completely dry before you begin. Before choosing the stain, take advantage of our extensive research into the available brands and varieties of stains; it will help you choose some of the best products out there.

Holes and Cracks

Another minor form of damage. You can usually take care of this problem with a little wood putty or wood filler. Keep in mind you’ll want to get a stainable wood filler. Otherwise you won’t be able to conceal the putty with a fresh coat of stain.

Keep in mind this solution only works if the cracks and holes are relatively small. If you keep applying the putty only to see the damage return again and again it may be time to replace the damaged board altogether.

Warping, Splintering, and Breaking

By the time the boards are warping or splintering they will need replacement. You can usually replace broken fence boards too.

While the above repairs are all DIY matters we would not recommend trying to DIY board replacements unless you’re very comfortable with your own handyman skills. Fence repair is one of the services we offer here in the Milwaukee metro area, and we’ll be happy to come and take a look.

Good news, though: you rarely need to replace the whole fence if this is your problem.


Like repairing broken boards, the repair of a leaning fence is rarely a DIY affair. However, you can determine whether you’re going to budget for a repair or a replacement simply by examining the horizontal rails on the fence.

Horizontal rails that can still hold a nail usually make it possible for us to give the fence another 5 to ten years of life, even if it’s leaning.

Other Considerations

Of course, you’re always going to want to take the age of your cedar fence into consideration when making your decision. If your fence is already 20 years old, it might make sense to go ahead and start planning for a fence replacement project.

Still not sure what to do? We’ll give you honest advice. Just call us and ask us to come and have a look. We’ll walk you through what we recommend and why, and will help you make the best decision for your home and yard.


  1. Ellie Davis says:

    I liked that you mentioned that those holes and cracks on my cedar fence can be fixed with no much problem. I have noticed my fence needs maintenance, but I’m not sure at what point it will need to be replaced. Thank you for your information on cedar fences, I will get in contact with a professional to explore my options.

  2. zepe says:

    I have found that oxygen bleach works great on weathered wood and readies the wood for staining. Oxygen bleach is not to be confused with chlorine bleach. It is the same basic material that’s in Oxyclean and Hydrogen Peroxide. Mix up your solution let it sit for a while and if you choose brush it prior to hosing it off. Allow the wood to dry before staining or painting. You can find suppliers online.

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