The Complete Guide to Caring for Your Northern White Cedar Fence

A lockboard fence. One of the biggest advantages to installing a Northern White Cedar fence is that it will last a lot longer than most wood fences. Cedar is naturally rot-resistant, resists knotholes, and resists insects. It’s well suited to form the basis of any outdoor structure.

If you take care of your fence in the right way then it should last for the next 15 years, and should remain beautiful until it’s time to replace it. 

Unfortunately this fence is not maintenance-free. It will require some attention throughout the year if you want it to look its best in the long run. 

How do you feel about grey fencing? 

Some people really love the gentle silver color of an aged cedar fence. Others can’t stand it and want a much different look.

If you want a silver fence then mostly you leave it alone, but keep in mind it will lose some of its natural rot and insect resistance. Those are provided by the living wood cells that remain on any given cedar plank. Without any treatment whatsoever your fence will lose that layer of cells to UV rays and water damage. 

In general we don’t recommend letting your fence turn grey. You can always use a grey wood stain if you love the color but don’t love the idea of seeing your fence rot earlier than it has to.

You can restore a fence that’s gone grey. Pressure washing will be your first step. That task is best done during the summer (see below). 

See also: 

Why Cedar Turns Grey, and What You Can Do About It 

How Can I Restore My Ugly Grey Fence?

Spring Check-Ups

Your fence won’t need a lot of attention in the spring, but we do recommend checking to ensure that the soil hasn’t shifted around your fence posts. You can check this by running a piece of string along the top of the fence, checking to ensure it remains level. 

We will happily do repairs for you once the weather is warmer than 25 degrees. If you don’t do this check-up and don’t get those repairs you could find your fence starts to lean and list well before it should need replacement! 

Got a dog? We recommend checking to see if your dog has dug under the lower perimeter of the fence as well. It’s important to fill in any holes you find both for your dog’s safety and for the fence’s stability.

See also: 

How to Stop a Dog from Digging a Fence

Summer Fence Care

In summer you have to evaluate what your fence actually looks like.

Some years you’ll just need to clean it up and apply a brightener to restore it to its freshest, nicest look. If you spot light mold you might just want to run it down with OxiClean and a good scrubbing before the brightening.

Other years you’ll have to give it a thorough pressure washing and then re-stain it. P.S., when you clean your fence, avoid chlorine-based cleaners. It’s too hard on the wood and damages your fence fibers. It makes it harder for the stain to stick to the wood and makes the whole job less effective. 

Next, strip the old stain and prepare to apply a new one. 

A good oil-based stain (not latex, gel, or water-based stains) prevents a multitude of problems, from rot to checking (the cracks you see in some wooden fences). We recommend stain over paint because stain lasts a lot longer and does a much better job of protecting the wood. Paint can sometimes peel right off the fence, in fact, and doesn’t tend to look very nice. 

Yes, you can find stains in a multitude of colors! You can find them in red, blue, green, yellow, purple, almost whatever you want. If you think you’ll be limited to a basic brown fence, think again.

See also:

How to Remove Mold on a Fence

Should I Paint or Stain My Wood Fence?

What’s the Best Fence Stain Brand for a Cedar Fence?

3 Steps on Staining a Fence to Help it Look Nice Longer

The Best Wood Brightener and Cleaner Brands for Cedar Fences

Autumn Fence Care

In the autumn, you’re going to give your fence another check-up. Then you’re going to want to prune the plants around your fence if they’ve gotten a little overgrown so that they don’t trap moisture during the winter. They’ll be too hard to prune during the winter.  We also highly recommend getting the leaves raked up and the ground cleared for the same reason. 

If you neglected your summer fence care now’s the time to get on that before it gets too cold! 

Winter Fence Care

The main thing to do during the winter is to inspect your fence after any major snowfall. You’re looking for branches that might have come down directly atop your fence. You’re also looking for damage like missing planks, broken boards, or warped boards. 

The other thing you’re going to want to do is clean the debris away from your fence. Piles of leaves and banks of snow can trap moisture right next to the wood of your fence, then you’ll expose the planks to mold, mildew, and rot. 

If you did your staining during the summer months you’re ahead of the game, but you don’t want to force that stain to serve as the sole source of protection. 

See also: How to Protect a Wood Fence in Winter 

How to Check Your Fence After a Winter Storm

Is it time to replace your fence? 

After 15 years your fence is on borrowed time no matter how well you take care of it. Some lucky customers get to watch their fences last for as many as 30 years, but eventually it will give up the ghost.

Here’s how to tell if it’s time to repair your fence, or to replace it

Whatever course you choose, A1 Fence will be there to help. We help homeowners in the Milwaukee metro area adorn their yards and protect their family’s privacy with beautiful custom-made fences. If it’s time to say goodbye to your old fence, contact us. We’ll give you a free estimate on a gorgeous new one.

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