A well-designed fencing project adds an effortless touch and added value to your outdoor space, creating a beautiful, natural-looking perimeter.
Slatted screen fencing, in particular, is a style that’s become wildly popular for a contemporary architectural garden design. But, in order to convey that beauty, class and distinction, your fencing needs to look its best.
Like all natural materials, wood doesn’t last forever — sadly. Particularly in Britain, outdoors timbers can come in for a real battering. But by taking the right action, we can drastically extend the service life of a fencing project, often by decades!
Treating a new fence
If you’ve settled on a durable timber species for your fence, it doesn’t strictly need any treatment. A high resin content and natural protective oils in a well-chosen species — such as Siberian Larch, Western Red Cedar, LIGNIA® and even Iroko, for an exotic touch — provides it with plenty of natural resistance and durability.
However, a suitable treatment can extend this longevity even further — giving it extra protection against rainfall, insects, decay and splitting. Some treatments also guard against UV, preventing the fence turning a silvery-grey as it slowly weathers over the years.
Make sure you certainly treat the fencing posts (if you’re not using concrete) — particularly the part that will be planted in the ground. Before being planted, your posts should have been treated by being dipped into a preservative for around 24 hours.
When choosing a finish for the panels, think about what sort of aesthetic you have in mind. There are many types of treatment products on the market, available from clear, to semi-transparent, through to solid colour. Despite many being marketed as decking oils, these are also suitable for the job.
A good preservative will penetrate deep into the fencing, providing long-lasting protection. Usually, the more solid the colour, the greater protection it provides — although it does obscure more of the wood’s beautiful natural texture.
- Preservatives — If you’re looking for something that won’t alter the appearance, consider a clear treatment like Owatrol H4 Wood. With no UV filters, water-repellent treatments like this allow the colour of the wood to remain unchanged and slowly weather to a distinguished grey, whilst providing good waterproofing.
- Water-based stains — Available in a range of colour formulations, water-based stains can alter the colour whilst offering a good level of weather resistance, containing biocide and fungicides that protect your fence. They’re often seen as less messy and more environmentally friendly than their oil-based counterparts. For a long-lasting, matt finish, perhaps look at Owatrol Aquadecks (Honey).
- Oil-based stains — Like water-based stains, these can provide a desirable change in colour whilst enhancing the beauty of the wood’s grain. As a rule, oil-based stains tend to absorb and penetrate better into the timber, thus providing higher levels of protection. Take a look at Owatrol Textrol HES (Clear) as an example of a powerful, oil-based wood stain.
- Paint — There are many fence paints that offer excellent protection from the elements, at the expense of completely changing the colour of the fence — if that’s something you’re interested in.
When should I treat my fence?
If untreated, consider applying a protective finish to your fence with a few coats of treatment no longer than a few months after it has been installed.
Ideally, do it straight away and on a mild, dry day. Moisture can increase the risk of coating failure, whilst too much heat, humidity or direct sunlight can cause the treatment to dry too quickly, affecting the level of protection it provides.
Fence treatment: brush or spray?
For quality and consistency, we’d recommend using a soft brush to treat your fence. A high-quality brush will ensure an even, consistent and simpler job, although a sprayer can still provide decent, quick and easy results.
In terms of how many coats to apply, 2–3 usually does the trick, but make sure to follow the guidance on the specific product you purchase. The absorption qualities of the wood also play a role.
Fencing maintenance & upkeep: what’s required?
To keep your existing fence in tip-top condition, take a look at the preservatives we mentioned above.
The frequency of re-application will depend largely on the finish used. As a rough guide, water-repellent preservatives benefit from being reapplied every 1–2 years, whereas stains do the job for around 4 years — give or take — before needing a top up. Paints can last in excess of 8 years!
Your fence’s exposure to rain, wind and sun will also play a role in how frequently it needs a lick of oil — we’d recommend just keeping an eye on it.
When the time comes for reapplication, try to do so on a dry, but not too humid day, allowing several hours for the panels to dry out sufficiently. With the right treatment, expect several decades of service life from your fence.
Other top tips for fence treatment
- Make sure to mask off any areas you don’t want to treat; stains can affect stone, concrete and plants. A protective sheet on the grass is a good idea.
- Preparing your garden can be important — this means cutting back or strimming any greenery that could encroach on the job.
- When applying a finish, always test a small, inconspicuous area of your fence to make sure the colour is desirable.
- When painting, start at the top of the panel and work your way down.
- If applying a stain or similar preservative, go with the grain.
- Fence treatments can be very harmful to aquatic creatures, so keep well away from ponds, drains and the like — particularly when still wet.
How to restore an older fence
A streaky silvery-grey, your once-youthful fence might be starting to show its age — or perhaps you’ve recently come into ownership of a fence that is a bit past its best. If your fencing could do with a bit of TLC, follow these steps.
1. Strip it back
If the fence is an appealing style and is still structurally sound, it might be worth restoring. Give the posts a good shake — are they showing any signs of movement, or can you see any rot? If not, you’re good to go.
Firstly, remove any mold, mildew and dirt with a pressure washer. Once dry, strip it back to its bare wood by sanding each panel down, then clear away any remaining debris with a stiff bristle brush. If this is not enough, consider using some Owatrol Net-Trol to strip the wood back. This will reveal a fresh, new layer!
2. Fix it up
Once dry, any small breaks in the fencing panels can usually be fixed by gluing split pieces. If the fence panel has extensive damage, don’t worry, you most likely won’t have to replace the whole fence — simply the damaged part.
3. Finish things off
Then, depending on the look you’re going for, apply your finish — either a clear preservative, oil or a paint of your choice. Make sure to check and replace any loose or old fixings!
If you’re looking to maintain the classic grey aesthetic but give your fence a layer of defence, skip the sanding down. Simply clean the panels and apply a colourless, waterproof protection like Owatrol H4 Wood.
Beyond repair? Fancy a fencing change?
Sometimes, however, fences cannot be saved — possibly they have rotten posts or are structurally unsound — which will mean it needs to be replaced. That, or you’re just looking at incorporating a new style!
In this case, we’re here to help.
Got a fencing project in mind?
At Duffield Timber, we’re your people.
From the classic Siberian Larch to the beautiful, versatile Western Red Cedar — or even the mysterious, tropical vibes of Iroko — we supply quality fencing in a wide range of dynamic, durable and sought-after timber species. That’s not forgetting all your fencing fixings and finishes!
Get in touch with our team of timber experts through our contact page, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 01765 640 564. We’ve helped many people realise their fencing dreams — drop us a line to get your project up and running.