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How Do I Fix My Wooden Fence?

Updated September 11, 2020

Valerie A.

By Valerie A.

Time, weather and general use may take a toll on your fence. Fences aren't doing their job if they're sagging, damaged, mildewed, dirty or broken. Here are some common fence problems and fixes.

Is the Post Damaged?

Reinforce posts by adding braces to support the post base. Simply drive the brace into the ground and attach the brace to the undamaged section of the post.

Is Your Fence Gate Sagging?

If the fence is sagging, reinforce it with a no-sag kit to bring it back to square.

Is Your Fence Dirty or Mildewed?

If your fence is dirty or has mildew, use a pressure washer to clean it. Let it dry completely and then apply stain.

Are Animals Digging Underneath Your Fence?

If your dog digs under your fence, you may need to address a behavioral issue at some point. In the meantime, you can create a physical barrier to prevent or discourage digging.

  • Lay a row of patio pavers or landscape timbers along the bottom inside of the fence perimeter.
  • Bury chicken wire or hardware cloth in an L-shape at the base of the fence. This method can also keep unwanted animals out of your garden. Make sure the mesh size of the fence is large enough or small enough that your pet's paws won't get caught in it.

General Fence Maintenance

While regular maintenance won't totally eliminate the need for repairs in the future, it will help to preserve the fence and maintain its longevity.

  • Inspect your fence regularly.
  • Clean regularly with products and methods recommended by manufacturers.
  • Be careful when using mowers and string trimmers around fences and posts.
  • Avoid letting mulch or soil pile up against the bottom of fence posts and panels.
  • Keep hinges, latches and any moving parts well lubricated with grease or oil.

Fence Posts

Fence post issues (rotted, loose or leaning) all require the same basic fixes. Loose or leaning posts can be reinforced. A rotted post will most likely need to be dug out and replaced with a new post set in concrete.

Here are some specific fence maintenance tips based on fence type. If your fence repairs are extensive, it may be time to replace it.

Wood and Bamboo Fences

Wood is especially prone to expanding and contracting over time. Weather (either dry or wet) can cause sagging, splitting or warping. It's a good idea to apply stain or sealer soon after installation to protect your wood fence. Follow the specific instructions for your type of wood for how soon you can apply.

If you have to replace boards or panels, remember that the new wood will be a different shade than the old. Painting or staining the entire fence is one remedy, or you can let it weather naturally.

Vinyl Fences

Vinyl is a low-maintenance fence compared to other options, but any fence can get dirty. Regular cleaning will keep it attractive for years. Replace damaged or cracked components as you find them. Make sure the posts are still plumb and solidly in the ground.

Metal Fences

Metal fences are durable and need little maintenance. Fix the occasional scratch by cleaning away rust and touching up the paint.

Electric or Wire Fences

Make sure your electric fence is grounded and that the insulators aren't broken. Wire and woven wire fences need sufficient — but not excessive — tension to be effective. As with any fence, regular inspection is advised.

Planning Your Fence

To help ensure longer fence life, remember these pre-installation tips:

1. Consider the amount of post-installation maintenance required when you are choosing a fence.

2. Evaluate slopes on your property and choose the proper fence for your landscape.

3. Before digging, call 811 to be connected to local utility companies. They'll mark any underground service lines.

4. Review and follow all local fencing laws and ordinances.

5. Measure correctly, dig the proper post hole and ensure posts are plumb and level.

For more tips, watch our DIY Basics videos:

What Do Level and Plumb Mean?
How Do I Set a Post in Concrete?
How to Choose a Pressure Washer

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