December 5, 2023

How to Build a Maintenance Free Wood Privacy Fence

How to Build a Maintenance Free Wood Privacy Fence

The title of this article may seem like an oxymoron to some people. It is often assumed that a wood fence requires constant upkeep. But that does not need to be the case. The key to building a wood fence that never needs maintenance is the color gray. Cedar will turn a beautiful shade of gray as it weathers. People often stain a cedar fence to keep it from turning gray. And yet this same gray color is desirable in two other so-called maintenance free products: composite decking and vinyl fencing.

Composite decking has become the material of choice for many homeowners. One of the most popular composite deck colors is gray. Composite deck manufacturers sell decking with names like Cape Cod Gray, Weathered Wood, Natural Cedar and others. These colors are meant to mimic the beautiful cedar fences so common in the northeastern United States. Vinyl fencing is very popular as it is assumed to be maintenance free. Vinyl fences are most often white or tan. Gray vinyl fencing costs more and is also more difficult to obtain. Gray vinyl fencing goes by the names Weathered Cedar, Cedar Tone and others. Once again, these products are designed to look like cedar that has been exposed to the elements. Two popular products that are intended to be maintenance free are in fact designed to look like weathered cedar. This leads to an interesting question. When building a privacy fence why not just use real cedar and get the same effect for less money?

A properly built privacy fence requires high quality materials. The cedar pickets need be at least 3/4″ thick. The thin pickets found at the box stores should not be used as they will warp over time. The best stringers are rough-cut cedar 2 x 4 x 8’s. Never use treated wood as it will twist and warp as it dries. The only part of a wood privacy fence that should not be cedar are the posts. A wood fence will last only as long as the posts do. Cedar posts look nice initially and will also turn gray. But wood posts eventually rot because they are in constant contact with the ground. Steel posts will never rot. Always use a steel post that can be covered to look like wood.

Cedar is a naturally rot resistant material that never requires any maintenance. The only time that a cedar fence needs to be stained or painted is when trying to keep the wood from weathering naturally. An unstained cedar fence will last just as long as a stained one does. Building a maintenance free wood privacy fence is really very simple. Use high quality cedar materials and then just leave it alone. By using covered steel posts you can have a beautiful, and maintenance free, wood privacy fence that will last a lifetime.