Fence Care & Maintenance Guide: Wood vs. Vinyl
Wood and vinyl are two of the most popular fencing choices for Calgary property owners but how do they compare when it comes to maintenance?
When you install a new fence, it’s likely that you plan for it to stay for the long term.
Nobody wants to change their fence every year.
That means you need to look after it.
Here in Alberta, we have the harsh climate to contend with: snowy winters and wet spring weather provide challenges for homeowners when it comes to warping, damage, and the potential for mould and mildew to grow on fences.
There is also a termite threat to homes in Calgary.
Here we look at what it takes to keep your fence in top condition and, in the process, pass on a few wood and vinyl fence maintenance tips.
How to clean/maintain vinyl fencing
Vinyl fence maintenance is relatively simple.
For starters, it does not rot or require painting or staining, as many wooden fences do.
If you are a low-maintenance homeowner, the vinyl option may be attractive because of this.
However, it doesn’t mean that a vinyl fence needs no care and attention at all.
To keep it looking fresh and clean in the harsh Calgary elements, you will need to follow these vinyl fence cleaning tips:
Rinse with the garden hose
Attach a spray nozzle to your plain old garden hose and wash your fence down from top to toe every couple of months.
This will remove grime and dirt before it has time to become too deeply ingrained and start caking.
Use a mild bleach cleaner with a soft brush
If you’ve missed a few months and your vinyl fence needs a slightly deeper clean than the hose will provide, you can use a little detergent or mild bleach cleaner with a cloth or soft brush to remove stains, mildew, mould, scuff marks, and more stubborn spots of dirt.
Vinyl fence cleaning tips: do not use a stiff brush on a vinyl fence as this may scratch it and always test a small area of the fence before using any cleaning agent.
Clear mildew with a special solution
Mildew will show as black spots, usually in sheltered areas of the fence. To remove stubborn mildew from your vinyl fence, try this solution:
- 1/3 cup detergent
- 2/3 cup Trisodium Phosphate
- 1 quart 5% Sodium Hypochlorite
- 3 quarts of water
Use a cloth or soft brush on the areas affected with mildew but wear gloves as this is a strong solution.
Power washing for a very dirty fence
For a really dirty vinyl fence, you may want to start with a high-pressure power wash to remove the main areas of dirt and mildew.
You can then follow up with a cloth and soft brush.
How to clean/maintain wood fencing
Many Calgary homeowners love the look of a wooden fence in their garden.
If you opt for a standard wooden fence, be prepared to put a little more maintenance work into it than with vinyl.
Many wooden fences are susceptible to rot, insect damage, discolouration, and other signs of wear and tear.
However, using a high-quality wood like cedar can make a significant difference in your fence’s longevity and ease of maintenance.
Pressure treatment also diffuses the wood with properties that resist insect damage and wood decay for decades.
To ensure that your fencing remains durable and looking good all year round, follow these wood fence maintenance tips:
Stain your fence after installation
You can minimize damage from rot by applying wood stain after installation. First, clean the fence thoroughly and allow it to dry for 1-2 days. Then use a brush, roller, or spray rig to apply coats of stain as necessary every 12 hours.
Make sure that the humidity is below 30 percent and the temperature is between 10-32 degrees Celsius when you apply the stain.
Paint your fence to extend its life
Painting your fence will also extend its life. This is a cheaper alternative to staining.
However, bear in mind that paint will crack and peel so it will require touching up from time to time.
You can paint using a brush, roller, or sprayer as long as the humidity is low and the temperature is above 10 degrees Celsius.
When doing touch-ups, sand each trouble spot first so that the paint is applied smoothly.
Reseal your fence for additional protection
Another good step for maintaining your wooden fence is to apply a sealer using a spray rig after you have stained or painted it.
With Alberta’s typical weather characteristics, you don’t have to reseal your fence as often as in rainy areas.
Keep any pets indoors until it dries to keep sealer off their fur.
Inspect for damage regularly
Inspect your wooden fence regularly for signs of rot and mildew, especially in areas with high humidity or after significant amounts of rain.
If you detect any problematic spots, use a mildew cleaner on them.
If there are hedges or bushes next to your fence, remove any bird’s nests. Also, remove accumulated leaves and dirt from the base to reduce the threat of rot and mildew.
Clean your fence regularly
Clean your wooden fence before staining, painting, or sealing it, and regularly afterwards.
You can use a power washer and a solution of one cup of white vinegar per gallon of water to thoroughly clean it.
Wash it again with water alone approximately 10-15 minutes after the power wash.
Wood fence maintenance tips: Not all of these steps will be necessary for all wooden fences. Some woods provide natural protection to many of the main problems that afflict other wooden fences.
Check with one of our fencing professionals if you’re not sure.
Wood vs. Vinyl for fencing
Wood and vinyl fencing are both great options for property owners in Calgary. Your choice will come down to several factors:
Some homeowners enjoy the process of taking care of their fence themselves while others would rather set and forget their fence.
This may influence your choice between wood and vinyl but, before you decide, consider all of the above factors – not just maintenance.