When it comes to wooden fencing, there are several things that can cause it to crack or splinter. Being aware of these factors will enable you to take preventive measures for preserving your fence. This blog will help you understand the life cycle of your fence and what causes fence splintering, so you can better preserve it.
Understanding how Moisture affects Wood
Whenever a tree is felled, the wood begins to dry out. Wood dries from the outside in. Water causes wood to swell, or expand, while drying causes it to shrink. Thus, when the outside of a section of trunk dries, it can crack, or check. Checking is a completely natural phenomenon and no cause for concern.
When you install your fence, you expose it to sunlight, causing most remaining moisture to evaporate. As a result, you will probably notice some minor cracks and checks after the first few months. At this point, your wood should remain relatively intact for the rest of its life cycle. However, if your wood is untreated, it will continue to expand and contract as it sees periods of moisture (rain, fog, etc.) followed by dry periods. As it does, it can form new cracks over time, ruining its rustic beauty and compromising its strength.
Solving the Moisture Problem
If you allow your wooden fence to soak up water on wet days and dry out on dry days, you may be disappointed with how quickly it falls into disrepair. Even if you live in a dry climate, moisture can get into it via fog, or during a rainy season. The best way to address the problem is before you install the fence.
Prior to install, you should consult with your fencing provider to be certain of your lumber’s quality. Pre-dried wood should not experience checking in the early months. In addition, certain species of wood resist drying out more than others. By choosing wisely, you will hedge against the effects of rain and sun.
Seal Your Wood!
Consult with your fencing provider to determine which brand of sealant is right for the wood you intend to use. You might even want to request fencing that has been pre-treated with sealant. Sealant locks out moisture. If your sealant also doubles as an effective treatment for your wood, it should protect your fence from wood-boring pests. Treatment can also serve as a stain, preserving the natural color of your wood, and revealing its grain.
If you intend to paint your fence, ask your fencing provider what kind of paint works best on your wood. Choose one that lasts a long time in your climate, and works well with other treatments you intend to use. The right paint will act as another layer of protection, keeping out pests and moisture.
When you install your wood fence, you (or your installer) really must know what you’re doing. A solid game plan takes into consideration how the materials will hold together years into your fence’s life cycle. We already discussed treated wood, but you also need to consider the nails and/or screws you will use.
Screws, and especially nails, can cause your wood to split. If you use nails, taking time to blunt them will reduce the chance that they will cause the wood to split. You can also use cut nails, which create a rectangular-shaped path into the wood. (Regular wire nails cut a circular path into wood). When hammered with the grain, cut nails hold pieces together more effectively, and exert less force on the surrounding wood. As such, they have a much lower chance of causing the wood to split.
If you hire a professional fence installer, they will understand how to avoid splits in your wood. They often employ drills to pre-drill holes, which reduces the stress that nails and screws place on wood. Drilling lowers the chance that the wood will crack along the grain. A professional installer will have better workmanship in general. If you do something every day for years, the best practices needed to avoid problems down the road become routine.
Wear and Tear
Another aspect of design to consider before installation is the usage. Will your fence get hit by soccer balls? Will your dog scratch at it? Will your kids climb on it? How can you install your gate to make it last a long time? Impacts to your fence can cause damage, making it weaker. Cracks also let in moisture, which again cause the wood to expand, and enable mold growth.
You can anticipate wear and tear by building a stronger fence. Use larger pieces, and more supports. Of course, larger pieces bring a greater risk of cracking in the heat. That means that they need to be treated properly.
Planning is Everything
The problems associated with cracking and splintering are best avoided during the planning stage. Properly sealed and treated wood should last you a long time. And proper use of nails and screws will avoid pressure between grains that causes cracking. If you are inexperienced, contact an expert installer with the knowledge of proper materials and practices.
All Counties Fence & Supply is available to meet your installation needs. Regardless of what kind of fence you want to install, we know how to help you get the most life and use out of it. Give us a call, and we’ll help you through your installation.