How to Fix a Wood Fence

Is your wood fence looking a little tired and worn out? If you live on a corner lot, you know the importance of having a wood fence to keep walkers from “cutting corners” on your lawn. Wood fences can also be cosmetically appealing, but sometimes when wood is left untreated and unfinished it will rot. It is very easy to fix a wood fence, if you have patience and a little bit of money. This is a weekend project that you can finish in one to two days. Follow these steps to fix your wood fence and you will be pleased with the crisp outcome of your project.

While some wood fences can be fixed with a little paint, others need replacement boards. Let’s assume in this scenario that your posts in the ground are in good shape, but you need new side boards. This is very common since most sideboards are thinner than the posts that are anchored in the ground.

1. Measure! Measure! Measure! Be sure to get out your measuring tape and make yourself a diagram. Measure the existing boards by starting on one end of the fence. Measure from that point to the middle of the next post. Then measure the next board from the middle of the post to the middle of the next post. Keep on going until you have each board measured.

Also be sure to measure the actual size of the board itself. Many fence boards are 1 x 4 inches. This is nice because 1 x 4 inch boards are very cheap at the home improvement store. If you need to replace the posts, measure those as well, usually those are 4 x 4 boards.

2. Take an inventory of the supplies you have. You may need to buy the materials you don’t have, otherwise borrow them from family members or neighbors. For this project, your budget will depend on how many boards you’ll need to replace and how many of the tools you do not own. You will need the following tools and supplies

belt sander (or a regular sander if you do not have one)
paint brushes
paint tray
paint rollers
skill saw
paint (you choose the color)
wood putty
sledge hammer
electric drill
new boards (in our case 1 x 4’s)
galvanized deck screws (you don’t want them to rust)

4. Now that you have measured and gotten the materials, it’s time to get to work! We’ll start with the prep work. Start by removing old, rotted boards from the fence with your sledge hammer. Then, remove any nails or screws that may be left in the wood posts.

Take your belt sander and sand down any splinters or rough patches on the posts. You’ll want to get a nice even surface if you can. If you cannot sand down to bare wood, at least do your best to get to a surface in which you can paint.

Once you have sanded, fill any holes with wood putty and allow it to dry. Once it is dry, sand down any overfilled holes so that they are level with the rest of the post. Wash your fence with a garden hose to remove all the dust and grime that sanding creates.

5. Now you should re-measure the fence and cut the boards to fit. Place a brick under the board and cut the board to length with your skill saw. Hopefully you will have someone around to help you hold the board up to the fence posts. Hold the board up, place the level on top and adjust as needed. Then simply screw the board into the fence post on both sides. Then, to add any additional boards below it, measure down from the bottom of the top board somewhere between 3 and 10 inches. This is completely up to your preference and the height of the fence. If you keep this consistent throughout the fence, it will look professional and clean cut. Continue this process, cutting, leveling and drilling until you have the fence completely finished!

6. The last part is the tedious part; priming and painting your fence. If you like the “natural” look you can leave your fence as is. Sometimes this looks a little strange though, to have old and new wood mixed together. If you don’t mind, you can simply leave the fence, but know that you’ll be replacing it again soon! Painting or putting a finish coat like polyurethane on a fence will help it last much longer. If you choose to paint your fence, you may want to start with a primer like Kilz that will kill mold and cover stains on the fence. It will also help seal the wood a bit which will help it accept the paint. A coat of primer and two coats of paint will help your fence look brand new and protect it long into the future!

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