Your home, landscape, and outdoor structures take a beating during the cold winter months in the Northern part of the U.S. So you need a fence that can weather the winter. But what would be the best fencing for cold climates?
Improperly installed, a fence can rust, warp, or even collapse due to the shifting soil and changing temps during the cold winter months.
Choosing the right fencing material suitable for the winter weather is vital if you don’t want your investment to go to waste.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What Can You Do To Protect Your Fence?
- What Can You Do if Your Fence Has Damage From the Elements?
- FAQ About the Best Fencing for Cold Climates
What Types of Fences Are Best for Cold Climates?
There are four types of fence that stand up best to cold weather. These options allow you to pick one that matches your aesthetics, purpose, and budget.
Wood is one of the more popular types of fences because of its traditional look. The type of wood certainly plays a big part, having different rates of expansion and contraction. And the most winter-resistant wood fencing options include the following:
- Treated pine
However, the manner of construction is also a huge factor. Wood and nails have different rates of expansion, which is inherent in wood screws. As the temperature drops, it’s not uncommon for the attachment points to loosen up – forming gaps that will grow over time.
Still, this doesn’t mean you can’t go with wood for your fence if you live in a state with cold weather conditions. The longevity of a wooden fence is largely dependent on the way it’s installed as well as its regular maintenance.
Wood fences built for privacy will be more susceptible to damage during winter. Since they have no space between the slats, they will not be able to handle sideway forces by wind, rain, and snow. Just imagine what will happen if a snow plow pushes a snow bank onto the privacy wood fence – the fence will take the whole brunt of the force.
Except for wood types that are naturally water-resistant, this fencing product can take a beating from water damage. Sealants can help, but they do not necessarily guarantee the wood becomes totally impervious to moisture. While wood can offer the most variety in terms of aesthetics, it also requires more maintenance.
When it comes to aesthetics, a PVC fence can just as easily mimic the classic look of a wood fence right up to the grains and knots. But compared to wood, vinyl or PVC fences handle cold temperatures differently. There’s no need to worry about expansion and contraction.
Instead of the usual problems inherent in wood fences, a vinyl fence gets less flexible the colder it gets. It becomes fragile and brittle with prolonged exposure. As a result, it becomes vulnerable to shock damage during the harsh winter weather. Still, PVC is a tough material that requires constant exposure to extreme conditions before it gets compromised.
But you can stop worrying about the brittleness (which used to be a common problem with this type of fence) because most manufacturers today are addressing this issue using anti-impact inhibitors. As such, fences made of the latest vinyl materials can remarkably withstand cold weather, as well as other conditions brought about by the elements.
Similar to aluminum, vinyl is also rust-proof. Plus, it requires almost no maintenance – the same as wrought-iron fences. However, the main drawback of vinyl fences is also due to their excellent features. This type of fence can end up being the most expensive than the rest.
Vinyl fences built for privacy reasons also suffer the same vulnerability as wood. They could get easily toppled by the sideway forces when snow gets pushed toward them. However, a PVC fence with a good space between slats can dissipate these forces as they pass through the gaps.
Compared to wood, though, a vinyl fence is not vulnerable to the wetness brought about by snow and sleet. It’s not just water-resistant but completely waterproof, so it’s impervious to any damages brought about by this element, such as:
- Mold and mildew
- Termite infestation
This characteristic, combined with the ability to achieve the same aesthetics as wood, makes the cost of vinyl privacy fences usually worth it.
Keep in mind, though, that any type of fence, including vinyl, is only as strong as its installation. So you should install the fence posts deep into the ground for a more solid foundation.
Steel is one of the best fencing materials, especially for cold climates. It’s invulnerable to moisture, which means there are no expansion and contraction issues. Additionally, a steel fence is almost impossible to crack, flake, or break even if exposed to high winds and the freezing conditions of a regular winter.
Due to its nature, most people think that steel fencing is a set-and-forget kind of fence. While the steel itself does not absorb water, it can still accumulate in joints. Steel is prone to rust which not only negatively impacts its appearance but can also make it weaker over time.
Steel is hands down the best material for fences built for cold regions. For one, steel fence installations are never about privacy but more about security. You will rarely find steel fences installed as one flat surface like those in privacy fences. As such, the elements and snow will just pass through the pickets.
The drawback of using steel is that it rusts. The typical solution is to coat it. Always keep in mind, though, that even the slightest scratch can leave an opening for the exposed metal to corrode. Even without direct contact with water, rust can start forming with just the humidity in the air. That’s why keeping steel fences coated all the time is a must.
Aluminum fences are a great alternative to steel fences. They have many similar properties, except that aluminum is lighter and easier to install. Another advantage this metal fence has over steel is that it doesn’t rust. As such, these aluminum fences are prone to bending and denting. Consulting with fencing experts can help you pick a high-quality aluminum fence that will not bend easily.
While it may seem that aluminum is the better solution, especially if you want a budget-friendly solution, it has a specific drawback. Aluminum is not good for coastal areas with high salt in the air. The salt creates a reaction between the aluminum fence and the steel fittings, which can cause corrosion.
Aluminum, being a cheaper and lighter version of steel, is also able to handle sideway forces. Snow and wind can just as easily pass through it, eliminating the possibility of the fence toppling over.
While aluminum fences don’t have the same strength as steel ones, they are still made of non-corrosive metal. This means rust will never form on its surface. You also won’t have to worry about scratches on the coating since moisture and humidity will not corrode the exposed aluminum.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Fence?
While proper installation can be a fence’s first line of defense against the biting cold, its strength will vary depending on the material used. As the snow starts to gather against your fence, heavy pressure gets exerted on the posts. Furthermore, the soil also experiences expansion and contraction, which loosens up the fence posts. When you combine these with strong gusts of cold wind, it’s not surprising why some fences get blown over easily.
A reputable fencing company can help maintain the structural integrity of the fence posts. They have the experience and know-how to ensure your fence’s structure has the support it needs. But even the best fences for cold climates need additional protection. Here are a few more tips to protect them further and make them weatherproof.
- Use waterproofing sealant: For wood fences, you’ll need to apply either an acrylic or silicone sealant. Doing so will protect the wood from extreme temperature conditions. With colored sealants, you can even darken light-colored wood to bring out its beauty.
- Apply moisture-resistant paint: Another way to protect your fence is with moisture-resistant paint. It can be either alkyd or latex-based, and you can choose from various colors and glosses.
- Clear away obstacles and debris: Clearing away debris near your fence, especially those in contact with it, can help protect it. You should also trim low-hanging branches looming over your fence. This way, you can prevent it from getting damaged if a branch snaps due to heavy snow or strong wind.
- Eliminate weak spots: Perform a regular visual inspection of your fence and check for spots that need maintenance. These can be loose nails or screws, damaged pickets, or unstable posts.
What Can You Do if Your Fence Has Damage From the Elements?
A damaged fence doesn’t necessarily mean it needs replacement. The first thing you need to do is assess the extent of the damage. The 20% rule can help you quickly decide if you need a replacement. If more than 20% of your fence has sustained damage, you should replace it entirely.
However, if repairs are significantly less costly than a complete replacement, you can always just make the repairs. But, if your fence is near the end of its expected lifetime, repairing it – even if it’s cheaper at the onset – will be more expensive in the long run.
If you are not sure what to do, it’s best to contact your nearest fencing professional so they can evaluate the situation.
FAQ About the Best Fencing for Cold Climates
Yes. If you want better protection for your fence, you must stain it on both the inner and outer sides. Staining only one side will result in water entering the unprotected side of the fence and causing moisture problems like rotting and pest infestation.
Most people agree that PVC is one of the most durable fencing materials. However, an aluminum fence can match this as long as you choose a high-quality one. Both these types of fences don’t rot, splinter, or crack, and they are also impervious to rust.
After a winter storm, you should check your fence for any potential damage. This way, you can immediately have it repaired to avoid further structural deterioration. If you see a downed or cut power line, don’t go near it. It may still be live, so you should contact your electricity provider to take care of it first. Otherwise, do the following steps to look for signs of damage:
• Visually inspect the whole fencing system by walking around the perimeter of your property – both on the inner and outer sides of the fence.
• If mud and other debris are covering most of the fence, clean it first so you can thoroughly assess if there’s any damage.
• Look for signs of loosened fence posts and cracked boards.
• Check if tree branches have fallen on or near your fence. If they’re too heavy or you want the whole tree removed, you can always hire a tree removal company.
Choose the Best Fence That Can Endure Cold Climates
Whether you need to repair your fence or end up having to replace it, it’s best to have experts handle the project for you. While you could find a lot of DIY videos or articles on the internet to help you do this yourself, understand that you’re still taking a risk.
When you consult with fencing professionals, you can take advantage of their expertise and experience. You’ll have peace of mind that your fence can withstand the harsh conditions of cold weather while improving your home’s curb appeal.
Contact the nearest fencing experts in your area today and eliminate your worries about your fence.
Main photo credit: Max Vakhtbovych | Pexels