Beyond creosote: How to preserve a fence

Written by rob macintosh Google
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Beyond creosote: How to preserve a fence
Untreated wooden fences will soon rot. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

With the wet weather we get in the UK a wooden fence isn’t going to last too long without some preservative on it. Once treated, the fence will be protected from the elements – and from insect attack – for up to decades. Creosote used to be the choice of Britain, but this was banned for use by the general public in 2003 because of fears over its carcinogenic properties. However, there are a wide variety of alternatives out there.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Wood preservative
  • Brush
  • Roller
  • Sprayer
  • Old clothes

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    Make your choices

  1. 1

    Choose the colour and finish of your preservative because they can come in a wide variety. Different treatments will also last different lengths of time and some may need to be retreated each year. You can go for thinner ones that still show the grain on your wood, but don’t last as long, or thicker ones that last longer. Choose your application method as well – you can now by pumps that spray the treatment on rather than using a brush. You will have to work out how much stain you need, so do this before you go to the DIY shop.

  2. 2

    Work out approximately how long it’s going to take you to finish the job and add on the drying time of the preservative. Try and make sure it’s not going to rain for this period of time and if you’re spraying, try to choose a still day. Treat the wood when it’s dry and free of dust and debris.

  3. 3

    Adjust your sprayer so that you cover one or two boards and spray in a steady motion along the direction of the boards. Make sure you are getting as much on as possible, but you don’t want the preservative to be dripping off. It may take you a minute or two to get it right. You can adjust your sprayer for finer or bigger droplets and you need to get a happy medium between the two. Finer spray may get blown around and thicker droplets might not reach the fence or may run off quicker.

  4. 4

    Choose a thick and quite stiff brush (the DIY shop where you bought your preservative will be able to advise on the best kind). You could use a combination of a rough roller and a brush for the crevices. The kind of brush bristles you choose will be dictated by the kind of preservative – natural bristles for oil-based stain and synthetic bristles for water-based stain. Make sure there is plenty of stain on your brush and follow the direction of the boards, jabbing the brush into the hard-to-reach areas and getting rid of any drips.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear old clothes when you are applying the preservative
  • If your preservative is flammable do not smoke or use any naked flames while treating your fence

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