All good fences need regular maintenance to keep them functioning. With the effects of traffic, harsh weather, and time taking their toll, even the best-made fence will eventually need attention.
The most common cause of fence repairs is rotten or decaying wood. Often, wooden fences deteriorate much more quickly than most realize. Since the structure is only as reliable as the nearest support, doing regular inspections will alert you to any potential problems and ensure the durability of your fence for the long-term.
Assessing the Damage
Before you reinforce your fence, it’s essential to evaluate the extent of the damage to see what you’re dealing with and what supplies you might need.
To investigate and determine how much damage there is to your fence post or rail, you simply place your hand on it to wiggle it back and forth. If it has a lot of movement, it needs attention.
For fence posts, if you’re still unsure after the “wiggle” test, you should dig away a small amount of the surrounding soil to get a better look at the post. Doing this will give you an inside look at the integrity of the fence post.
Some tools and supplies you might need for this project include:
- Pressure treated 2×4 lumber
- #8 deck screws
- 10d 30 in. galvanized nails
- Drill and drill bits
- Tape measure
- 3 1/2 in. galvanized nails
- Skill saw
- Carriage bolts
Once you’ve assessed the damage, reinforcing your fence rails can quickly be done. Here are three ways to achieve maximum durability.
If a railing of a wooden fence is damaged, you can strengthen the rail ends to hold it in place. To do this, cut a 2×4 block the same width as the rail and fasten it to the posts at each end of the railing. For maximum durability, use #8 deck screws or 10d 30 inch galvanized nails to keep the support in place.
For easier installation, pre-drill a pair of 1/8 inch holes through the block so the screws or nails can pass through with ease. Additionally, some fences, especially taller fences, will have a third rail in the center and you can use this same method to reinforce this, as well.
Add a Sister Rail
When a wooden fence has begun to rot, there is no need to replace it. Even if there is significant deterioration, the simple solution is to add a sister rail by following these steps. Using 3 1/2 inch galvanized nails, you’ll ensure lasting durability:
- First, measure the rail and cut a sister rail of pressure-treated of lumber the same size as the original rail.
- Cut off the damaged part of the rail.
- Position the sister rail beneath the old rail and add clamps every 12 inches along the length of the board.
- Toenail the sister rail to the posts on both sides, and underneath.
Once you attach the sister rail on either end, we’re going to drill a 3/8 inch hole through both boards every 18 inches and insert carriage bolts for increased stability.
Splicing a Rail
For a more uniform look, you can splice two rails together. Combining the rails this way is especially helpful when you need to replace a short section of rail and will save you some work over replacing the entire length of the railing.
Start by removing the board in need of repair and cut off the damage portion of the board at an angle. Place your new piece of board alongside the old and trace along the cut to transfer the angles from the old piece to the new one.
After you cut along each line to match the angles up, drill holes and bolt the new board in place using 3/8 x 4 inch carriage bolts.
If there was one section of railing that needed attention, it’s likely there are others, too. Walk the fence line often to inspect it for damage. And, once you’ve reinforced the wooden railings of your fence, chances are it won’t require your attention for a long time.