Practical tips for fences and gates

July 13, 2015

Pathways, fences and other barriers can break up the space within a garden, add interest and define boundaries when they're used effectively. Here are some practical tips to keep in mind when it comes to fences and gates.

  • Closed fences will block wind gusts but also create powerful downdrafts when downwind. Select a fence that will allow some air to filter through it but at a speed that's much slower than wind gusts.
  • Fix wood, lead or plastic caps to the tops of your wood fencing posts to prevent rain soaking into and splitting the end grain. Alternatively, shape the tops of your fence posts so they will shed rain.
  • A garden gate that closes automatically will help to prevent toddlers and pets from leaving the yard on their own. The expensive option for an automatic gate is an electrical remote-control device but there are more affordable options, too.
  • You can also create your own automatic gates using some physics tricks. A small gate will swing shut if you screw a spring or bar close to the hanging post. For large gates, position the hinges slightly out of line and gravity alone will cause the gate to gently swing shut on its own.
  • Gates should be treated with wood preservative or paint to prevent the wood from rotting. Small areas of rot on the gate can be cut back to healthy wood and filled with a two-part epoxy-resin wood filler. Once set, smooth over the filler with medium-grade sandpaper or a power sander. Replace rotting braces or board.
  • Keep an eye out for rust on gate latches and hinges. If you find some rust on your gate, scrub it off with a wire brush and cover the area with a rust-inhibiting paint. Be sure to wear safety goggles or glasses while scrubbing to keep rust flakes from flying into your eyes.
  • Over time, a wooden fence can begin to sag due to shifting ground, wood rot or wind damage. For a temporary fix, you can use a star picket to brace the post. But, for a permanent solution, you might have to dig out the post and reinforce its footing with packed stones or poured concrete. Or, you might have to just replace a sagging post altogether.
  • When you're digging a hole for a fence post in hard ground start with a shallow hole. Then fill it with water and leave your hole overnight. The next day, the ground will be softer and you'll take most of the strain out of digging a hole big and deep enough for your fence post.

Remember these practical tips, and the next time that you're working on your fence or yard gate you'll likely have an easier time getting a more professional result.

Practical tips for fences and gates
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