Can Cold Weather Hurt My Fence?

March 31, 2024

When it comes to fences, “cold weather” can mean a multitude of things, from chilly winds to total winter ice storms–yet all kinds of cold may have an effect on your fence. Unlike other seasons, winter is especially notorious for causing damage to all types of property, and fences and definitely not excluded from the bill. However, different types of fences may be affected differently by the weather, and knowing what to expect from your specific type of fence–as well as how to build up the best line of defense–is important for preparing for these colder winter months. How Cold Weather Affects All FencesMoisture is one of the biggest threats to fences of all types, as rapidly freezing water may cause cracks and splits in wood and can wear away paint on wooden, iron, and vinyl fences alike. It can cause rust in any fence that contains iron, and overall increases the rate of deterioration on fences as a whole. Additionally, the added weight of snow or falling branches can dent, crack, or damage even the sturdiest of fences, while shifting soil poses a threat from below. Finally, although cold temperatures in and of itself don't generally pose a threat to fences, rapidly shifting temperatures can have a huge effect. During the winter, it’s possible for temperatures to shift as much as 30 degrees in one day. These shifts can cause your fences to warp and lose their sturdiness, which could cause them to fall during strong gusts of winter wind. Wooden Fences and Cold Weather Wooden fences are the most likely to be damaged by the winter weather. When it comes to wooden fences, your biggest threat will be moisture. Water from melting ice may get into the cracks of your fence and freeze, splitting the wood. As the weather warms, water protruding deep into the wood may cause mold, mildew, and rot. If your fence is properly protected from moisture in the air, you will be able to see water beading up in little droplets throughout the surface of your fence. Otherwise, it’s time to re-paint and re-stain!In addition to moisture, wooden fences may be threatened by falling objects, heavy snow, and shifting soil. Pay attention to the ground around your posts in particular; if they appear to be loose, or if there are gaps around your posts, consider filling them in or packing more material around your posts to keep them sturdy. Otherwise, entire sections of your fence may come apart and collapse. Regular inspections of wooden fences are necessary, especially during the winter. Wrought-Iron and Aluminum Fences and Cold Weather Cold weather itself poses relatively little threat to iron and aluminum fences, but there are some issues that could crop up that are particular to these specific types of fences. Iron fences in particular are susceptible to rust, and shifting and eroding soil may cause instability in one or more sections of your fence. Additionally, large piles of snow may weigh down your aluminum fence in specific areas, potentially leading to breakage and sections of your fence may collapse. If you have a chain-link fence in particular, be wary of falling debris that has been weighed down by ice. Vinyl Fences and Cold Weather Similarly to iron and aluminum fences, there is relatively little threat from winter weather. However, if not properly sealed, water can still get down into the surface and cause cracks and fissures. How to Protect Your Fence from Cold Weather Wood FencesFrom the start, you will need to ensure that your fence is made from treated and heat-processed wood. When it comes to regular maintenance, to protect wooden fences from the cold, your first line of defense is going to be making sure your staining and painting is up-to-date. This will create a seal against the moisture. If your fence is in need of some TLC, complete this task before the first frost of the year. Remove heavy branches that may be hanging around your fence that could pose a danger to it if they fell during a particularly nasty storm. After a snow, brush off any snow or ice that may have accumulated on your fence. When you complete an inspection, be sure to pay particularly close attention to any pre-existing knots, cracks, or splits in the wood.Vinyl FencesNot much winter maintenance is required, but you should always be taking care to ensure that there are no potential issues after each winter storm or snow. Go around your fence and dust off any accumulated snow, carefully inspecting the surface for potential damage or other issues. This shouldn’t take very long–unless your property is huge–and will go a long way toward saving you time and money later!Iron and Aluminum FencesTo protect iron and aluminum fences, your best defense is going to include a lot of work before the first frost even arrives. Make sure your iron fence is up to date on any re-staining or re-painting that needs to occur. Clear away large tree limbs or any other debris hanging overhead that may pose a threat to aluminum fences in particular.ConclusionWith all types of fences, taking special care to inspect your fence for any potential signs of damage can help you to tackle them early and prevent them from creating problems that may be more difficult and more expensive to solve if left untreated. You may need to conduct repairs in the spring, so be sure to perform a thorough inspection of your fence the moment the weather begins to warm and make plans to conduct those repairs. Doing a little now can go a long way to preventing a bigger, more expensive problem later on!If you’re ever unsure about whether you’re performing the correct maintenance on your fence, the safest option is to call a professional fencing company to execute an inspection or give you advice. It feels expensive, but you will be saving yourself a lot more money–and headache–in the future.