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Wooden Fence Posts and Dead Wood

Nov 07, 2023 - 4 min read
Wooden Fence Posts and Dead Wood

Living trees are wonderful, beautiful and majestic things. They not only survive all types of weather conditions and whatever else nature may throw at them, they thrive, growing ever bigger and stronger. The oldest tree in the world, a bristlecone pine in the Great Basin in eastern California, is estimated to be over 4,850 years old. In comparison the oldest tree in the UK is thought to be the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, which is estimated to be somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 years of age. 

 

But here’s the thing. The moment organic material dies, it starts to decay. Timber is no exception – which is pretty crucial if you’re using timber for fenceposts. To be fair some sorts of timber, in particular hardwoods, take a lot longer to rot away than others. The problem is that hardwoods are slow growing and not generally appropriate for everyday construction work such as fencing. One reason is that they are so dense they can be incredibly heavy. 

 

WHEN FENCEPOST ROT SETS IN

The most commonly used trees for fenceposts are softwoods – pine, larch and spruce. They are fast to crop and easy to work with. They may grow quickly, but they tend to rot equally as quickly, even if ‘pressure treated’ where preserving chemicals are applied or injected. A fairly loose and open cellulose structure of this sort means water can quite easily gets into the post. When frost comes the water in the post expands and starts to weaken its integrity.

In summer, in hot spells, the wood in the post contracts, further compromising the structure through cracking. Essentially your ‘dead wood’ is subject to the erosion process of ‘freeze-thaw’ that has the power to split granite boulders! Furthermore, all these cracks and crevices that open up attract micro-organisms that happily feast on the cracking wood and lead to further deterioration and decay. In warmer parts of Britain this happens all the more quickly.

 

 

GIVE YOUR FENCE A TREAT

There are established ways to make your fencepost linger longer by treating it with preservatives. Traditionally this would be done with creosote – although that has now been banned for common or garden domestic use. Other treatments are available, or fences and posts can be painted to protect them from the elements and ‘creepy-crawlies’ and other ‘low-life’ that might feast on them – certain insects live their whole life-cycle in rotting wood.

 

 

FENCE DECAY STARTS AT THE BOTTOM-UP

Like teeth, fence post decay starts at the very roots where the post sits in alternately wet and dry soil. In winter the cold air sinks to the ground and ground frosts attack the integrity of the post. Insects, microbes and fungi tend to live at ground or below ground level. The problem is that whilst the top six feet of the fence post above the ground look strong and can be regularly treated to pre-empt the elements, the damage is occurring to the piece you can’t see sitting in the earth between the post concrete and the surface.

 

 

IF IT’S BROKE – FIX IT WITH A FENCEMATE ‘SPUR’

If ignored, rotten fenceposts mean broken fences. But fenceposts can be fixed by sinking a Fencemate ‘spur’. Manufactured from 2.5mm hot-dip galvanised cold rolled steel, the newly designed Fencemate repair spur is strong, easy to install and is the perfect solution for ground level fencepost cracks and breaks, designed to prevent further damage.
• Unique metal profile for maximum strength
• Slimline design makes it easy to dig around and secure the post
• Variable hole spacing provides flexibility when fixing the spur
• Flexes to absorb the load, preventing further damage

 

WIN YOUR SPURS WITH FENCEMATE

With current economic constraints the culture of ‘make do and mend’ applies as much in the garden as it does elsewhere. All you need to fix your fence is a few everyday tools, a FenceMate® spur and a bag of post concrete. To see just how easy it is, watch this video:

 

 

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