DIY Tips: Importance of Wood Preservatives For Fences
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DIY Tips: Importance of Wood Preservatives For Fences

Wood can be ruined by a plantlike organism similar to the fungus which causes mold and food spoilage. For this reason, it is particularly important that wood which is touching the ground, or which is endlessly exposed to dampness, be decently protected with wood preservatives.

Wood can be ruined by a plantlike organism similar to the fungus which causes mold and food spoilage. Like all other plants, this organism can flourish only when moisture is present. For this reason, it is particularly important that wood which is touching the ground, or which is endlessly exposed to dampness, be decently protected with wood preservatives.

For decades the only effective wood preservative available was creosote.

This has numerous disadvantages. It leaves an objectionable, lingering smell, and it has a dark, ugly color which is virtually impossible to paint on. Nonetheless, in recent years new sorts of wood preservatives have been developed without most of the disadvantages found in creosote.

Although these wood preservatives are sold under several brand names, most have either pentachlorophenol or zinc naphthenate. These are sold as clear solutions and are oftentimes mixed in with water repellant to give additional protection to the wood. They not only protect versus rot and insect attack, they also cut down warping, checking and swelling. Some also work as a primer for the wood so that they actually enhance its ability to hold paint.

Pentachlorophenol (called "penta" for short) is a wood preservative chemical commonly sold in the form of an oil-base solution which can be applied using a brush or spray, or by drenching and dipping. Because the preservative must permeate to give utmost protection, soaking or dipping is by far the most efficient method of application. Wherever practical, soak the bottom ends of fence posts and like pieces by letting them stand upright in a can filled with the liquid, or try putting down long pieces into a shallow trough built of sheet metal or wood lined with plastic sheeting.

When dipping or soaking is not practical, the preservative must be brushed or sprayed straight off onto the bare dry wood. Flood the liquid on, taking extra care to work it into crevices and into open end grain. When the piece is small, place a large tub or other container under the work to catch excessive liquid which drips off. If using a spray, use a coarse, low-pressure spray to put on the material. Always don a respirator mask for this job, and spray in a well-ventilated part only.

Wood preservatives which have zinc naphthenate in a clear solution are utilized in pretty much the same way as those which have penta. A few of these are exceptionally clear and are made to act as a wood sealer too. They can be utilized under varnish when a clear natural wood finish is to be applied.

In addition to using these wood preservatives to new lumber, the homeowner must also use them on existing wood structures at sensitive areas. For instance, the wood preservative must be brushed generously onto the bottom and top edges of garage doors and entranceway doors and into the joints of wooden porches and steps. Wooden gutters, storm sash, shutters, window frames and fence rails will all benefit from getting wood preservative applied onto exposed sections and joints when paint peels or breaks up.

To reach out into tiny crevices and tight corners, like underneath a door sill, an ordinary pump-type garden spray or pressure-type oil can is generally used. Keep in mind, wherever two pieces overlap or meet, a pocket is made where moisture is likely to gather and remain. These joints are especially susceptible to attack by fungus, so give them an extra dose at periodic intervals.

References:

Log Home Living February 1990

Popular Mechanics Magazine

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