Wood Fence FAQs: Whitewoods
The species Spruce, Pine and Fir make up the grouping known as Whitewoods. Fence board cut from these species have a white appearance when first installed. While these species are prevalent throughout North America, Whitewood fencing products are produced primarily in a belt ranging from Eastern to Western Canada.
What are the black spots on my boards?
Small, sooty-looking circular spots are caused by mold or mildew. Mildew occurs when there's low air circulation, moisture, temperature and food source (wood). Installing your fence will expose the wood to airflow and stop mold.
Can the mold or mildew be cleaned off my boards?
Yes, you can choose from a number of readily available commercial products. Read the directions closely. They'll describe various wood-cleaning problems and recommend the proper cleaning solution.
How long can I expect my Whitewood fence boards to last?
Untreated, unpainted Whitewoods will last 3 to 7 years, depending on local environment conditions. (Source: USDA Forestry Book.)
Why do knots fall out of boards, creating holes?
Knots and the surrounding wood have different densities. Since knots are denser, they expand and contract less than the surrounding wood, loosening the bond. To protect against this, use a Premium or #1 board with both faces graded. The knots will be smaller and intergrown. The cost is slightly more, but your fence will have a longer serviceable life.
What can be done to eliminate the effects of weathering and keep that "new fence" look?
While there's no way to eliminate the weathering of wood, it's relatively easy to minimize the effects:
- Use three back rails (6' fence), two backrails (4', 5' fence), or 4 backrails (8' fence) for more hold-down points.
- Use only hot-dipped galvanized, or stainless steel fasteners with a ring or spiral shank to minimize warp and rust stains.
- Treat the surfaces of fence boards with a water-repellant solution to reduce the rate that moisture is absorbed and released. This solution should also have a good UV inhibitor if you don't want the fence to gray.
- Follow a regular maintenance program of cleaning and refinishing every few years with a "clear" or "toner" water repellant containing UV inhibitors. This will revitalize a dingy appearance caused by dirt, mildew or graying. It's like washing and waxing your car. Opinions differ on how necessary it is to perform regular maintenance, but most agree your fence will look much better for the effort.