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Repairing and Maintaining Fences and Gates

All good fences need help staying good. When faced with damage, the first decision is whether to repair or replace. Armed with the tricks shown here, you can make a fence as good as new (or nearly so) with minimal need to replace sections. Begin by removing any parts that get in the way of the repair. You can either remove the fencing with a pry bar or cut out the damaged section with a handsaw. When repairing a post, remove the fencing and rails connected to it. Once the repair is complete, use new nails when replacing fencing and rails. Skill Level Easy Time Required Variable Cleaning Fences Steps 1-3 of 4 Step One Scrub wood fences with a fiber scrub brush and a mild detergent solution to remove most stains. For tougher stains, add 1 to 2 cups of bleach to a bucket of warm water. Wear gloves and safety glasses when working with strong cleansers. Tools Fiber scrub brush Wash cloth Wire brush Hammer Screw gun Ratchet and socket wrenches Handsaw Circular saw Drill and bits Spade Shovel Cold chisel 3 lb. sledgehammer Wood chisel Post level Pliers Wire cutters Trowel Clamps Fence puller or pull bar Safety glasses Work gloves

Step Two

Clean vinyl fences with a sodium-bicarbonate-based cleaner. Bleach may stain the fence. Use a cloth instead of a brush so you don't scratch the surface of the fence. Wear safety glasses.

Materials Step Three Cleaners 1×4, 2×4 and 4×4 posts Nails Deck screws Lag screws Carriage bolts Mesh Pre-mixed concrete Anti-sag kit

Clean metal fences with a wire brush, scrubbing away old paint, dirt, and rust from metal posts, hardware, and other areas. You can take care of most stains with 1 cup of strong household detergent mixed with a gallon of warm water

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Repairing and Maintaining Fences and Gates, continued

Cleaning Fences Step 4 of 4 Step Four

Pressure Washing Rent a pressure washer for hard-to-reach crevices in basket-weave and other fences or for stubborn stains on vinyl fences. Spray about 6 to 10 inches away from the fence. Don't use more than 1,000 PSI of water pressure or the force may damage the wood. Many companies make commercial deck cleaners that are also good for cleaning fences. Consult the manufacturer's instructions before starting.

Bracing Wood Rails Steps 1-2 of 3 Step One

Reinforce rail ends with 2×4 cleats fastened to the posts. Screw the cleats in place with #8 deck screws or nail with galvanized 10d (3-inch) nails. Taller fences often have third rails in the center, which can be reinforced using this method as well.

Step Two

Add a sister rail to bolster a damaged rail. The sister rail can span the entire original rail or just part of it, depending on the damage. Clamp the sister rail under or on top of the original, then drill holes through both rails, bolt them in place with 3/8×4-inch carriage bolts, and remove the clamps.

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Repairing and Maintaining Fences and Gates, continued

Bracing Wood Rails Steps 3 of 3 Step Three

Add a third rail between the top and bottom ones if the fencing seems loose. Screw the rail to the posts with #8 deck screws or toenail with galvanized 10d (3-inch) nails. Fasten the fence boards to the new rails with #8 deck screws.

Replacing A Rail Steps 1-2 of 3 Step One

Remove the fence boards. Remove all of the fence boards from the damaged rail. Unscrew the boards, as shown here, or pry off the boards and pull out the nails. Try not to damage the fence boards so you can reinstall them later.

Step Two

Remove the rail. Pry out the nails or remove the hardware holding the old rail in place. Cut a new rail to fit between the posts. Nail or screw the rail in place, then reinstall the fence boards.

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Repairing and Maintaining Fences and Gates, continued

Replacing A Rail Steps 3 of 3 Step Three

Splicing A Rail Save yourself some work when you need to replace a short section of rail on a fence that has an exposed rail by splicing a new piece of rail in place. Remove the boards from the damaged section of rail, then cut off the damaged section at an angle. Put the new piece in place alongside the cut and trace along the cut in the old piece to transfer the angles to the new piece. Cut along each line, drill holes, and bolt the new piece in place with 3/8×4-inch carriage bolts.

Fixing Posts That Lean Steps 1-2 of 5

Step One

Dig out the leaning post. Dig around the post until you reach the bottom. As you dig, pile the soil on a newspaper or tarp so you can easily refill the hole later.

Step Two

Break up the old footing. If the post is set in concrete, break up the concrete with a 3-pound sledgehammer and cold chisel. Wear gloves and protect your hands from the hammer with a shielded chisel, as shown here.

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Repairing and Maintaining Fences and Gates, continued

Fixing Posts That Lean Steps 3-5 of 5 Step Three

Plumb and brace the fence. Screw braces to the post, plumb it with a level, then screw the braces to stakes driven in the ground. Check again for plumb and reset the braces, if necessary.

Step Four

Pour a new concrete footing. Mix bagged concrete, following the directions on the bag. The consistency should be about as thick as oatmeal. Fill the posthole with the mix, sloping the concrete away from the posts for drainage.

Step Five

Adding A Sister Post You can reinforce a damaged post with a small post called a sister post. (If the post wobbles in the ground, either brace it or pour a new footing.) A sister post is half the thickness of the original post and the same width, but no higher than the fence's top rail. Cut the base of the sister post at a steep angle so you'll be able to drive it in like a stake. Put it in place against the original post. Place a block on top of the sister post to avoid splitting it in two. Hit the block with a 3-pound sledgehammer to drive it 2 to 3 feet into the ground. Bolt it to the original post with 3/8 × 4-inch lag screws. Using a handsaw, cut a 45-degree angle on the top of the sister post so it will shed rain.

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Repairing and Maintaining Fences and Gates, continued

Repairing Buried Rot Steps 1-3 of 6 Step One

Remove the soil around the damaged post. If a post has rotted in the ground, you can put a second, shorter post next to it and tie the two together. Begin by digging around the footing. Dig deep enough to reach the bottom of the post or concrete.

Step Two

Break up any old footings. Wearing safety glasses, break up any concrete with a 3-pound sledgehammer and cold chisel. Break the concrete into small, manageable pieces.

Step Three

Brace the Post. Temporarily screw or nail 2×4 supports to the post. Plumb the post and hold it while a helper screws the braces to stakes driven in the ground.

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Repairing and Maintaining Fences and Gates, continued

Repairing Buried Rot Steps 4-6 of 6 Step Four

Remove the damaged portion of the post. Cut off the old post just above the damaged part and pull the bottom section out of the ground. Cut a new post section 1 foot or so longer than the section you removed, and bevel the top. Place the new section in the hole next to the undamaged part of the original post.

Step Five

Bolt the old and new parts together. Clamp the two post sections together. Counterbore 1" holes for the heads of carriage bolts, drill ½-inch through holes, and insert ½-inch carriage bolts with washers. Put washers and nuts at the other end of the bolts and tighten with a socket wrench

Step Six

Pour a new concrete footing. Fill the posthole with concrete. Slope the top to help drain water away. Let the concrete harden for two to three days before removing the braces and supports.

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Repairing and Maintaining Fences and Gates, continued

Repairing A Chain-Link Fence Steps 1-3 of 6 Step One

Loosen the mesh. Remove the tie wires from the mesh with pliers. Connect a fence puller to both the post and fence and draw the fence tight enough to take tension off the tension bar. Remove the tension bar by loosening the bolts in the tension band. Loosen and remove the fence puller.

Step Two

Remove the damaged section of fence. Open the loop at the top and bottom of a strand just outside the damaged area. Twist and pull the strand free. Take out a strand on the other side of the damage and remove the damaged section.

Step Three

Weave in a patch. Cut a section of mesh the same size as the one you removed. Weave it into the remaining fence using the strands you removed in Step 2. Loop the wire at the top and bottom of the strand back around the fence with pliers.

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Repairing and Maintaining Fences and Gates, continued

Repairing A Chain-Link Fence Steps 4-6 of 6 Step Four

Attach a fence puller. Slide a pull bar through the mesh about 4 feet from the end post. Reattach the fence puller. Crank the bar until the strands in the mesh press together no more than 1/4 inch when you squeeze them.

Step Five

Reattach the tension bar to the tension band and release the fence puller.

Step Six

Re-tie the patched fencing to the posts. Attach new tie wires to hold the mesh firmly against the top rail and line posts. Thread a new tension wire through the bottom openings in the mesh.

Project Guide

Repairing and Maintaining Fences and Gates, continued

Fixing Gates Steps 1-3 of 3 Step One

If a gate droops and you don't have diagonal crossbraces, install an anti-sag kit, which includes a turnbuckle, some cable and some eye hooks. Screw an eye hook into the corner on the hinge side and a second eye hook in the lower corner on the opposite side. Attach the turnbuckle and tighten to remove the sag.

Step Two

If a chain link gate gets out of alignment, you can usually fix it by adjusting the hinge pins. Loosen the pins with a socket wrench and reposition them with a wood block and hammer. Check the gate's swing and reposition, if necessary, before tightening.

Step Three

Gate Stop A gate that swings too far will gradually loosen its own hinges. The low-tech solution is to screw a 1×2 or 2×4 stop to the gatepost so the gate stops when it's flush with the fence. The high-tech solution is a hydraulic gate closer (available at home centers), which gently pulls the gate shut and stops it at the right point.

Project Guide

Repairing and Maintaining Fences and Gates, continued

Straightening Metal Fencing Steps 1-3 of 3 Step One

Break up the old footing. Dig around the post footing, then break up the concrete with a 3-pound sledgehammer and cold chisel. If other posts are also leaning, break the footing around them too.

Step Two

Plumb and brace the fence. You can't nail into a metal fence, so drive a stake into the ground first, then screw it to the brace with a single screw. Plumb the fence, then clamp it to the brace.

Step Three

Pour new concrete footings. Once the fence is plumb and in position, mix bagged concrete and pour new footings. Slope the concrete away from the posts so water will drain away from them. Remove the braces after the concrete has hardened for 48 hours.

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Repair Maintain Fences Gates.indd