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Wood Fences
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

The irony about the love affair that Dallas residents have with privacy fences, which by the way are not found in much of eastern US, is that it comes after such a tumultuous history of Texans warring against their neighbors? fences (Don?t Fence Me In; Barbed Wire in Texas by J. H. Bear @ On the Internet are tales of midnight raids by irate neighbors cutting barbed wire fences in the 1800?s and struggles of hauling cedar posts for only 10 to 15 cents during the depression: in fact, John Watson?s Cutting Cedar Posts can be found on his web page, ?Over the Back Fence with the Old Codger.?

These days, Dallas residents are not likely to talk over their fences because fences are getting taller?eight feet and often constructed of solid wood.

?Wood?look around. Everybody has it. Why are they choosing wood?? Asks Kelly Martin, president/CEO of Fence Specialists (972) 539-6685 ( ?Basically, it?s inexpensive compared to the other choices. And when you go out into your backyard, you just want wood for a fence. It?s just homey and more rustic than having a cold hard plastic or metal fence. And it?s readily available. There?s never a shortage that I?ve known on getting any kind of wood fence material.?

?There?s also rod iron fencing,? Martin said. ?But that is so expensive, and you don?t get any privacy with it, of course.? Vinyl fencing, often chosen in white, looks like fence pickets. Although it?s been available for about ten years, and despite the fact that the PVC plastic material has a long durable life, vinyl fences have not grown in popularity, in part, because they look plastic and also cost more than wood.

The cost differential in wood fencing is based primarily on appearance rather than longevity.

?You don?t have to have super quality wood, like you would to build furniture, to build a fence,? Martin said. ?The wood comes in grade No. 1 or grade No. 2; Grade No. 1 is going to have fewer knobs and cracks.?

?Right now, on new construction, it?s mostly spruce,? Martin said. ?The after (remodeling) market is mainly where you get more cedar wood. There are two types of wood in Texas, pretty much, spruce, which is a white pine, and cedar, which is a higher quality wood.?

Peak season for fence building is February through mid-October, although the current summertime flurry finds Fence Specialists building about 20 new fences a week. Many new fences replace older ones with upgrades in quality of wood and style, for example the board-on-board privacy fences, which are very popular today. And new fences are getting taller, jumping from six to eight feet plus a top-cap and detailed sculpturing. Such a fence costs around $35 a linear foot compared to $13 a linear foot for an inexpensive spruce model. But also consider that the fence has not been an ?haute couture? item; so more often, the fence type is based on homeowner affordability. And the average fence costs about $4,000.

?If you?re going to spend seven or eight thousand dollars on a fence, about 95% of the people will go ahead and seal it because if you don?t seal it, the fence turns gray within three months,? Martin said. Mildew is the culprit, basically. And by eight months, the wood of an unprotected fence will be completely gray and have started rotting. ?Once the mildew gets on the wood, it becomes an attractant for pollen and moisture, and that just kind of accelerates the rotting process.?

Interestingly, in the fence industry, companies that build fences generally don?t seal them. Martin, however, is doing both.

?The Fence Specialists is the fence building company,? Martin said. ?The Fence Sealant Specialists is the restoration, sealing company. That?s where we go and take old fences, even up to ten years old that have gray mildew on them. We put a solution on the fence that takes it right back to the natural wood color. And then there?s the choice of five colors to stain and seal the fence.? Colors range from clear (natural) to light oak, redwood, and walnut (brown).

?It?s our own product; we manufacture ourselves,? Martin said. ?It?s called Seal Tech. When we started sealing fences seven years ago, we used all the available products?that claim to be commercial grade. But they didn?t last more than two years. We ended up having to go back and re-do jobs. So, I hired a chemist, and we developed a product, Seal Tech?it?s a true commercial grade, heavy-duty sealant (oil-based wood stain). We have done about ten thousand fences at this point (in 5 years). And we?ve resealed the average fence at four years. It?s the longest lasting sealant on the market. At about 3 ? years, it starts breaking down?sun is what breaks down other sealants. We actually put in UV protectors in our sealant?like sunglasses have.?

?Our warranty is 2-years,? Martin said. ?But we reseal our fences at four years. At that point, we go back in and re-clean it and seal it. Average job we do is around $500 and that would be about a 2,000 square foot fence, which is the average yard.? Right now, Fence Sealant Specialists seals about 100 to 125 fences a week.

?So, the whole purpose in doing that new $5,000 fence you just built, or your old fence that we cleaned and it?s now sealed and it looks new, is that (fence) will last indefinitely as long as you keep it sealed every four years,? Martin said. ?You can go with a cedar fence with metal posts. ?If you keep that fence sealed, it will last?I hate to say indefinitely?but it will last a long, long time because the posts won?t ever rot?they?re metal. Wood posts eventually rot.? So, Martin advises against wood posts.

?There?s not that much of a price difference,? Martin said. ?That way, you have metal posts, which aren?t going to rot off the ground, no matter how much moisture you have.?

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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