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The Home Depot

Top Causes of Fence Rot

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Fence > Top Causes of Fence Rot
Top Causes of Fence Rot

Because installing a fence involves significant effort and expense, it’s important to choose the best materials for your fence to ensure that it stays structurally strong and attractive. One of the most common issues with an existing fence is decay or rot of the fencing materials.


Because wood fence materials have direct contact with the soil over a long period of time, it’s imperative that you take steps to prevent decay. Once you know the top causes of fence rot, you’ll be ready to minimize and eliminate issues that could threaten the integrity of your fence.

    If the water forms beads on the surface and does not penetrate down into the wood, you know the barrier is still working effectively.
  1. 1.Overview of Fence Threats

    A wood fence has two significant threats that will affect its strength and stability – dry rot and wet rot. Dry rot involves the loss of protective oils over the wood surface, which causes the wood to dry out and become brittle. Wet rot involves moisture continually contacting the wood – usually at the points where fence posts contact the soil.

  2. 2.Types of Wood

    The type of wood you choose for a fence has a significant impact on how the fence withstands environmental factors. Some wood is very hard and resistant to decay, while other types of wood are soft and will not resist decay as effectively. Types of hard woods well suited for fences include cedar, cypress, oak and redwood. Types of wood that are slightly less dense include Douglas fir, tamarack and pine.


    Wood with pressure treatments have chemicals forced into the wood to create deep protection against both insects and decay. To analyze pressure treated wood for durability, check the stamp or label that shows certification. The stamp should specifically show pressure treatment for ground use if you’ll be using the wood for fence posts. Wood with a stamp showing “above ground use” will not resist decay if you use it for fence posts.

  3. 3.Protecting and Staining Wood

    Apply a protectant and stain over the surface of the wood to create an effective barrier against moisture. It may be necessary to reapply the stain annually to maintain an effective moisture barrier. You can test the wood to see whether it needs a fresh application of stain by sprinkling water over the wood surface. If the water forms beads on the surface and does not penetrate down into the wood, you know the barrier is still working effectively. If the water absorbs down into the wood, this indicates that you need to apply more stain to the fence to protect the wood.

  5. 4.Keeping the Fence Clean

    The accumulation of debris on and around a fence can contribute to fence rot. Never allow a pile of leaves to accumulate around fence posts and under fence slats. If debris accumulates in crevices, including dirt and soil in cracks, wash or brush it away to prevent decay. Allowing debris to accumulate on the wood may also invite insect infestations, which can damage a wood fence.


    Protect your investment and keep your fence strong and attractive for many years.


    Related: Causes of Mildew on Wood Fence, Fence Repair Services

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