Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

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bagelhead
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Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by bagelhead » Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:07 pm

For a cedar fence, I have read different things on "required" maintenance, specifically, anything that will extend the life of the fence (not cosmetic things like turning grey to brown).

1. Is there any maintenance that clearly extends the life of a cedar fence?
- Does staining or watersealing extend lifespan, or is it only cosmetic?
- Does the cost of maintenance pay for itself, or is it cheaper to just save the maintenance money and buy a replacement fence earlier?

2. Which extends lifespan more, staining or painting?

Thanks!

Iliketoridemybike
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by Iliketoridemybike » Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:12 pm

I had a cedar fence. I stained one side and let the neighbors side go “natural”. 15 years later, the neighbors side is dark gray almost black. Our side is the original stain color that we reapplied about every 3 years or so. I prefer the stained side by a mile.

livesoft
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by livesoft » Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:37 pm

One of our neighbors that abuts part of our backyard replaced the standard treated fence with cedar. No maintenance has ever been done. I cannot tell the difference between the cedar portion of the fence and the non-cedar portion. The color is not black for either type of plank.

Maintenance consists of nailing back planks that their dogs have messed with. Otherwise, I would say "No maintenance is required."
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Loik098
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by Loik098 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:40 pm

I think if you're asking, then you might as well give yourself peace of mind and throw on some sealer. Why risk being someone who will stare at rotting wood 10 years from now if you can do the job easily and cheaply now?

I recommend spraying on some Ready Seal every other year with a garden sprayer. It's nearly impossible to mess up & is extremely easy to apply. Read the reviews for it and you'll see why it's a go-to product for this sort of application.

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beyou
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by beyou » Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:57 pm

Climate likely matters. My cedar fence was not maintained, never stained or painted. It slowly collapsed as wood rotted until it was dangerous to leave it standing. Replaced with pine.

socaldude
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by socaldude » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:17 pm

Stain works much better than paint. Paint doesn't stick to wood as well, maybe with a primer? I used an opaque brown stain and coated everything really well. I chose the opaque so that the sun can't penetrate ( or try a sealer once in a while). With this technique my fence will last a long time, I learned the hard way with about 130 ft. of rotting posts and slats. ( P.S. steel posts work great also !).

quantAndHold
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by quantAndHold » Thu Apr 12, 2018 11:39 pm

We put sealer on ours when we first built it. A tree immediately fell on it and shattered a section. When we rebuilt, we never sealed the rebuilt section. For the first couple of years, it was really apparent which section was sealed and which wasn’t. By the five year mark, both sections looked the same. The fence has been standing for 20 years now. Other than termites in a few boards (sealer had no effect either way on termite infestation probabilities), it’s fine.

I’m pretty sure I won’t waste time or money sealing another fence. But I live in a neighborhood that doesn’t have a HOA, and people have been known to paint their houses purple with no negative consequences. I’m sure my opinion on the aesthetic issues of fencing is not to be trusted.

Mudpuppy
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by Mudpuppy » Fri Apr 13, 2018 1:19 am

The majority of the fence that you can see, the planks, don't really matter much to the structural integrity of keeping the fence standing up. It's the posts and cross-beams that keep the fence standing. The two primarily failures I've seen is rotted posts and beams. You can't do much to treat the parts of the posts that are underground after the fence is built and termites/carpenter ants remain an above-ground threat even with treatments.

So you might get a few more years out of the above-ground structural components by treating the fence, but it's not much compared with the overall lifespan of a fence. If you're not concerned about aesthetics, periodically inspect for termite/carpenter ant damage instead. Wood-eating insects are a big threat to an otherwise good fence.

Arinbjorn
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by Arinbjorn » Fri Apr 13, 2018 1:24 am

Mine is treated, as cedar naturally has oils that help extend the life of the wood. You can certainly put a sealer on to maintain the nice cedar look if you like. Sometimes I wonder if I should have done that - years later, it looks more like a normal pine fence now. Sealer for the portion below ground might have been a good idea in retrospect.

onourway
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by onourway » Fri Apr 13, 2018 5:33 am

Stain will help maintain a consistent color, at the cost of needing to re-stain periodically. It won't do anything to extend the life. What color un-treated cedar turns depends on the climate it's exposed to. On the eastern shore it tends to turn the traditional weathered grey. In damper inland climates it will turn grey to black in the dampest areas.

I prefer the untreated look myself.

gd
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by gd » Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:09 am

blevine wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:57 pm
Climate likely matters. My cedar fence was not maintained, never stained or painted. It slowly collapsed as wood rotted until it was dangerous to leave it standing. Replaced with pine.
One of the most curious things about this forum is that people are meticulous about demanding financial circumstances, then ask and make sweeping advice about yards and houses without any clue where each other lives.

Dantes
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by Dantes » Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:29 am

gd wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:09 am
blevine wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:57 pm
Climate likely matters. My cedar fence was not maintained, never stained or painted. It slowly collapsed as wood rotted until it was dangerous to leave it standing. Replaced with pine.
One of the most curious things about this forum is that people are meticulous about demanding financial circumstances, then ask and make sweeping advice about yards and houses without any clue where each other lives.
Very true.

In the northeast, with a lot of moisture flowing through heavy soil, my experience is cedar posts need to be replaced after 10 to 15 years because of rot below ground-level. It varies depending on drainage and soil type , even within in a suburban back yard. Thats longer than pine and most other woods. If you have sandy soil it should last significantly longer.

I would not use sealer, thats why we pay for cedar. But I don't use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, either.

ddurrett896
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by ddurrett896 » Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:34 am

bagelhead wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:07 pm
For a cedar fence, I have read different things on "required" maintenance, specifically, anything that will extend the life of the fence (not cosmetic things like turning grey to brown).
The stain/seal is for aesthetics.

Just a heads up, if you plan on doing the fence yourself, space cedar pickets because they come dry. If you butt them up to each other, they will get wet, swell up and bow.

Iliketoridemybike
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by Iliketoridemybike » Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:38 am

onourway wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 5:33 am
Stain will help maintain a consistent color, at the cost of needing to re-stain periodically. It won't do anything to extend the life. What color un-treated cedar turns depends on the climate it's exposed to. On the eastern shore it tends to turn the traditional weathered grey. In damper inland climates it will turn grey to black in the dampest areas.

I prefer the untreated look myself.
The black untreated cedar fence I referenced above is in Colorado where it is painfully dry. So there must be factors other than moisture that make it grey out.

likegarden
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by likegarden » Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:51 am

Any fence should be NO maintenance and last forever. There are different qualities of Cedar wood. Refer to other threads here about fences.
My neighbor has a pressure treated picket fence, never stained it, only has a little rotting at its contact with the ground.

I bought a fence around my backyard to protect my son playing there and myself from neighbor's large untrained dog. The fence part towards the road was Cedar and installed by an experienced fence company. I stained it every 2 years and in spite that the horizontal Cedar parts started to rot. I filled in any rotted-out holes with styrofoam spray, but after 20 years I gave up and had that replaced with aluminum picket type fence, and enjoy NO maintenance for the last 10 years.

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lthenderson
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by lthenderson » Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:00 am

bagelhead wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:07 pm
1. Is there any maintenance that clearly extends the life of a cedar fence?
- Does staining or watersealing extend lifespan, or is it only cosmetic?
- Does the cost of maintenance pay for itself, or is it cheaper to just save the maintenance money and buy a replacement fence earlier?

2. Which extends lifespan more, staining or painting?
Sealing the natural oils present in cedar inside the lumber will help extend the life of the fence. But like someone else mentioned, usually the weakest link is the portion that is underground and that can't be treated easily. So it really depends on how your fence was built and the soil type to know if it would be worth it from a financial aspect to seal your fence. Where I live, there are still solid cedar posts around set in edina clay 40 years later that are solid. I know because I put them in.

You can go either route and stain or paint. Stain is usually one step where as paint really needs a quality primer and then the paint for it to be effective out in the weather so I'm guessing less money would be used to go the stain route.

vested1
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by vested1 » Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:13 am

I second the recommendation to use steel posts. They can be bracketed with the same wooden material used for the pickets, and so remain hidden from sight. I replaced a fence last year that should last long after I'm gone by sinking the steel posts in concrete and placing pea gravel up to the bottom of the fence so no wood is exposed to dirt where termites do their damage.

The longevity of a fence can be increased with a solid stain, which can still be attractive even though it will hide the natural beauty of the cedar or redwood. For that reason, the cost of a fence can be greatly reduced by using pine and a solid stain, rather than cedar or redwood. Transparent stains of any type last a fraction of the time that solid stains do. The same holds true for wooden decks, and for any climate.

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Pajamas
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by Pajamas » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:07 am

No one seems to have mentioned nails. If you use the wrong kind of nails then you will get nasty-looking dark streaks running down from them.

Another problem that I have noticed is when there is a sprinkler system and the lower portion of the fence gets wet and the upper part does not. The two areas take on a very different appearance over time.

Pigeon
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by Pigeon » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:35 am

We installed a cedar fence and were told no maintenance was required. About five years later, it's deteriorating rapidly. My partner feels strongly about getting wood, but I"m lobbying for synthetic next time. This was way too expensive and installation is disruptive to have it rot away in no time.

GAAP
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by GAAP » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:57 am

Pigeon wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:35 am
We installed a cedar fence and were told no maintenance was required. About five years later, it's deteriorating rapidly. My partner feels strongly about getting wood, but I"m lobbying for synthetic next time. This was way too expensive and installation is disruptive to have it rot away in no time.
Synthetics have their own issues. If it's partially wood, it will rot also. Depending on the climate, it may warp in the heat or crack in the cold, etc. If you really want a lifetime fence, use concrete or brick...

I've had wood fences last for decades next to fences that lasted only a few years. Wind conditions can make a big difference to structural soundness. Properly installed posts will have a slight crown to the concrete that helps keep moisture from pooling to reduce rot. Another choice is to use metal brackets (Simpson Strong Tie) and keep the post out of the dirt entirely. Where I used to live, metal posts with wood fences became quite common in the last ten years or so due to wind damage. All of these choices cost more, and are not what you'll likely get with the low bid...

quantAndHold
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by quantAndHold » Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:13 am

We have two fences on opposite sides of our property (Southern California). One is a cedar fence with metal posts. The other is a cedar fence with cedar 4x4 posts. About the same age (20-25 years). No maintenance performed on either. The one with metal posts needs to have a few boards replaced from termite damage. The one with wood posts is a crumbling heap, mostly because of termite and weather damage to the posts. The fences were built by different contractors, and I suspect the one with metal posts cost more (the neighbor who built the wood fence is a notorious cheapskate).

mariezzz
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by mariezzz » Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:31 pm

Dantes wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:29 am
gd wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:09 am
blevine wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:57 pm
Climate likely matters. My cedar fence was not maintained, never stained or painted. It slowly collapsed as wood rotted until it was dangerous to leave it standing. Replaced with pine.
One of the most curious things about this forum is that people are meticulous about demanding financial circumstances, then ask and make sweeping advice about yards and houses without any clue where each other lives.
Very true.

In the northeast, with a lot of moisture flowing through heavy soil, my experience is cedar posts need to be replaced after 10 to 15 years because of rot below ground-level. It varies depending on drainage and soil type , even within in a suburban back yard. Thats longer than pine and most other woods. If you have sandy soil it should last significantly longer.

I would not use sealer, thats why we pay for cedar. But I don't use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, either.
Buy Postmaster metal fence posts, and stand in concrete in 6 inch cardboard tubes in the ground. Then all you do is replace the cedar rails & fence pickets when needed or they don't look as nice as you'd like, which is easy. I installed cedar rails backwards to the instructions; that way you can put screws into the cedar rails more than 1/2 inch from the end of the board.

Use stainless steel screws to avoid the ugly streaks. Be choosy about your cedar fence pickets - knots create weak spots.

spitty
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by spitty » Sat Apr 14, 2018 5:03 am

Regarding stain, choose an oil based product so it lasts longer--we use Cabot. They make different shades, so pick your color. Our house and two outbuildings are cedar siding and we treat every 5-7 years depending on sun exposure. Before getting smart we used Thompsons Wood Protector which just doesn't last.

sc9182
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by sc9182 » Sat Apr 14, 2018 6:20 am

Oil-based Stain or Semi-transparent wood sealant/protestant would help a lot. But 4-5 years later re-sealing/coating is usually required. Occasional replacement of rotten posts/slats. If water remains stagnant/moist-soil - expect more/frequent post replacement.

Fence if left to rot for way too long., full replacement (and apply protecting coat) becomes costlier affair.

joe3411
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by joe3411 » Sat Apr 14, 2018 6:53 am

I highly recommend surrounding the posts with pea gravel for drainage if you live in a climate with rain/moisture. I'm in New England and posts without the gravel rotted out or broke much quicker than with gravel. It's more time and effort on the front end, but will save one time down the road.

livesoft
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by livesoft » Sat Apr 14, 2018 7:03 am

Everybody in our area has wooden fences with wooden 4x4 fence posts. The fence posts are set in concrete in the ground. The fences are cheap and last at least 25 years.

Some people use cedar because it is less susceptible to termites: https://www.termite-control.com/termite ... tes-cedar/ However, most people cannot tell cedar from other wood, so they may have paid for cedar, but not gotten it. Or maybe the posts are cedar, but not the other wood in the fence.

Also note when digging holes or pulling up old posts to be aware of utility lines. A neighbor broke a gas line pulling up an old post when replacing his fence. Our fence builder had the underground power lines surveyed/marked before he would start the project.
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jharkin
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by jharkin » Sat Apr 14, 2018 7:36 am

Loik098 wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:40 pm
I think if you're asking, then you might as well give yourself peace of mind and throw on some sealer. Why risk being someone who will stare at rotting wood 10 years from now if you can do the job easily and cheaply now?

I recommend spraying on some Ready Seal every other year with a garden sprayer. It's nearly impossible to mess up & is extremely easy to apply. Read the reviews for it and you'll see why it's a go-to product for this sort of application.
Problem is, when you use sealers, if the coverage is not 100% perfect they actually trap moisture and prevent the wood from drying out. For a cedar fence where the posts are set directly in dirt this is even worse as the wood absorbs ground moisture and it can’t wscape.


This is the same reason why chimney brick “waterproofing” often accelerates deterioration.

sc9182
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by sc9182 » Sat Apr 14, 2018 8:16 am

If you got too much ground moisture or water-stagnation, may be your best bet is above ground posts, screw to the concrete base..

For many of the rest - oil based stain or semi-transparent wood/deck protectant helps with longevity as well as appearance.

vested1
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by vested1 » Sat Apr 14, 2018 8:38 am

mariezzz wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:31 pm
Dantes wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:29 am
gd wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:09 am
blevine wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 10:57 pm
Climate likely matters. My cedar fence was not maintained, never stained or painted. It slowly collapsed as wood rotted until it was dangerous to leave it standing. Replaced with pine.
One of the most curious things about this forum is that people are meticulous about demanding financial circumstances, then ask and make sweeping advice about yards and houses without any clue where each other lives.
Very true.

In the northeast, with a lot of moisture flowing through heavy soil, my experience is cedar posts need to be replaced after 10 to 15 years because of rot below ground-level. It varies depending on drainage and soil type , even within in a suburban back yard. Thats longer than pine and most other woods. If you have sandy soil it should last significantly longer.

I would not use sealer, thats why we pay for cedar. But I don't use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, either.
Buy Postmaster metal fence posts, and stand in concrete in 6 inch cardboard tubes in the ground. Then all you do is replace the cedar rails & fence pickets when needed or they don't look as nice as you'd like, which is easy. I installed cedar rails backwards to the instructions; that way you can put screws into the cedar rails more than 1/2 inch from the end of the board.

Use stainless steel screws to avoid the ugly streaks. Be choosy about your cedar fence pickets - knots create weak spots.
This is the method I used as well, although I opted for coated deck screws, which don't bleed, and installed hundreds due to the length of the fence. Stainless screws are more expensive. I used redwood for the fence.

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FrugalInvestor
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by FrugalInvestor » Sat Apr 14, 2018 9:12 am

Mudpuppy wrote:
Fri Apr 13, 2018 1:19 am
The majority of the fence that you can see, the planks, don't really matter much to the structural integrity of keeping the fence standing up. It's the posts and cross-beams that keep the fence standing. The two primarily failures I've seen is rotted posts and beams. You can't do much to treat the parts of the posts that are underground after the fence is built and termites/carpenter ants remain an above-ground threat even with treatments.

So you might get a few more years out of the above-ground structural components by treating the fence, but it's not much compared with the overall lifespan of a fence. If you're not concerned about aesthetics, periodically inspect for termite/carpenter ant damage instead. Wood-eating insects are a big threat to an otherwise good fence.
Mudpuppy makes great points. The #1 problem with most fences is the buried portion of the posts and #2 is the rails, especially where they connect to the posts. Not only do fences typically rot fastest in these locations but the posts and rails, as others have pointed out, are what holds the fence up.

It's always best to use pressure-treated fence posts which resist both rot and insects. Brushing preservatives on untreated wood doesn't really do much. The preservative needs to be forced into the wood under pressure and most wood needs to be incised (surface filled with small slits) to help it soak up the treatment chemicals. Posts should be set in concrete that is tapered upward toward the edges of the post at ground level to keep water from pooling around the base. Decorative fence caps will not only dress up the fence posts but also help the open grained top ends shed water.

Especially in wet or humid climates it's also best to use pressure-treated rails as well. The ends of the rails where they attach to the posts will naturally soak up water leading to rot.

As far as the fence boards themselves are concerned, cedar fencing is the most popular but cedar used for fencing is some of the lowest quality you can buy. It's also usually 'green' as opposed to kiln dried so it won't hold paint well and trying to paint it will often make for a maintenance nightmare. As another poster suggested using a garden sprayer to apply a good quality sealer or semi-transparent stain every couple of years, especially one containing a mildewcide, should reduce weathering and make the fence boards more water and stain (i.e. mold) resistant. The bottom edges of fence board should also never touch the ground as they will rot quickly if they do.
Last edited by FrugalInvestor on Sat Apr 14, 2018 9:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Nowizard
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Re: Cedar Fence: is Maintenance required?

Post by Nowizard » Sat Apr 14, 2018 9:19 am

Our fence is treated pine that has been painted. It has been painted twice in ten years and looks great today. It is approximately 200 feet long, six feet high. It can be painted with a roller and touched up with a brush for spots that do not cover in less than a day. Much less expensive than cedar and more attractive with less maintenance. We live in a southern climate where temps range from 100 in summer to about 15 in winter. Past experience has been that sealing does not protect the fence cosmetically from becoming less attractive.

Tim

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