Monday, April 4, 2011

Fence fantastic!

In a post about two weeks ago, I asked for fence stain recommendations.  I complained about current products on the market having potentially-reduced effectiveness due to recent reformulations required by air quality regulations. 

Well, thanks to a talented DIYer on Harvard Pointe, I was introduced to a product we can live with: Olympic Waterproof Toner.  I was surprised to see the cans for sale in the local Lowes as listing over 4 pounds per gallon volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which is very high (more than half the weight of the product).  VOCs are the air pollution culprits that have been phased out of architectural products, but those are the solvents that give stains their penetrating power.  For what it's worth, the claim was made that the VOCs used in this Olympic product were "non-photochemically reactive" (i.e., not smog-forming). 

The aesthetic impact of a good fence stain is simply amazing:
It's just blah,
with no contrast or definition to the landscaping.

BTW, if you want info on stock tank gardens,
there's a post here.
The fence is now an actual design element. 
We have an overwhelming 220 feet of cedar fence -
it HAS to look good!

This is the "Canyon Brown" shade,
which was also chosen by the Harvard Pointe resident.
There are lighter tones available if that's more to your taste.
This Olympic product is a bit more oily than I would personally prefer for a contact surface such as a deck.  But for a noncontact surface such as a fence, it seems to be acceptable - on initial application anyway.  We'll see how it weathers over time.

If you're interested in knowing the cost, it's about $150 for a 5-gallon bucket, which should be sufficient to do an entire perimeter fence. 

This stain can be rolled or sprayed, but spray is vastly preferable.  My thanks to Barry LaChance, owner of The Woodworks on East Walker Street, for advising me to get an airless sprayer.  I picked up a Graco TrueCoat for $199.  It was not difficult to achieve a uniform spray because (a) the sprayer was easy to use and (b) the stain had that high solvent content so that the uptake by the wood was good. 

Typically what we find is that if you DIY, even if you have to buy equipment, you still come out ahead financially over what you'd spend by hiring someone to do the job.  So here, we got 220 feet of fence stained for a total of about $350, but of course I'll use that sprayer again and again on future projects, so the effective cost was considerably lower than $350. 

Note what I said in my first post:  It is easy to get yourself into trouble with fence treatments.  If you pick the wrong product, you might end up with a mess either upon initial application or in the future as it weathers.  In my opinion, a good penetrating stain should allow the cedar to look like cedar (only better!) and then it should simply fade away over time, in the end leaving you with the typical weathered gray wood you started with.  I don't recommend coatings because they can vastly increase the costs and labor required for maintenance.  Previous neighbors of mine have gone through nightmarish scenarios where they had to either chemically treat their exterior wood to remove degraded coatings (major expense!!), or they had to simply wait until UV light from the sun broke down the coatings (and of course they had to live with the coatings peeling off and looking awful for several years!). 

Happy DIY-ing!!!

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