Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fence stain revisited

Did you read that the World's Ugliest Dog died of natural causes, namely old age?  It was national news the other day and, yes, in case you've been sleepwalking through the cultural component of your life for the past decade or two, there is a contest for the esteemed title of "world's ugliest dog". 

Houstonians are like any other geographically-defined group of people: they have their quirks, and the quirk that drives me the battiest is the one that makes people completely blind to the ugliness of their own fences.   All across Houston, people build impressive looking McMansions, a quarter million dollars and up, and then proceed to surround these suburban masterpieces with eight-hundred-dollar total-eyesore fences.  Why?!?  Can they not see that any good portrait is totally ruined if surrounded by garbage?

We can't have a World's Ugliest Fence contest in greater Houston because there would be so many spectacular entries that it would be impossible to declare a winner! 
In the "Structurally Intact But Degraded" competition category, who could possibly trump this?!
Centerpointe Drive about a quarter mile northeast of Calder.
It's been almost a year now since I published this post with before-and-after shots of our fence (and, by the way, the product we used, Olympic Waterproof Toner or whatever this year's name variant is, continues to look wonderful - no visible degradation or fading a year after application). 

But just in case you remained unconvinced by that initial post, I have another example to present here.  My in-laws are selling their house because of a job transfer.  After seeing their initial real estate listing on HAR, my husband and I decided to help them out by staining their fence the same way we did our own. 

Proof positive that any great art piece requires a FRAME.  The fence is the element that frames the property.  That's the initial real estate listing shot on the left, and our post-staining money shot on the right.  Neither photo has been digitally altered in terms of color saturation.  This is the same "Canyon Brown" stain shade as we used, but because their wood was a bit different in composition and age, this came out more cedar-toned than ours did.  Ours was a deeper brown shade.
There's simply no comparison.
Same yard, different angle, showing the job half done.
This fence was a uniform moldy grey color before pressure-washing.  With pressure-washing, it reverted to the blonder shade you see here.  This is lighter than most Houston builder-grade fences would become upon pressure washing, so this stain product would probably produce a deeper brown most of the time. 
Here in Centerpointe, we ended up with an unfortunate configuration in which an entire row of houses backs up to Centerpointe Drive, showing their rear ends, uh, I mean fences, to the world.  These days, civil engineers try to plat neighborhoods in such a way that all houses face the subdivision streets.  However, Centerpointe Drive is more of a thoroughfare than a subdivision street, and so we have this configuration: a solid mile of fences facing the road, fences that are only going to get worse-looking as time goes on.
The section of Centerpointe closest to Calder is the oldest, and its fences currently look the worst.
As I snapped the photo above, my husband asked me, "So who is responsible for maintaining that whole section of fence, anyway?  The POA or the individual homeowners?"

Danged good question and I don't know the answer to it (but when I find out, I will post below).  We all better hope that it's the POA because if there's anything uglier than a degraded cedar fence, it's a discontinuous degraded cedar fence where individual homeowners have all conducted section replacements at different times and in the inevitably-different styles that result from using multiple contractors. 

And the obvious question is... how much would it cost to clean and stain that mile of fences along Centerpointe? (And the fences line it on both sides, so it's actually two miles of fence).

I don't know.  I CAN tell you that the stain brand referenced above is about $0.80 per fence-foot retail price to apply, not figuring in labor for pressure-washing and labor for the stain application.  I also don't know how many years of extra life that kind of treatment adds to the fence, thus delaying replacement costs, and that's a very important question.  Those of us who paid to stain our own sections of interior yard fence have an interesting predicament: only one side of the fence is protected from water damage, mold and algae growth, and ultraviolet degradation from sunlight.  In our case, I essentially paid about two hundred bucks plus sweat equity to half-do a job.  If I knew how much lifespan the staining could add to the fence, I could tell you whether it's worth me spraying each of my neighbors' fence sides, just to make our shared asset last longer and potentially cost less over the longer term. 

Of course, that would leave those neighbors in the position of having to complete the rest of their own staining jobs, so you see what kind of a domino effect could result. 

I'm not sure what the best answers are here.  I only know that in our case, looking across our back yard to a moldy grey fence was not an option we were willing to accept. 
Would it be worth saving me from myself??

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