You can restore an old, wooden fence by following a set of steps that help you get it back to top condition. If you buy a new property that has an old fence, your first instinct might be to tear it down. But if it's structurally sound, building a new fence from the ground up will waste time and money. Instead, you can restore the fence through sanding, staining and replacing the hardware, if needed.
Check the Posts
Just as a house is supported by its foundation, the fence posts that are sunk into holes in the ground and surrounded with hardened concrete support the fence. Check to see if any of the concrete has rotted or flaked away. If not, push and pull on each fence post to see if it is still sturdy. If it is, you will not need to replace it. If it wobbles, you will need to go through the process of restoring it, which includes using an auger to drill a new hole, putting a new post in the hole and filling the hole with cement.
Over time, fence boards get bleached by the sun, and regardless of how well they're finished, they can begin to flake and peel. Examine the fence to see how severe the peeling and flaking is on each board. Some boards, especially those in direct sunlight, will be worse than other boards. Some boards that are in the shade most of the time, especially if you live in a damp climate, may have mold or mildew on them.
Rent a pressure washer to thoroughly clean the fence before continuing to restore it. Attach the pressure washer to water and power sources and spray the fence slowly and precisely to remove flaked paint or varnish, mold, mildew and dirt. The spray of the water will not harm the wood, but will clean it well prior to your next step in the restoration process.
Once the fence has dried from the pressure washer cleaning, sand each board smooth with a belt sander or random orbit sander. Your first layer of sanding should be with 80-grit sandpaper, then sand a second layer with 160-grit sandpaper.
Once you've sanded the fence, fill any holes with putty. Cover each fence board with paint or varnish, depending on the look you wish to achieve. If necessary, complete the project by replacing any loose hardware. Pull old nails out and reinforce the boards with new screws and add new hinges and a lock to the gate, if required.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.