The majority of customers shop around when looking for products for their home. Your home is the biggest investment you will ever make and you want it to last and look beautiful for many years. This article is intended to help you understand and search for the best fence panel for your project. It’s our belief that a well-educated customer makes for a more satisfied customer and a better end result. We will explain some of the features of our fence panels and differences you may wish to consider while researching other manufactures.
Just like in any industry, there’s a lot of things to be mindful of that reduce both the cost and quality of a panel. In order to keep price down some manufacturers will use pressure treated hemlock or fir as the frame of the panel. This can lead to twisting as they dry out. Pressure treated woods are often white woods (spruce, pine, fir, and hemlock). These species are generally less stable than cedar and may be more susceptible to cracking, warping, and shrinkage.
Other manufactured panels may use shorter boards in their panels than they advertise. A lot of diagonal lattice topped panels may be 3” to 6” shorter than the indicated 6′. For solid panels, they are often 6” shorter than the indicated 6′. These are commonly referred to as nominal height panels. These panels are made with less wood and therefore have a reduced cost. If the height of a panel is a concern to you for reasons like privacy, then full height panels like ours will achieve your needs.
Another difference is what the body of the panel is made out of, which is usually either Tongue and Grove (T&G), regular fence boards, or channel. T&G has a habit of gapping since it is generally milled with a 3/8” or less overlap. This often results in gapping and splitting as a result of being more susceptible to moisture based damage. Regular fence boards are what you commonly see around on both stick built fences and standard grade prefabricated panels also known as Contractor Grade. The main downside for these boards is the gapping which occurs due to moisture seasonally expanding and shrinking the wood. Our Premium panels are made out of channel, which we consider to the be the most durable product. Channel gives you the advantage of an increased overlap that T&G does not offer. As seasonal gapping occurs with T&G and regular fence boards, the channel’s overlap prevents the gaps from forming. If you like the look of T&G, the back side of the channel fence panels have the same look.
Another common difference in the fence panel construction is the framing. We use a 1”x2” sandwiched frame. We consider this to be the strongest option. After 25+ years of fence panel construction, our design has continued to perform greatly for us and our customers. We also make a 2”x4” framed fence panel for those people that want a larger chunkier look. People often believe that heavier panels indicate higher quality and strength, but this is not the case due to the way the panels are constructed. Lighter panels are more durable and have less issues with deformation.
Our 1”x2” Premium Panels are lighter and stronger than other types of framed panels. The nailing pattern eliminates the potential cracking of the panels due to the forces of nature. Our Premium Solid panels come with the added strength of a 1”x4” mid brace, supporting the boards across the entire length of the panel and preventing the boards from warping. Other retailers may sell a variety of other panels that can appear to be the same as ours, but they may be constructed differently. Be sure to ask plenty of questions about the construction of the panels when you are trying to find what panel works best for you.
Both Western Red Cedar and Yellow Cedar are exceptionally durable and weather resistant. After being sustainably harvested they have very pleasant aromas, and are very commercially valuable. Although Western Red Cedar has the longest life span of any tree in British Columbia, the Yellow Cedar is also known for its longevity. Both woods are filled with natural preservatives called tannins, giving them great durability. These natural preservatives repel against moisture, insects, and decay.
Western Red Cedar is a softer and more lightweight wood than Yellow Cedar. It’s more tonal, being known for it’s warm colour and dark, rich heartwood. It is commonly used in log homes because of the flare at the bottom of the trunk, and the fact that it’s a great thermal insulator. Western Red Cedar is excellent at absorbing stain since it is a softwood and is also pitch and resin free, so it works great both internally and externally. The most common uses are decking, fences, posts, and beams.
Yellow Cedar which has many different names such as Alaskan Yellow Cedar and Sitka Cypress is a much harder wood than Western Red Cedar. It’s actually a Cypress tree and not a Cedar. It’s used for building aspects where strength and durability are key factors. It usually grows at high altitudes, causing fine grain with tight growth rings. It takes nails and screws without splitting, and very rarely twists. Since the wood is harder and filled with tannins, it’s not as absorbent with stain. Boat building, bridges, and stairs are common uses for this type of wood since it’s so dense and strong. Yellow Cedar is harvested in much smaller quantities than Western Red Cedar.
The difference between Cedar and SPF goes far beyond the price tag. First of all, SPF stands for Spruce Pine Fir, which indicates a mix of the wood types. Cedar is well known to be the most durable wood on the market, being the most successful at surviving harsh climates and weathering. Cedar is a soft wood, so when staining it is highly absorbent which allows the stain to seep into the wood and further protect it. A lot of people joke around when it comes to painting cedar. They might ask, “What’s the point in paying such a price for cedar when you’re just going to cover it up anyways?”. Even though the wood is covered up, cedar has to ability to withstand different weather conditions and also time. SPF is probably the most common wood used in the building industry, but with the lower price comes more upkeep and less quality. When used externally, SPF is often pressure treated to protect it, but cedar has naturally occurring preservatives called tannins that help to maintain the quality of the wood. SPF is commonly used because of the lower price and the fact that it’s more readily available than cedar.
Nothing compares to the aesthetically pleasing appearance and scent of real cedar, due to the rich tonal properties and oils within the wood. Cedar also comes from the most sustainably sourced forests. Cedar can come with many different properties, ranging from clear with perfectly straight and tight grain, to wider grain filled with the character of knots and texture.
Cedar Lumber SPF Lumber
Cedar wood has naturally occurring chemical extractives, and because of these chemicals cedar is very durable and weather resistant. Unfortunately these chemicals dissolve quite easily in water. Stains around nails or screws are caused by a reaction between the iron in the nails or screws and the chemical extractives from the cedar.
When painting cedar, it is crucial to use a primer so water isn’t given the opportunity to enter the cedar and break down the chemicals. Since you don’t use a primer when staining, it is highly recommended to use hot-dipped galvanized or stainless steel (if they have the right chromium concentration) nails/screws. When painting cedar you should use these nails/screws also. These nails and screws do not have the same reaction with the chemical extractives that iron or regular galvanized nails/screws do.
When first opening a can of stain or paint, the noticeable difference between the two is that stain has a thinner consistency. When applied to a piece of wood, the stain soaks into the wood whereas the paint sits on the surface. The main similarity between stain and paint is that they both provide protection, while adding colour to the wood. A few advantages of stain are that it usually does not require as many coats, it usually has a faster drying time, and it has a natural look. When used for decking, stain does better with foot traffic than paint does. Staining can sometimes require more coats than painting if the wood is highly absorbent. Be sure to follow directions as over-coating can result in peeling, improper curing, and a much longer drying time.
Staining a surface changes the colour of the wood, while still allowing natural components of the wood such a knots and colour changes to show through. Solid stain can be used to cover knots etc; hiding the natural components in the way that a paint does, while also soaking into the wood. Painting a surface conceals the natural components of the wood. Stain gives a matte look, whereas paint can come in different sheens, from matte to high gloss.
Stained Wood Painted Wood
There are two main culprits behind the reason different types of wood can become discoloured: water and sun. In this blog post we will describe this process with cedar, and how to prevent it. Wood cells on the outer layer of the plank are filled with natural oils, which give cedar the nice scent and colour. Water begins to erode this layer of cells, and when UV rays from the sun hit these water-saturated cells, they dry out the natural oils in the wood, leaving dead cells. Wood rot occurs when water once again hits these dead cells. The combination of water and UV exposure causes the cedar to lose it’s scent and colour, turning it into a dull grey.
The wood rot on the cedar creates an ideal breeding ground for mold and mildew, which is both unattractive and detrimental. Luckily, by following the guidelines of correct pressure-washing for your cedar product, and then applying a wood brightener, the damage can often be repaired.
It is crucial to apply a stain to your wood after the drying process has occurred, preferably within two weeks. As long as you follow the correct steps, staining a cedar product prevents UV ray and water damage from occurring. If you are the type of person who likes a natural wood colour, or even the grey colour, there are many different stains on the market that accurately imitate these colours, while protecting the cedar and preventing wood rot from occurring. If stain is applied as often as directed, the product will maintain its high quality for a long time.
In the last blog post we touched on the storage of stain through the winter and how to keep them usable for your next project. I also mentioned the shelf life of stain and how it’s important to follow the tips to maximize the stain’s life span. So in this blog I wanted to talk a little bit more on shelf life and the signs of unusable stain.
On stain cans there is no expiry or sell by date indicating a shelf life of the product, often because how the product is stored depicts the probable length of usage. There are a number of different ways to tell if your stain is still in good condition, and here I will explain these tips. Most of the time, 18 months to 36 months is a good estimate on how long a stain will last, but they can often last for much longer if they are stored in the conditions that I explained in the last blog post.
A visual inspection can give you a good idea of if the stain is still good to use. If the stain has an unusual odour, or becomes thick and rubbery, stringy, or separated the stain should be discarded. Water-based stains can sometimes develop a cottage cheese-like consistency, which indicates that the stain should no longer be used. If everything seems good with the visual test, a drying test is a good way to get a better understanding on the condition of the stain. A drying test can be done by brushing a sample of the stain on to another surface that allows you to see the consistency and also to tell if it’s drying correctly.
Our suggestions for safely storing your stains would be to ensure the lids are completely sealed to avoid contamination from water or other things stored in the area. The stains should be kept in a mild environment that doesn’t allow for the products to freeze then thaw. Lastly try to insure that the cans are as full as possible by using a smaller can if possible. Also be aware that stains do have a shelf life (which isn’t indicated on the can), meaning if they aren’t ideally kept it can make the stain unusable for future projects.
Why you need to sand an already planed board?
This is another common question we have when we are explaining the preparation process before staining S4S planned deck boards. When wood is planed it ends up with the exterior being covered with something that is called “mill glaze”
Mill glaze is quite easy to remove. All it takes is a light sanding to open up the pores of the wood. Most stains recommend a 50-80 grit sandpaper being used. Anything higher than an 80 grit will begin to reseal the wood and the stain will not penetrate.
Mill glaze is the effect that happens when the knives of the planer get hot during the planing process. When they are hot they affect the fibers in such a way that it acts as if it is glued down. You can notice it when you pick up a planed board and see the sheen it appears to have.
Lattice, Trellis, Arbour, and Pergola. What is the difference?
A trellis is a light and thin framework of wood that is often used to support fruit trees or climbing plants. Often customers will use 1×1 S1S2E to construct their creation, buy one of our rose fan trellis like in the photo below.
Lattices are made up of wooden strips that are crossed and fastened together. Most commonly arrayed in a square or a diagonal pattern. It is used for privacy screening or to cover up unsightly areas. We offer a wide array of lattice styles in 4’ x 8’ sheets as well as custom sizes.
Arbours are generally used as entrance ways or small alcoves in gardens and backyards. Its purpose is to provide a small shaded area, often involving climbing plants along the sides. They can range in size and style, but they are usually only a few square feet. We have a few styles that range in size from 3’-6’. For customs sizes please see us in store and we will do our best to assist you.
Pergolas are very similar to arbours, but they are usually much larger covering a patio or garden area to protect it by limiting sun and provide cover from other elements. We often provide the lumber and timbers for arbour projects, both for contractors and homeowners. Here is a sample of one below.