Why are my wooden fence panels cracking?

Fence panels

If you’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting your garden fence panels looking exactly as you’d like, then it can understandably be frustrating (not to mention unnerving) to spot cracks in its surface. We should definitely start by saying, though: don’t worry. It’s not necessarily the sign of any defects in your wooden fence panels, and it’s particularly common in spring and summer, when the weather starts to get warmer.

Here, we’ve explained exactly what you need to know about cracks in your wooden fencing, as well as the dos and don’ts of how to deal with them! Now, let’s start with the most obvious question…

What causes cracks?

Basically, pressure and moisture. As you may (or may not) already know, wood actually ‘breathes’ throughout the year – in other words, it expands and contracts, depending on the ambient humidity of the air around it, and the moisture content of the wood itself.

Now, this second one is particularly pivotal, as wood contains a significant amount of natural moisture. (In fact, wood can actually contain over 50% of its weight in water when it’s first harvested.) Without getting too deeply into the science of it, when wood absorbs water it expands, and equally when it loses water, it contracts. That ultimately puts pressure on the wood fibres, and that can end up causing cracks to appear.

As we’ve touched on above, it also breathes according to seasonal changes in the relative humidity of the air, and reacts to any particularly dramatic shifts. That’s a big part of the reason why cracks can be such a common sight in spring and summer, as we start to see what will typically be our hottest temperatures of any given year.

What can I do about cracks in my timber fencing panels?

To be honest, there’s a very good chance that you don’t necessarily need to do anything. The odd crack here and there is nothing really to worry about; it’s part of the normal life cycle of wood and furniture. In fact, it’s often best to avoid the temptation to try and glue it all together, because those seasonal shifts and ‘breaths’ are going to continue no matter what you do. If you’re trying to seal it shut, the wood can just end up straining against itself, so all that might happen is that you ultimately make the issue worse in the long run – and at not inconsiderable cost and effort too.

All that’s to say, if the crack looks relatively minor, it’s probably best to just leave it alone, and you may even find that it re-seals itself in time as the wood expands or contracts again. If you spot any particularly large cracks on the other hand, you’ve got a couple of options:

  • Fill it in with epoxy
  • Sand down the cracked board, and then use a sealer or stain to cover it
  • Replacing the damaged board or post entirely

You can attempt the first two very cautiously if you’d like, but just make sure to bear in mind that they may well be temporary fixes, so just take care to consider the overall structural integrity of the fence, and use your best judgement.

Of course, if you’ve got any questions or you need any advice, we’re always here to help at Welch Fencing. Most of the timber fencing that we supply is pressure treated, which minimises the amount of moisture both entering and leaving the wood. You can find out more about the difference between dip treated and pressure treated panels on a recent post, or alternatively drop us a line on enquiries@garden-fence-panels.co.uk or 01772 336 476, and we’ll be happy to see how we can help.