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I have a fence that I share with my neighbors and I have a couple of questions related to how to properly clean and stain this fence. You can see it in the picture below. There is another segment perpendicular on what you see there and to make the things more complicated that side is shared on a small segment with one neighbor and the rest of it with another neighbor.

These being said here are my questions:

  • What is the best way to clean and stain this fence considering that the color and the ages of various segments are different. To be clearer, in the picture you have the only two colors and ages present in my fence.

  • This is more of a legal, procedural question: how do I do the above without having problems with my neighbors. I think that the fence is on the property line so the ownership is shared. The newer looking segment separates me from my left side neighbor while the worse looking segment separates me from the two back side neighbors (back to back properties). One of the back neighbors has a vegetable garden there and I do not want to pollute his garden but I still want to stain/clean my fence. I am planning to use a power washer and an air pressure gun for staining but I am afraid that these might get beyond the fence and that might be trouble. Are there any ways to prevent this ?

enter image description here

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    You should coordinate with your neighbors. Tell them what you plan to do, and come to an agreement about how to proceed. They may have some ideas of how to protect their property, that they can put in place while you work. – Tester101 May 5 '15 at 11:44
  • I am thinking about big pieces of cardboard or plastic sheets which I can move along the fence while I am doing it. The side neighbors are very old, I think that I will have to do it myself. How about cleaning and staining? How do I do it without finally having two nuances of the same color in the end (because the each segment was different) – MiniMe May 5 '15 at 11:47
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    I'd go with plastic sheets, water and cardboard don't work well together. – Tester101 May 5 '15 at 13:04
  • As for the different age sections of fence... If you're staining, you'll likely never get a perfect match. – Tester101 May 5 '15 at 13:05
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    If you can't get the stain to match, paint is an option. Doing nothing is an option too. The gray section looks like cedar; it weathers to that nice soft tone, and doesn't really need protecting. Were it me I'd think about just touching up the part that's already been stained. – keshlam May 6 '15 at 0:32
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Yes, talk to your neighbor, but you can just do your side. I've pressure washed my fence that looked like that (entire fence...I wasn't matching another part of my fence,) and removed the mold (that's what has turned the boards gray) down to where the boards are a golden tan again. Try doing just your side of the fence without hitting the edges of the boards and I think you'll get 99% of the effect. Then, match up some stain to the existing stained boards and it'll match fine. It looks like the existing stained fence could use a fresh coat too. Remember, the same stain "recipe" for the new fence will probably not be the same "recipe" for the old fence. Always try a small sample in an inconspicuous location.

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The best thing you can do is try and reason with your neighbors. Good fences do make good neighbors and having been in the fence business for 30 years I know how it can be.

Try to explain to your neighbor's that you would like to stain the fence to preserve it. And that you will be paying for the stain and supplying all the labor.

Treating the fence will indeed add many years to the life of the fence. They might consider it if you approached them that way.

But no, you have what is called a shadow box style fence with lattice. Treating one side will not preserve it and there is no way to not get treatment on the other side. It will also look horrible from their side having partially stained areas. Even if your doing it just for aesthetics the same problem will arise.

If they agree when you use the pressure washer be sure and adjust the flow so the stream does not cut into the wood leaving what will look like scrape marks.

The product I use is Preserveawood. It is found only in Home Depot stores. There are three colors, Redwood, Pacific Redwood which is a bit darker and Cedar. Right next to where they sell the Preservawood they sell those little sprayers like bug sprayers. They put them there for a reason. The sealer comes in 5 gallon buckets. One bucket is good for a 400 lf.' of 6' high fence. Cost is about $125 for 5 gallons, $17.00 for the sprayer. DO NOT get the $10.00 sprayer it will clog up.

Just be sure and mix it well, pour it in the bug sprayer and spray it on. The sprayers come with 3 fan tips that give an even spray. Use gloves because it is oil base. The wood sucks the treatment up. Very easy and effective. It will last for 5 years or more actually.

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I have thought of two solutions for this issue:
1) remove all the boards on my side and replace them with something that will have the same color on both segments. This will create a problem to my neighbors though
2) leave both segments as they are and either add new boards over the old ones or add lattice fence over the existing boards. This will mask the old fence

Do you guys see any problem with this solution? Please vote for it I need to know if this is a good answer

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The left panel was stained and/or painted. The right panel was left natural and silvered over time (cedar).

There's no easy way to match these with an translucent stain short of sanding both panels down to new wood--which would be crazy to do in terms of time and labor.

As such, I'd suggest considering an opaque stain and/or paint.

Definitely coordinate efforts with your neighbor, though.

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First of all, you cannot "share" a fence. Property belongs to one party or the other. In a court of law normally they will consider the fence to belong to whoever built it. If part of it is overlapping onto someone else's property, all that means is Party X was dumb enough to situate his personal property on top of Party Y's real property.

If it is not clear who built the fence, I would recommend cutting a deal with the neighbor along the lines of whoever maintains the fence, owns the fence, and get it in writing. The agreement should say who owns the fence and what maintenance they are obliged to do on it. The owner should have the explicit right to have access to BOTH sides of the fence for purposes of maintaining it.

Once you decide who owns the fence and get it in writing, then that person can do whatever they want. Paint purple dinosaurs on it or whatever.

Getting a uniform stain on something like that looks like it would be impossible to me since it is weather beaten. If you want to go nuts, maybe try treating it with oxalic acid. That may even it out somewhat.

  • A quick search tells me that what you are saying is not exactly true: realestate.findlaw.com/neighbors/… "The law places responsibility on both parties because both benefit from the fence. Consequently, when a fence needs repair, both property owners must share the cost. If one party refuses to cooperate, the other party can do any of the following: Write a letter to the neighbor explaining the problem with the fence. Have the repair work performed. Then write a demand letter requesting payment from the neighbor. Go to mediation. – MiniMe May 6 '15 at 16:28
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    @user2059078 LOL, somebody in California must have wrote that article. If somebody sent me a "demand letter" for fence I would laugh in their face. In New England where I live legislators are not smart, but they are smart enough not to make bogus, unenforceable laws like that. Legislators in CA are just plain dumb. When garbage like a "fence demand letter" hits a real courtroom, it just gets thrown out. – Tyler Durden May 6 '15 at 17:14
  • Here is another reference that applies for the province that I live in ottawasun.com/2015/02/20/who-owns-the-fence so what you said above does not apply in many other places... your area is rather the exception not the rule – MiniMe May 6 '15 at 19:34
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    @user2059078 The article you linked is consistent with my post, more or less. It recommends exactly the same thing I did: making an explicit private deal with your neighbor. As far as "fence viewers" are concerned, they are completely obsolete. Massachusetts is now a Commonwealth, not a colony anymore, so we don't have wierdo theocratic dictators and neither does Canada. "Fence viewers" are basically powerless bureaucrats who basically go around telling people to make deals with their neighbors, which is what I already said. – Tyler Durden May 6 '15 at 19:52
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    Key words: "between the property lines." In much of the US, there is no "between"; it's a single line and unless both parties agree otherwise the fence gets built on one side or the other. – keshlam Aug 19 '15 at 20:46

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