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What Are Fence Post Caps and Why Do You Need Them?

Posted by Tim Settle on

Decks and fences are valuable additions to your landscape. As such, you should do everything possible to protect them. One of the biggest problems with both fencing and decks are the posts. After years of weathering, the posts – especially the tops – are often split, rotten or worse. That’s where fence post caps come in. Install them when you install your new deck or fence, and you’ll be able to enjoy your investment many more years!

What are Fence Post Caps?

Fence post caps are a covering that fits over the top of the posts on a deck or fence. Most people think of post caps as a decorative item. They come in many colors, including black, white and natural shades such as greens and browns. Black is the most common color because it goes with everything, while white is less common because it is often difficult to match if you need to replace a cap.

Post caps also come in several material choices. Wood used to be one of the more popular materials, but like the posts themselves, wood caps rot quickly, and they’re prone to splitting, moss growth and pest damage. Vinyl post caps are a better alternative, but even these will fade and become brittle after a few years because they are not particularly UV resistant.

The best fence post caps are made from ASA resin, which is an impact-resistant plastic that offers a high level of UV resistance. With colors molded into the material, you won’t have to worry about fading, and the increased durability means that your deck and fence posts will be protected for a very long time.

More than Just Decoration

The end grain is the most vulnerable part of a fence post. In wet weather, the tops of your posts will absorb more water than any other part of the post. This leads to mold, mildew, moss growth and eventually rot. Fence post tops are also more exposed to sun and wind, which dries the wood and causes it to crack.

Fence post caps solve all those problems by protecting post tops from the elements. Not only will your posts last much longer, but they will also be safer. Since rough edges stay hidden under the cap, a wayward hand is not likely to pick up a splinter.

Depending on the caps you choose, they also offer valuable protection against birds and other wildlife. With pointed caps, you’ll find that squirrels and birds that previously liked to sit on your posts and make a mess will start hanging out somewhere else.

Choosing Your Fence Post Caps

Before you order fence post caps, you’ll need to choose between nominal and actual sizes. Most treated posts are somewhat smaller than their advertised measurements. In these cases, you’ll need to purchase post caps in nominal sizes.

  • 4x4 posts are 3.5x3.5 inches.
  • 6x6 posts are 5.5x5.5 inches.

If you have rough-cut fence posts, the posts will most likely have actual measurements. That is, a 4x4 post with actual measurements will be 4 inches on all sides, and a 6x6 post will be 6 inches on all sides.

Before committing to a certain size, get out a tape measure and double-check the posts. You’ll want to make sure that your new post caps fit well, but not too tightly. When post caps are snug around the post, you’ll risk cracking them as the wood expands. Not only that, but a snug fit won’t allow any ambient moisture to evaporate, which can cause your posts to rot more quickly.

Fence post caps aren’t just for decoration. They’re a wonderful way to keep decks and fences in great shape for a long time. It’s a small price to pay for something that can add years to the life of your investment.

- Author: Tim Settle
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