Choosing wood for split rail fence

The wood for the split rail fence, is chosen based on three things: upfront cost, durability and form and function. The answers to these questions will help you make the right choice.


  1. Split rail is just one of the many types from the wood fencing group called post and rail.
    You have to decide from the start if the split rail is the type of fence you want. You can choose from many other options like post and board, Appalachian, West Virginia Style and Lap Rail fences. What is different to a rail fence from the others is the fact that the rails are actually split. Back in time, wedges and mauls were used to split the rails but now they are split mechanically. Because of this splitting the split rail fence has a rough-hewn look.
  2. You can choose the style of the split rail from a wide variety. People frequently use the 2 or 3 rail border fence or the stacked rail. For the stacked rail the contact with the ground is always present so durability is something you have to take into consideration. The other type of fence uses posts that offer a distance between the ground and the rails. If the area in which you live has a steady temperature and low humidity, then wood will work just fine.
  3. Some usual choices for the split rail fence are the poplar, spruce, southern yellow pine, hardwood mixes and oak and cedar. Until 1900’, chestnut wood was very famous for split rail fences but after that it was completely eliminated from the areas of North America. Since that time, cedar has replaced the chestnut wood. Although it has a high cost, the durability for this wood will offset the price. Another thing to take into consideration is the time you intend to own the property.
  4. If you choose cedar for your split rail fence, you can either use Northern White Cedar and Western Red Cedar. There are no major differences between these two so basically it doesn’t matter which one you choose. Some people claim that Western Red Cedar is more durable in damp and humid areas because it comes from wet areas, like the Cascades. Also, it is known to have a higher circumference than Northern White Cedar.
  5. Besides the weather resistance, cedar rails that have more than 11’ will be safe from bowing, warping and shrinking. This will help you save time for fixing the fence. In the end, the major factor of decision for the wood is the look. In case of Western Red Cedar, the red brown color will be there for a long time and with aging it will change in color into a silvery gray one. The Northern White Cedar on the other hand, starts with a crisp look of white wood and in time will age in a slightly darker gray.


  • Cedar posts don’t have to be set in concrete because they have to drain into the gravel.
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