Post and Rail Fences
Post and Rail Fences

Some consumers in agricultural and rural settings decide to erect split-rail or post-and-rail fences around their properties as they lend a more rustic appearance. This type of fence is not especially security-intensive and is used more to define the boundaries of property.

Definitions and Composition

Split-rail fences consist of wooden beams that are split into regularly sized planks which are then affixed to posts. The usage of split-rail fences is not as common as it was before the twentieth century because the rails (wooden beams) must be cut from straight logs without knots. They also may require more maintenance as explained below. Post-rail-fences are simpler, consisting of unsplit rails or logs which are then attached to the wooden posts. A gate is also added, usually of the same type of wood and style. The fence itself is constructed by affixing the beams to the fence posts.

One technique for split-rail fences employed by Americans settling the western parts of the early United States was to first cut the logs into approximately eleven-foot lengths, peel off the bark of the log, then split the log several times into eighths. These "eighths" were then split into triangles or rectangles in a zig-zag pattern. After reaching a height of about eight rails, the rails were affixed to two stakes sunk into the ground and leaned toward each other. These stakes were then reinforced by a horizontal "rider".

This technique requires an extremely large amount of lumber. Historically, approximately seven or eight thousand rails were required to enclose a forty-acre property. Some other fences utilize fewer rails or use uncut logs fit into holes punched through fence posts. Rails may be much shorter and are commonly available at eight to twelve-foot lengths.

Materials

These types of fences are almost entirely composed of wood and Consumers should note that they require more lumber than most others. Therefore, they should be used where wood is an affordable option as compared to other materials, like aluminum.

Complications

Although split-rail and post-and-rail fences improve the appearance of property with their attractive, rustic setting, consumers should heed potential complications. First, these types of fences may not be desirable in warm, humid climates. Insects, such as termites, are a perennial issue in these areas. The wood should be treated to resist insect infestation. Some experts recommend using cedar as it is more insect resistant.

Warm climates may also lead to rotting of the wood. Wood that is more insect and rot-resistant may be more expensive, but may be worth the extra investment to avoid having to replace much of the fence length. Many people also utilize vinyl as a protective material against warm, humid conditions.

Also, the fewer the number of horizontal rails spanning the length between posts, the easier children and pets are able to climb between the rails and escape outside. One possible solution is to install clear fabric between the rails. Fewer horizontal rails also allows possible intrusion of the property from the outside.

The New York State Department of Transportation warns that these fences may also cause serious damage, injury, or death on high speed roadways as automobiles may accidentally careen into fences, particularly when fence rails protrude from curves.