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Cost of Split Rail Fencing

Split rail fencing is a type of all-wood fence that is made without using hardware like nails, fence staples or other materials. Depending on the construction method selected, it is a great option for homeowners with rocky, hard soil or for someone who needs to be able to take down or move sections of fencing quickly and easily. Because of the simple design, it is a relatively easy project that most homeowners can do without a contractor. If a contractor is hired, the labor costs should be minimal.

Split Rail Fencing Cost

  • Split rail fences are one of the cheapest options for landscape fencing, ranging between $10 and $30 per linear foot.

Average Pricing for Material Types

  • Cedar – between $10 and $15 per linear foot
  • Yellow pine – between $10 and $18 per linear foot
  • Locust – between $20 and $30 per linear foot
  • Composite – between $19 and $23 per linear foot

Split rail fences are known by several other names, including snake fence, worm fence, log fence or zigzag fence. It is constructed of logs that have been split lengthwise. Upright posts, if they are used, typically have holes bored through them for the placement of rails. Depending on the desired appearance and purpose of the fence, the rails can range anywhere between 8 feet and 16 feet long, and the rails are usually stacked between three and five feet high or higher.

Split Rail Fencing Uses

Split rail fences are among the earliest fencing designs in the United States due to the simplicity of their construction and the ready availability of lumber. Today, split rail fencing is used in both rural and suburban areas for a variety of reasons. People enjoy it as decorative fencing for its rustic appearance. It is also widely used for agricultural purposes such as horse corrals or fencing in gardens and livestock. In addition, split rail fences are an attractive and cost-effective way to mark property lines or to section off portions of a property. However, because of its open design, it is not a good fencing option to restrain children or pets unless meshing of some kind is used to cover the openings.

Split Rail Material Options

Homeowners have a large selection of wood species to choose from when shopping for split rail fencing.

  • The most common variety is cedar, either eastern white cedar or western red cedar. It is a popular choice because the oils in the wood make it naturally insect- and rot-resistant.
  • Yellow pine is another common choice because it is inexpensive, and the wood lends itself well to pressure treatments that inhibit rot.
  • Less common options are oak and locust, both of which are extraordinarily hard woods, with locust also having excellent rot resistance.
  • There are split rails available in plastic composite materials, although these tend to be somewhat expensive.
  • The advantage to composites is that they do not rot or crack, making them some of the longest-lasting materials.

One aspect that makes split rail fencing unique is the variety of ways it can be built. The simplest and most cost-effective method is a three-rail fence with posts. The posts are buried at regular intervals, and the rails are inserted into holes on the posts. Other construction methods include a zigzag split rail fence.

Posts can be used to separate and stabilize rails, but they do not need to be buried, or the rails can be used without posts by stacking them in an interlocking pattern. Sometimes, diagonal cross-braces are used at each junction to support the corners.

Reasons to Choose Split Rail Fences

  • There are no sharp edges that can hurt animals or children.
  • It uses less building material than picket fences or other, more solid fence designs.
  • It's easy to build and simple to repair -- just remove faulty rail or post and replace it.
  • Zigzag split rail designs are well-suited to hilly properties because it's easier to shape them around the contour of the land.

Many factors will play into the final price, including materials and design. A standard three-rail design will use far less material than a zigzag design with rails stacked five or seven deep. In general, wood is considered to be the least expensive material in comparison to vinyl or metal fencing. Because split rails are rough-hewn with no finishing, it is the least expensive among wood fencing options.

Last updated on Aug 28, 2014

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