A fence is a construction that surrounds a territory or neighborhood, typically outdoors, and is mainly erected using posts that are connected by rails, boards, wires, and other paraphernalia. For clarity, a fence is different from a wall in the sense that fences don’t have solid foundations along their entire lengths. There are several types of fences, but today, I’ll focus on wood fences: What are the different types of wood fences? What are their distinguishing features? And what type of wood fence do I need? I’ve answered all these queries insightfully in this article. Let’s get right at it:
Types of wood fences are interpreted in two ways: the first is by the type of wood used, and the second is by the design of construction employed (in other words, the function of the fence). Going by the type of wood, there are cedarwood fences, pinewood fences, oakwood fences, cypress fences, redwood fences, composite wood fences, and bamboo fences. From the function/design of construction standpoint, there is the picket fence, post and rail fence, lattice fence, shadowbox fence, and wattle fence.
I’ll begin the analysis based on the type of wood used, followed by the fence’s the design/function. Read on:
Table of Contents
Popular Types of Wood Fences
1. Cedarwood Fence
Cedar is a softwood indigenous to Canada and the American northwest. Cedar, being a softwood, is easy to presume that this wood makes a fence that is not durable; well, nothing could be further from the truth. With a lifespan of 30 years and above, cedar fence outlives many wood fences; this is true even when left untreated. Cedarwood has a natural resistance to insects and rot, which further adds to its long-lasting properties.
Even though cedar fences come with countless admirable features, they have a few drawbacks. This fence needs a bigger budget compared to other wood fences. This fence type is also not the best option if you are planning on painting your fence; cedar already has a prominent color and therefore needs several paint coats to mask the initial tone.
Cedar fences come in two primary types, as discussed below:
- Red Cedar
Red cedar is among the lightest softwoods; thus, it is easy to transport and has a high insulation value. This cedar, when covered with a finishing or protective coating, lasts longer. Therefore, it is best practice to treat it with oils, stains, or other coating agents.
Red cedar has a uniform texture and straight grains, which make your wood fence look appealing. Installing this fence type will improve your outdoor’s aesthetics significantly. The only pitfall is that the wood has a strong odor that may affect allergic individuals.
- White Cedar
White cedarwood comes in narrow, pale brown heartwood and white sapwood. This wood fence comprises small knots with straight, refined, and even grains. The wood is easy to work with, notwithstanding using power tools or hand tools; this makes fence construction an easy task. White cedarwood is easy to cut thanks to its low splitting and cracking tendencies. These fences also tend to dry up faster than other wood varieties.
This wood has a setback of being a little soft and weak, which undermines its ability to hold screws and nails when fencing. The wood also emits a strong cedar odor which can affect asthmatic and other allergic patients.
2. Pinewood Fence
Pinewood is a softwood found in England, Canada, but mostly in the US. This wood is naturally stiff and shock-resistant, making it a great candidate for fences; it also has a soft texture making it easy to work with when fencing. Commonly, pines come in light shades, from white to yellowish-white hues. The light color makes the wood easy to restrain or paint on with any color.
Pinewood fences are cheaper than cedarwood fences; pine trees grow pretty fast, so they are widely available, and it’s easy to replace felled trees. The widespread availability makes pine affordable and convenient if you are operating on a tight budget for fencing.
As a disadvantage, pinewood has no decay-resistant or insect-resistant properties after logging. Therefore, untreated or bare pine is best suited for indoor construction works like indoor drywall framing. For fencing, pine has to be treated with wood preservatives like chromate copper arsenate and copper azole. When looking for the best pinewood for fencing, go for lumber that has minimal knotting. Excessive knotting weakens the pine, and this is not good for fencing.
- Oak Fence
Oakwood is a hardwood native to the northern hemisphere and has approximately 500 species. Being a hardwood, Oakwood makes supremely durable and strong fences (it has a high density of 0.75 g/cm3). Oak fences stand out with the fence planks’ wavy appearance; you can apply paint or stain the wood to highlight this adorable appearance. This wood shows high resistance to fungal and insect attack due to the high tannin levels; this is a highly-desired feature for fencing.
The northern red oak, marketed as red oak, is among the most-prized for lumber. The red oak’s only drawbacks are: they have open capillaries that give fungi easy access, and the wood quickly rots when used outdoors. When using red oak for fencing, it is best practice to treat it with preservatives; they improve durability exponentially as the chemicals get absorbed deeply into the capillaries. Subcategories of red oaks suitable for fencing include the Shumard oak and the cherry bark oak.
- Cypress Wood Fence
Cypress is the common name for many coniferous trees and shrubs found in northern temperate zones. Cypress sapwood makes for a small mass of the tree; its heartwood contributes to the entire mass’s better part. Cypresses generally fasten well with screws and nails, making them ideal for fencing. The bald cypress (BC) is the most commonly used cypress for timber in North America; it is stable, fungi-resistant, durable, water-resistant, and rot-resistant, which makes it excellent for fencing and heavy construction. BC’s heartwood ranges from yellow-brown to reddish-brown and sometimes almost black. By and large, the darker the heartwood, the higher the decay resistance capabilities.
Fence planks harvested from young cypress trees are weaker and less durable than those obtained from older trees, so it’s best to use the latter for fencing. BC shows slow growth and subsequently takes a long period to mature, but once matured, it becomes incredibly tough and will endure countless harsh conditions.
Cypress being resinous is beneficial as it gives the lumber and fence in general natural protection against splintering, insects, and termite attack. On the flip side, the secreted resins result in a greasy wood surface, making it difficult to paint or stain your fence.
3. Redwood Fence
Redwood is the most widely used wood for fencing. Even though it’s costly, its quality and aesthetic allure make it worth the purchase. Since this type of wood is sturdy, insect-resistant, and rot-resistant, it is regarded as the best choice of timber for constructing fences. However, the wood is not perfect as continuous exposure to snow, rain, and sunlight leads to decay, aging, and splintering. Therefore, I still advise you to treat the planks, stain, or paint for further protection and a better longevity profile.
A common type of redwood is the coast redwood! This is among the most valued wood in the lumbering trade because it is resistant to decay, lightweight, and naturally-attractive. If you are chiefly interested in wood fence durability, this redwood species is your best bet; this is because their trees are the tallest and among the world’s oldest living things. Taking into account the above description, if you coat the planks with wood preservatives, your fence will remain strong through several generations. One last merit of the coast redwood is it does not secrete any resins making it absorb small water quantities for fire resistance. Redwood is undoubtedly the best type of wood fence.
4. Composite Wood Fence
Composite lumber is a blend of wood fibers, plastic, and binding agents. These ingredients are mixed to construct fencing material that is stronger, denser, and more durable than the individual elements when used alone. Composite wood is also a mixture of different species of wood fibers or sawdust forming wood planks used for building.
To expound on durability, composite lumber is less likely to delaminate or split thanks to its constituents’ structural arrangement; this makes better fences. Composite wood fences are also scratch-resistant, water-resistant, and mold-resistant. These fence planks come from the manufacturer as finished products; therefore, they don’t need sanding, staining, or painting.
The only snag is that these fences are more expensive than ordinary or treated timber, which calls for a high initial investment. However, the high cost of installation is compensated with long life and low maintenance costs, making it an excellent wood fencing investment in the long term.
5. Bamboo fences
In temperate climates, you can grow bamboo trees along the demarcation line to be used as a fence. Bamboo trees grow at an incredibly fast pace, and after 3-4 years, they become mature enough to be used as wooden fences. If you only need dry bamboo stems, grow the trees on the farm, then harvest after 3-4 years for usage, or purchase ready-to-use bamboo rolls. Bamboo fences are water-resistant, insect resistant, lightweight, and sturdy, all of which are desirable characteristics of a high-quality wood fence.
Types of Wood Fences by Design and Function
Picket fences are commonplace in the United States, arguably the most prominent within the suburban middle class. The fences comprise evenly-spaced vertical boards coupled to two horizontal rails, one at the top and the other at the bottom. This wooden fence has posts that are fixed into the ground at larger intervals than the vertical planks; these posts give strength and structural support to the overall fence anatomy. Wooden picket fences are normally 3-4 feet tall, and the boards have pointed ends for decorative purposes.
- Fencing front yards
- Encircling traditional cricket fields
- Containing children and pets
- Fencing gardens
- Enclosing pools
Post and Rail Fence
These wood fences are uncommon in residential areas and even less so in urban dwellings. The fences are prevalent in rural regions and have a simple design that is pocket inexpensive. Post and rail fences are used for property demarcation and in farms & ranches for penning livestock for branding, transportation, and treatment. Since these fences are used to cover large swathes of land, They have wide plank spacing to economize wood.
- Enclosing fields
Wood lattice fencing is an excellent way to beautify your front or backyard. The fences mainly serve a decorative purpose but can be bolstered for better protective properties. These fences also give a good backdrop and leverage for climbing plants for natural adornment.
The only hitch is that this fence needs high cleanliness standards to serve its decorative functions; it is best to construct it in residential areas that are not dusty.
Board on Board Fence
The primary purpose of the board-on-board wood fencing is privacy! These fences are visually impenetrable from either side, so nobody can see whatever is going on in your compound. The fence also defines boundaries that keep pets and children within the dictated playing zones. These wooden fences are constructed just as their name sound: Pickets are put on top of other pickets in an overlapping fashion to cover any gaps present and then fastened. Even if the wood planks shrink due to adverse weather conditions, the fence’s privacy integrity remains uncompromised, making it highly effective. Additionally, these fences are so excellent at shielding off the wind that you won’t notice it’s windy outside its enclosure.
Shadow Box Fence
A shadowbox fence is also known informally as the “neighbor-friendly fence”; this is because the fence, once installed, comes out looking the same on both sides. The best woods for this type of fence are cedarwood, redwood, or pressure-treated pine. When setting up posts for a shadow box fence, use the right fastener for the wood type you are using; for cedar and redwood (use stainless steel or double hot-dipped galvanized fastener), for pressure-treated pine (use hot-dipped galvanized, ceramic coated, or stainless steel fastener), for untreated wood (use zinc-coated, decrotized, or any of the above-mentioned fasteners). Don’t use interior-rated fasteners for any of the wood named above types when fencing.
In shadowbox fences, pickets are installed on both sides of the rails, with each picket filling a gap left on the other side of the fence. The resulting fence provides privacy for you and your neighbor while allowing light and breeze through the fence.
Wattle fencing came into prominence in the middle ages and was used mainly for livestock and small-scale farm management. Wattle fences are simple to construct and can be undertaken as simple DIY projects with little aid from online tutorials. The fence is made by first erecting wooden stakes and then weaving wood branches in and out of the stakes to form “walls.”
Wattle wood fences are only used as temporary barriers to control livestock movement for controlled grazing practices and branding. For crop farms, wattle fences keep off harmful animals such as deer, rabbits, and elks so that they don’t eat up or destroy your yields. The fences are cheap to construct (almost zero costs) and are not labor intensive; this is highly-convenient. These wooden fences are predominant in the countryside, where farming is widely practiced.
There’s a popular saying in the fencing realms that goes, “good fences make good neighbors.” Wood fences are certainly good fences as they serve the best privacy, protective, and decorative functions. These fences come in various wood types and fence designs, and you are better off if you have detailed information on every category.
Therefore, What Are the Different Types of Wood Fences?
As highlighted in this article’s discussion segment, types of wood fences are construed in two ways, i.e., based on the wood type used and based on the design/function of the wood fence. By definition of wood type, we have cedar wood fences, pinewood fences, oakwood fences, cypress fences, redwood fences, composite wood fences, and bamboo fences. As per design/function, there is the picket fence, post and rail fence, lattice fence, shadowbox fence, and wattle fence.
Before installing any wood fence, check your local government for any zoning issues and find out if there are any crossline requirements in the area in question. Also, call your local utility providers to have any underground lines or pipes marked.
When properly maintained, wood fences can last for many years. To help prolong the life of your fence, it should be cleaned and sealed periodically. Before applying a protective sealer, clean the fence with a product that kills mildew and removes stains. Once the planks are dry, apply a high-quality protective sealing agent according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to coat all exposed surfaces.