Lawn + Garden Projects
How to Build a Split Rail Fence
BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 122 Projects
The split rail, or post and rail, fence is essentially a rustic version of a post and board fence style and is similarly a good choice for a decorative accent, for delineating areas, or for marking boundaries without creating a solid visual barrier. Typically made from split cedar logs, the fence materials have naturally random shaping and dimensions, with imperfect details and character marks that give the wood an appealing hand-hewn look. natural weathering of the untreated wood only enhances the fence’s rustic beauty.
The construction of a split rail fence couldn’t be simpler. The posts have holes or notches (called mortises) cut into one or two facets. The fence rails have trimmed ends (called tenons) that fit into the mortises. No fasteners are needed. Posts come in three types to accommodate any basic configuration: common posts have through mortises, end posts have half-depth mortises on one facet, and corner posts have half-depth mortises on two adjacent facets. The two standard fence styles are two-rail, which stand about three feet tall, and three-rail, which stand about four feet tall. rails are commonly available in eight- and ten-feet lengths.
In keeping with the rustic simplicity of the fence design, split rail fences are typically installed by setting the posts with tamped soil and gravel instead of concrete footings (frost heave is generally not a concern with this fence, since the joints allow for plenty of movement). This comes with a few advantages: the postholes are relatively small, you save the expense of concrete, and it’s much easier to replace a post if necessary. plan to bury about a third of the total post length (or 24 inches minimum). This means a three-foot-tall fence should have 60-inch long posts. If you can’t find long posts at your local home center, try a lumberyard or fencing supplier.