Designing Split Rail Fences

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  • 1-500 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-10,000
What You'll Need
A notebook
A pencil
A tape measure
The address of a fencing company

Designing split rail fences is not all that difficult to do because of their simplicity. Made popular by farmers in America during the nineteenth century, this type of fence was replaced by the cheaper barbed wire which proved to be more effective. However, once home landscaping caught on, the split rail fence has once again become popular with homeowners. There are several basic designs available for this type of fence. Some ideas are outlined below.

Step 1 - Decide on the Style

The most common split rail fences in the United States during the nineteenth century were just what their name implies. They were free standing, built in a zig-zag line with no supporting posts. The rails were stacked on top of each other using a simple interlocking system and the zig-zag pattern allowed the rails to stand on their own. This, of course, was a less expensive type of fence to construct and maintain but it is doubtful whether the style would be as popular today for a residential property.

The more popular version of the fence is the post and rail version. This requires setting rough hewn posts at regular intervals into the ground and inserting the split rails into roughly cut holes in the posts. This type of fence offers an uninterrupted view from the house but at the same time offers little in the way of privacy or security.

Step 2 - Consider Benefits

gorgeous mountain view across a field with a rustic fence

If the fence is only required to mark the boundary of the property, this is one of the easiest fences to install because of its simple materials and basic design. The larger the property the longer the fence will take to install. Post holes need digging and concrete poured to set the posts. Then the rails have to be inserted into the posts. Your hands won’t suffer the same abuse as you would get from a barbed wire fence. You will use much less material than that needed for a slat or picket fence.

Step 3 - Contemplate Economics

There are two reasons why split rail fences were popular in the farming sector. The fence construction was a simple but sturdy way of marking land boundaries but it did not require the use of tools, nails, or pegs. The wood used in construction was readily available. Secondly, it provided jobs for many young men, who worked at splitting the poles, providing them with a living wage and allowing farmers to mark their boundaries without the added burden of having to split the poles themselves.

Step 4 - Considerations

Although the fence is simple to construct and will not obstruct the view, it is not entirely suited to every home. It is reminiscent of the Old West and the big ranches popularized in movies. It fits well around an old style ranch house or a colonial two story house with a large porch but it would be out of place surrounding a thatched house set in an English garden. The two designs are totally mismatched. However if your garden is more country styled and your house looks more like a cottage than a mansion, then the split rail fence may be just what you need.