Split-Rail Fences

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What is a split-rail fence?

You’ve probably seen a split-rail fence before, whether you’ve known what to call it or not. These types of fences are used most often in the countryside. They’re built out of the most basic rough-sawn planks or split lumber, and the style dates back to early colonial times. Split-rail fences have a very distinctive look that’s both rustic and simplistic. If you’re interested in an unpretentious fence that looks both natural and beautiful, a split-rail fence may be the answer.

Although there are a few different types of split rail fences, the majority of these fences share a common design. The fence rails themselves are horizontal and fit into vertical posts. The horizontal rails are parallel to each other and the ground. There are two-rail and three-rail variations of this type of fence. Other than the vertical post, there are no panels or pickets with this fence design. This creates an airy and open structure and allows you to see through this fence very easily. Generally, the wood is either not stained at all or stained clear, so the texture of the wood and the natural color really tend to enhance the appeal of a split rail fence, especially once the wood ages and shows it’s patina.

While the classic two-rail and three-rail configurations are the most common, split-rail fences can be customized to suit individual preferences. Homeowners can choose between different types of wood, such as cedar or redwood, each offering unique aesthetic qualities and durability. Some may opt for a more refined look by adding wire mesh between the rails, increasing the fence’s utility for containing smaller animals or providing additional security.

Pros and cons of split-rail fences:


Visual appeal: Split rail fences are visually appealing, especially in rural or country settings. They provide a very rustic and natural look.

Visibility: Since there are no panels or pickets, this type of fence design allows you to showcase your home or business.

Easy to Install: Compared to some other fence styles, like wrought iron, split rail fences are relatively easy to install. Since they are easier to install, they are generally cheaper as well.

Durability: when installed correctly and with quality wood, split rail fences can be very durable.


Not as secure: split rail fences are great at marking boundaries and keeping larger animals, like livestock, within their confines. However, they do not provide much in the way of security. They are easy to climb or go through.

Maintenance: anything made out of wood that exists outside must be maintained regularly to avoid pests and rot. Split rail fences take quite a bit of maintenance, including staining or sealing.

Not good for small pets: If you have smaller pets, like cats and dogs, a split rail fence is easy for them to get through. Families with small animals may want to choose a different fence or come up with a secondary type of containment for these pets. Mesh fence backing can be used in these cases without detracting too much from the look of the fence and at a reasonable cost.

When are split-rail fences best used?

Split rail fences are best used as boundary and lot markers for large livestock and in instances where their aesthetic appeal is needed. These types of fences make great boundary markers, as they’re easy to see and have a natural beauty. They’re also great for larger livestock like cattle and horses, but watch out for broken sections and make sure proper maintenance is completed on them, or the animals may find it easy to escape. You would be hard-pressed to find a fence that is more beautiful and perfectly at home in a rural location, so installing a split rail fence around a ranch or country home can be visually stunning.

Split-rail fences stand as a testament to the enduring appeal of simplicity in design. Their unassuming yet attractive presence, coupled with practical functionality, has ensured their continued popularity across diverse settings. Whether used to evoke a sense of history in colonial-style homes or to enhance the natural beauty of a rural landscape, split rail fences offer a timeless and versatile fencing solution.

Let’s Build a Fence

If you are interested in a split rail fence or have questions about the installation process, feel free to reach out to us here at Longview Fence Company. Our friendly fence contractors are available to help and answer your questions. We offer free estimates, so give us a call today.

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