Cedar Split Rail Fence – Rustic Style Classic Look

Cedar split rail fence is a simple fence design that is both timeless and rustic. The open design makes for an unobtrusive fence that looks the same from both sides. As a result, making it neighbor friendly.

Originally used by farmers and ranchers for establishing property lines and corralling livestock, cedar split rail fencing is now common in residential and commercial settings. It’s easy to install, requiring very little tools. Even better, it is very affordable!

How Much Does Cedar Split Rail Fence Cost?

cedar split rail fence with 3 rails
3 Rail Cedar Split Rail Fence

Compared to other types of fence, cedar split rail fence is very affordable. 2 rail split rail fencing costs between $3.50 to $5.50 per foot for materials only. 3 rail split rail fencing costs $5.00 to $8.00 per foot for materials only. Installation costs from professional installers will vary on region, fence layout and total footage of fence. However, cedar split rail fence isn’t hard to install. Homeowners willing to invest a little sweat equity can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

How Long Will a Cedar Split Rail Fence Last?

On average, cedar split rail fence will last 15 to 25 years. However, many factors will influence the life expectancy. Water and moisture are the biggest factors. Cedar naturally repels water and moisture under most circumstances. Normal changes in weather do not effect the fence. Although in extremely wet or marshy soils, high water content will promote rotting of the posts. As result, reducing the life expectancy.

Fences installed in extremely shady areas stay wet for longer periods. Overtime causing harmful mold or mildew to grow on the fence. Therefore, leading to rot and decay. The good news is replacing a bad post or rail is not hard to do. A fence lasting 30 years is achievable a with little periodic maintenance.

split rail fence made from cedar
Cedar Split Rail Fence

Planning Ahead Prevents Installation and Layout Problems

Very rarely will fence lines measure to workout in even multiples. Therefore, a cutting one of the fence panels or sections will be required. Cutting the rails down to shorter lengths requires more work. Not to mention, it can be challenging to get it right. In order to reduce cut sections, layout the fence lines ahead of time. This will give a good visual of what the fence will look like. Review the location where each post needs dug. Avoid setting posts next to large trees. Adjust starting and ending points when possible to avoid extra cuts due to uneven sections of fence.

How to Install Cedar Split Rail Fencing

cedar split rail 2 rails
2 Rail Cedar Split Rail Fence

Many homeowners take on the challenge of installing a cedar split rail fence themselves. While it can be labor intensive, the process is simple and requires only a few tools. Digging the holes will be the hardest part. Renting an auger is recommended. However, a set of post hole diggers will get the job done. A string line is required in order to run the split rail fence in straight line. A level assures the posts will be plumb. A spud bar or tamping bar to pack the dirt around the posts. And a saw if there will be cut sections. Installing 200′ of fence a day is not hard to do when digging goes well.

Installing the Cedar Split Rail Posts

Setting the post for cedar split rail fence starts with the end and corner posts. Use spoils from the holes to backfill around the posts. Tamp the dirt firm using a tamping bar or flat end of a spud bar to secure the posts. Make sure posts are plum and straight.

cedar split rail post
Tenon Joint on Cedar Post

A string line tied to the posts provides a visual guide used to set the remaining line posts. However, do not dig all of the posts holes for you rail fencing at one time. Rails will be 8′ or 10′ long. Measure out 2 to 3 holes at a time, spaced to match the length of the rail. Rails are cut to ruff lengths. As a result, the distance between installed posts on rail fencing can vary a few inches. To prevent misalignment of holes, only drill 2 to 3 post holes at a time. Building split rail fencing a couple sections at a time will prevent the need to shave the holes if sections because shorter or longer.

Installing the Cedar Split Rails

The way rails of a cedar split rail fence connect to the posts are different than other types of split rails. Each split rail end will have a tenon cut onto it. Allowing the rail to fit into holes drilled into the posts. When starting to assemble the fence, start by inserting the bottom rail first. Then working upwards, install the additional rails. Check to make sure the split rail posts are plumb before moving to the next section. Repeat the process to install the rest of the rails.

3 rail fencing
3 rail split rail with wire backing

Shorter sections require cutting rails to length. Leave enough length for a new tenon. When the last section is shorter than half the length of a full section, cutting the rails of the last two sections makes for a better look. For example: If the posts are 10′ apart and the last section is 4′ long. Set the last line post so that the last two sections are both 7′ long and cut the rails for both sections. While this adds more labor, the result will be worth the effort. When the cut section is between two end posts, it is ok for it to be any length.

Final Thoughts About Cedar Split Rail Fences

Whether you choose a 2 rail fence or 3 rail fence, cedar split rail fencing is a great choice. It is affordable and unobtrusive while remaining beautiful and maintenance free. They can stand on their own to designate property lines and pastured. Or, by adding wire mesh to split rail fencing, they become puppy proof. Perfect for keeping pets contained in residential settings. Truly a versatile fence that accommodates a multitude of needs.

About the Author

Jeff Becka

Hi, I'm Jeff
I am the President and owner of R&T Fence Company and the Fence Resource website. With 29 years of experience in the fence installation business, I have held every position at R&T Fence Company, from shop helper and laborer to crew leader, sales, general manager, and now owner and president. I know just about everything there is to know about fences and fence installation.

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