The split rail fence is an American classic
It’s known as the zigzag fence or the worm fence, due to the way it seems to meander through the countryside.
The split rail fence is simple to construct, which is why it was so popular with the early ranchers.
You can even build one without the need for nails and screws, a major benefit in wet weather climates.
We love the look of the traditional split rail fence and that it is still so popular today.
If you want that natural look fence and you are a DIYer, then let us help.
To construct your own split rail fence you will need to:
- Plan and map
- Choose the wood
- Construct the fence
- Treat the wood and maintain the fence
- Remember what you should not do
Let’s take a closer look at each point to get you building that split rail fence.
Plan and Map
Failing to plan is like planning to fail, as someone infinitely wiser than I once said.
Check your boundary maps and see where you can construct the fence and where your neighbor’s property begins.
Talk to your neighbor and see if they are happy with a split rail fence and where you are constructing.
If it is along the boundary line they may share the construction and maintenance costs.
Use our Draw It & Quote It software to get an idea on costs and how much fencing material you will need for the work.
Get your tools ready: tamper, auger, construction tools and maybe a few willing helpers.
Choose the wood
Choosing the wood for your fence is a personal choice but should also be a practical one.
Cedar is popular and looks great, but it can be expensive and not always in ready supply.
Pine is a good alternative, but you may have problems if you don’t maintain it properly.
While technically vinyl is not split rail, it is available for ranch rail products and is a very durable product.
Construct the fence
When you have your plans ready, the boundaries agreed and the material on site you can get to work.
The key to getting a split rail fence right is to build it in sections, one panel at a time.
Only when you have one section up do you move on to the next piece. You do not stand the posts and add the rails later.
Map out the straight line for the first section, using a Builders’ line.
Dig out the hole with your auger and fix the post in place, using the fence post tamper.
After setting the initial post in the ground, then fit the rails.
Before you set the second post insert the rails into the predrilled holes, only then do you fit it in the ground.
Ensure you are running a straight line.
With the first section in place repeat the process until you have a complete fence on the property
What you should not do
Do not screw or nail the rails to the posts.
Screws and nails allow rain, moisture, and termites into the wood and rot to get a hold on the fence.
Do not fit the posts into the ground and attach the rails later.
Try not to set the fence posts in concrete as it can act as a well for moisture, causing the section below ground to rot without you knowing.
Using a pressure-treated fence post and setting the base in pea gravel, well tamped around the post, is a far better alternative.
Treat and maintain the fence
Using pressure-treated wood is essential, regardless of the local climate conditions.
An annual treating with stain and a fungicide will keep the split rail fence protected against the elements.
Check the fence regularly for storm damage or cracks from animal impact.
Look too for signs of termite infestation and keep plants and grass away from the posts.