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Natural Wood Fencing

by Matt Goering

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Wood fences are a popular choice for homeowners across the country. They are built of some of the most attractive fencing materials on the market, offer many design choices, have a long life when properly maintained, and are very cost effective when compared to other fence types. Wood fencing is not the same across the board, however, so it's important to polish up on different types of wood and their different characteristics in order to determine what is going to best option for you.

Why Choose Wood Over Other Materials?
The answer to this question varies from homeowner to homeowner, but there are a few universals that boost wood's popularity when it comes to wood fences. First and foremost, there's something about the look of wood fences that draws people to this fencing product. It's natural, warm, inviting, and doesn't clash with its surroundings the same way that more fabricated materials do. From a more practical perspective, wood is one of the more cost effective materials on the market, and is quite a bit cheaper per linear foot than steel, iron, vinyl, and aluminum fencing materials.

Which Wood Is Best for Fencing?
In some respects, the answer to this question depends on what style of fence you're planning to install and how you're hoping to treat your wood. If you're looking to build a post and rail or picket fence, and plan to paint it, the type of wood you choose isn't as big of a concern. Pine or fir will do, and will save you money over options. If you're like most homeowners, however, you're planning to treat your fence with a stain or let it weather naturally. In that case, you can't beat cedar when it comes to wood fences.

Which Is Better ? Red or White Cedar?
Red cedar is generally considered the optimal material for wood fences, since it's a little bit tougher when it comes to installation than eastern white cedar. However, both have natural oils that resist rot and weather damage, making them ideal for outdoor use; and some fencing installers will recommend you stick to whichever is more native to your area (i.e. red cedar in the west and white cedar in the east). If you're on a budget you might want to look into pressure treated lumber when building your new fence, though don't expect it to hold up as well as cedar when it comes to weather. You're bound to experience more cracking and splitting if you choose to go this route. Regardless of the type of wood you choose, it's a good idea to treat your wood fencing on a regular basis to increase their longevity and resistance to weather.

Is There a Preferred Style for Wood Fences?
The stockade style, or privacy fence, dominates wood fencing being built today. If you're looking for a little more openness, however, think about variations on the stockade fence that incorporate gaps and spaces, or build a hybrid lattice/stockade fence that offers both privacy and a view. Other common fence styles that aren't so confining include the post and rail variety, as well as split rail fencing.

Can I Install It Myself?
Most fencing installations, especially wood fences, are within reach of a handy and determined homeowner. Be sure you research into proper fence installation techniques before you get started, however. Failure to do so will more often than not result in a shoddy fence, and one that doesn't hold up over time. If you're not sure about your ability to build a new fence, talk to a fence supplier or installation company about getting your natural wood fence project underway.

Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter, is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over 600 articles.