In the past, a number of generations have used split rail fences to demarcate their property, protect their livestock and keep them from bolting. This type of fence is simple to construct and easy to maintain. Nowadays, these fences are built using wood from cedar trees, which are known for their hardiness and their capacity to resist rot causing agents.
Wood from pine trees is also used for this purpose. American chestnuts were a preferred choice for split rails till a disease called chestnut blight caused the tree to go extinct. Today, materials like PVC, vinyl and prefabricated concrete are used to construct these fences.
Instructions for Building a Split Rail Fence
In the past, especially in the frontier areas, split rail fences were preferred as they can be constructed without using nails. If you are going to make one for yourself and already have zeroed in on a fence design, consult the local authorities to know whether you need a license to build it.
- First, decide on where to build the fence. While selecting the actual ground you may have to take help from the local utility companies in identifying underground utility lines, such as gas lines, etc., if there are any buried under your property.
- In addition, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by making sure that you own the selected ground and not encroaching on your neighbors property.
- To avoid future hassles, always let your neighbors know about your plans about fencing your property. Your neighbor may help you in marking your property precisely. Well, who wants get involved in a trouble and has the time and energy for it, nowadays.
- Length of the fence or the distances between the posts to be installed can be measured using a length of string or a distance measuring wheel.
- While taking measurements, use stakes to mark the corners and gates or other openings you desire in the fence. Drive the stakes firmly into the ground.
- To arrive at the number of posts required, divide the measured length of the fence, by the length of the rails that you are planning to use. While taking measurements, it is crucial to account for the rise and the fall of the ground. Decide in advance, with the help of spot inspection, where you would like to install each post.
- Rails are generally 8 or 11 feet long. They are inserted into the holes drilled in the posts, while making the fence. If you are planning to build a 3-rail fence, then posts of 7 feet in height are suitable. For a 2-rail fence, posts that are 6 feet in height, are ideal.
- For installing corner posts drill holes halfway on adjoining sides of the post. Make sure that the rails inserted in these holes are at right angles with each other.
- Line posts in-between the fence are drilled all the way through, so that a rail-end can be inserted through each end of the hole in the post.
- End-posts are planted at the beginning and at the end of the split-rail fence. These are drilled to make holes halfway through on only one side.
- Dig post-holes big enough to bury one-third of each post into the ground. Pour 6 inches of gravel in the post-holes to allow for the drainage of water.
- The distance to maintain between the lower rail in the fence and the ground depends on your needs. If you intend to house your livestock within this fence then care must be taken to discourage small animals like sheep from ducking under the fence.
- Install the end-posts before any other posts. Install the rest or the posts in plumb line with the end-posts. Use string or any of the level marking instruments, to ensure that they are installed correctly i.e. perpendicular to the ground.
- Plant the line posts firmly and insert rails in the holes, to check whether or not the rails fit into them properly.
- Shave the end of the rail, if you are having trouble fitting it into the hole. If this does not work, then enlarge the hole using a drill.
- After completing the installation of the fence, you might want to stain it by letting it weather naturally. Nothing looks better than a rustic fence stained through time and with a little help from the natural elements.
A fenced property has a rustic look about it and gives an impression of definite space, if you ever decide to sell it. It emphasizes the open space around the house. It is a pleasure to look at a weathered and elegant fence that reminds people of the pleasant old days. A property or a house with the split rail fence around it, always attracts attention of the passers-by.