Fences - Wood Fence Types

Despite living in a very high-tech world, natural wood remains a hugely popular choice for fencing material. But technology has allowed the choices of material, style and treatment to expand enormously even when choosing wood.

Cedar continues to be selected by millions. It's attractive, insect and rot-resistant, and comes in a variety of shades. Western Red Cedar is just what it sounds like, a reddish wood. Northern White Cedar is actually a pale yellow, much lighter than its reddish cousin.

Cedar can stand on its own for years with little care. But treating it will make it last many years longer, while optimizing its appearance. Oils take to cedar very well. They help keep out potentially harmful moisture and give the wood a rich look. Stains are another viable option, and have the added feature of offering some UV protection.

Redwood is another popular choice, and for obvious (and some less obvious) reasons. It's beautiful and it, too, is naturally insect resistant, since it contains compounds that repel or kill many species. Similar molecules that occur in the wood naturally reduce mildew and other fungi from degrading the wood.

Staining is less common with redwood, since it's already a shade that many people prefer. That is, after all, one of the major reasons they buy it. But some treatment is still advisable to keep that redwood lasting for years without needing replacement. A shellac or even a subtle oil will add considerably to its normal lifetime.

Composites have long been used as decking material and they're making their way into fencing more and more. Made, as the name suggests, of a composite of wood shavings and resin, they strongly resemble natural wood. At the same time, they offer many more years of life while keeping their new appearance much longer than most natural wood. They also require much less maintenance and rarely need treatment.

Composites can be painted. Some can even take stain. Neither is usually necessary, though, since composites can be purchased with the desired look already incorporated. That helps offset their higher price. In the long run, they're almost always less expensive because of their long life.

Beyond the choice of materials, there are dozens of wood fence design options.

Design choices are influenced by the cost of materials, the desired look and the skill of the builder. But even with these criteria, the possibilities are limited chiefly by the imagination of the designer. Based on what's available, that limit is amazingly high. Modern fencing has grown to encompass styles as diverse as the types of computer or clothing on the market.

The traditional picket fence remains steadfastly popular today. The equally traditional slat-butt style in which boards are simply lined up shoulder to shoulder is still highly useful and attractive. Many variations cap the fence with a lattice-type fencing that lets through sunlight and gives the fence a stylish look.

One outstanding option is the offset style. Slats are still placed side by side, but offset by a few inches forward or backward from one another. While small animals can get through, this style does provide privacy and an attractive alternative appearance.