Welcome to our guide on split rail fences!
You can call them split rail, zigzag, worm, or snake fences, but the fact remains that these lovely rustic fences are the perfect decorative border for country, cottage, cabin, or rustic homes!
Split rail fences are constructed out of timber logs, typically split in half lengthwise to form the rails. There are two different forms, which have a dramatically different appearance.
Traditional free-standing split rail fences, usually seen used for agricultural or decorative fencing, have a characteristic zig-zagging structure. These can be built without nails or other hardware, and are popular in areas with rocky soil where it’s nearly impossible to dig post holes.
Mortised fences are the other most popular form of split rail fence, where instead of layering split rails in a triangular, zig-zagging pattern, the split rails are placed into notched posts. These are increasingly popular in the UK and suburban areas of the United States.
Mortised fences use less wood, and are thereby less expensive than traditional freestanding split rail fences.
So why choose a split rail fence over any other kind of fences?
- Visibility – you can easily see what’s going on beyond your property borders. Great for well-behaved pets who like to keep an eye on things.
- Durable – when constructed out of hardwoods, your fence will hold up against rot and wear from weather.
- Attractive – even when aged, the hardwood will continue to have a certain rustic charm.
- Easy to Repair – split rail fences are easy to assemble and dissemble, meaning you can easily replace any sections that need to be.
- Cleaning – split rail fences are fairly simple to clean. Use a pressure washer with a special treatment product to kill mold.
- Privacy – split rail fencing is often very loose and open, so if you’re looking to keep small pets or children in, you might need a different option, unless you’re willing to add a mesh fence just beyond it.
- Price – while simple to put together, the lumber is rather heavy, so there will be a lot of manual labor put in. Installation can be expensive, as can the best hardwoods.
The price of your split rail fence will vary widely depending on the quality of wood you use. Expect to pay $10-$15 per foot for the standard Cedar wood split rail fence, $10-$18 per foot for a medium quality Yellow Pine fence, $20-$30 per foot for a high-quality Locust wood fence, and $19-$23 per foot for a top-quality composite fence. (Source: Home Fence Solutions)
At some home improvement stores, you can expect to pay as little as $8.97 per rail for 11 foot pressure-treated pine split rails. (Source: Home Depot)
The best news is for DIY lovers. Approximately a quarter of the cost of adding a split rail fence is installation, so DIYers can save a ton of money installing the fence themselves. (Source: Fence Guides)
We hope you’ll find the inspiration you’ll need to start working on your very own split rail fence, but if you think you’d prefer a different style, check out our definitive guide to fencing!
This is a beautiful example of a rough hewn mortised fence in front of a planting bed filled with thick, colorful small blooming plants. The planting bed is edged with a brick scalloped edging, giving it a finished look.
A more traditional split rail fence with the characteristic zig-zagging silhouette. This is a more common agricultural fence, seen here marking the boundary of a bright green meadow with lovely lavender thistle.
Another mortised fence in the standard red-orange cedar. Cedar is a beautiful option, as it turns silver as it ages. Split rail fences are, on average, more attractive than other types of wood fencing as they age.
A painted white mortised fence, one of the more popular designs for homes in the suburban United States. This type has a more polished look than traditional rough hewn split rail fences, but still has a decidedly country style to it.
Source: Zillow Digs™
A much more rustic split rail fence with diagonal supports. This technique is used in windy areas to further support the already sturdy and freestanding fence.
An aged split rail fence in a grassy field with fall maples in the background. A few of the rails have been replaced with discarded branches, giving the fence a very rustic look. The fence itself is aged well, taking on a silvery color.
This traditional split rail fence is built to last, with thick logs used to form the structure. Here and there, diagonal supports are added for extra sturdiness. This type of fence is popular in areas where large, sturdy trees like pine are plentiful.
A lovely cedar mortised fence that descends into the cobblestone path up the hill to the house. This fence marks the property’s extensive boundary with the street.
Source: Zillow Digs™
This is a unique take on the mortised fence, using rounded logs instead of split logs. It makes for a more log cabin feel, a more formidable fence.
A rustic split rail fence used to separate different sections of a large planting bed. In this case, the fence is used mostly for decorative purposes.
Another decorative fence that follows the curve of a lovely, colorful planting bed. At the tip of the fence is a large barrel planter filled with grasses and bold magenta blooms.
A simple farmhouse with low maintenance landscaping including a well aged split rail fence no more than 3 feet high.
Source: Zillow Digs™
Beautiful rustic aged split rail fence with narrowing rails running through a lovely garden rife with Black Eyed Susans and Lavender.
An aged rustic traditional split rail fence marking the boundary of this cabin on a heavily wooded lot. The tin roof of the cabin gives it a decidedly rustic look.
Another lovely wooden cabin-like structure with a low metal roof. A split rail fence runs along this home’s garden, which is rich in color and texture, including small ground cover perennials and tall, bold sunflowers.
A beautiful, shady backyard with a large central bark planting bed running along the center. Along the back of the property is a split rail fence, which marks the boundary without obscuring the view of the woods and hills beyond.
Source: Zillow Digs™
A lovely aged split rail fence with thick irises, shrubs, and flowering trees in bold, beautiful colors.
An old farmhouse with a sturdy split rail fence meant to corral horses. The aged fence fits perfectly into the Old West atmosphere of the farmhouse and surrounding property.
A tall, rustic split rail fence with a light coating of soft green moss growing over the ragged limbs. To either side of the fence are lengthy planting beds filled with daffodils and other spring flowers.
As decorative fences, split rails look fantastic in colorful gardens, where they provide contrast to the bright color of flowers, but still reinforce boundaries for children and pets (and neighbors!)
Another rustic mortised fence with lovely rounded beams, creating a barrier between a field of sunflowers and a meadow.
A beautiful cedar mortised fence that descends into a bark-filled planting bed punctuated with lovely yellow daffodils.
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