Believe it or not, fences have a history that dates back to prehistoric times. But before we explore the history of wood fences in detail, it is crucial to discuss what they really are. A fence is a type of barrier that helps enclose an area to limit access or control escape. Fences happen to be see-through – a characteristic that makes them different from regular walls. It is widely believed that the term “fence” originated in the XIV century from the word “fens” – a short term for protection or defense.
It is hard to pinpoint who the inventor of the fence was, but it is believed that fences have been around since the earliest human civilizations. The concept of keeping certain things out and allowing the flourishing of what is inside was one of the biggest milestones of the time. The Anglo-Saxons, from the early fifth century A.D. to 1066, encouraged the growth of hedges as fences; these types of fences were important for their ecosystems. The Ancient Greeks and Romans also used to build fences around lands they had conquered in foreign regions to mark their conquest as their own. The second king of Rome, Numa (who reigned from 715 B.C. to 673 B.C.), instructed all landowners to mark their land with stones to honor their God – Terminalia.
During the mid-1800s, early American settlers moved to the South and West to discover new land for farming. Unlike the Northeast areas where wood was in abundance, farmers looked for better alternatives in the Southern and Western parts of the world. In 1873, barbed wire fencing was pioneered by the DeKalb County Fair in Illinois. A farmer came up with the idea of fencing, and it soon became commonplace in many parts of the world.
The Great Wall of China is a great historical example of a fence (a vinyl fence); only that it is several thousand times bigger and wider than a typical fence. Its construction began as early as the 7th century B.C., and thousands of laborers died during the construction of this wall.
The significance of fencing can’t be denied in today’s world as it not only defines and defends the territory of a family but also serves an aesthetic purpose. Although there are several types of fences, this article focuses only on the types of wood fences. If you want to install a wood fence around your property and not sure which one will be ideal, read this post for some valuable insight.
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Popular Types of Wood Fences
1. Cedar Fence
Cedarwood is a type of softwood, native to the American northwest and Canada. Being softwood, one may consider this wood to be a short-lived one. However, that’s far from the case; cedarwood is considered to be a very durable wood type, having a lifespan of over 30 years. Even when left untreated, the wood has the capacity to outlive other varieties of wood. Cedarwood is also naturally resistant to insects and decay, which means that it makes for sustainable and long-lasting fences.
Although cedar fences offer a wide variety of benefits, they have a few disadvantages as well. As compared to other wood fences, cedar fences are expensive. It is a general rule that the more attractive and durable the wood is, the costlier it is. This fencing option may not be a good one if you want to paint your fence. Since cedar already has a vivid color, it takes several coats of paints to cover its original coat.
You can find cedar fences in two fundamental types, which are described in detail below:
Red cedar is considered to be one of the lightest softwoods out there. Owing to its low density, red cedar has an increased insulation value and is easy to carry around. When layered with a protective coating or finishing, red cedar offers an increased service life. Therefore, it is best to treat it with stains, oils, or other types of coatings.
Red cedar fences are striking in appearance, with straight grains and uniform textures. Having them installed will elevate your outdoor beauty in a unique way. Red cedar comes with a distinct scent too. Of course, this does have one drawback; if you are allergic to certain smells, red cedar fences may not be the wisest fencing option for you.
Also known as Northern white cedar, white cedarwood comes with narrow, white sapwood and pale brown heartwood. This type of wood fence usually consists of small knots with grains that are fine, straight, and even.
White cedar fences are strong and durable as they are decay resistant and insect resistant too; the wood can resist pests like termites and powderpost beetles. White cedar fences are easy to construct as this wood type is easy to work with regardless of whether you use hand or machine tools. With minimal cracking and splitting, white cedar cuts easily.
Unfortunately, the wood tends to be weak and soft, making the holding power of wood screws weak. That being said, white cedar glues and finishes well. It tends to dry up quicker than other wood types. All it requires to effectively dry up is air and a bit of time. Like red cedar, white cedar fences give off a cedar-like smell, which can be problematic for people with asthma or any other respiratory illnesses. According to the USDA, white cedar is one of the most allergenic woods indigenous to the United States.
2. Pinewood Fence
Pinewood is a variety of softwood which is found in many parts of the United States. Although it is softer than hardwood, this form of softwood is naturally stiff and resistant to shock. Owing to these features, pinewood makes for the best wood for fences.
Pinewood is also easier to work with due to its soft texture. Generally, pine is lighter in color, with a creamy white shade. However, some varieties of pinewood offer a super white color, while others have a yellowish-white tone. Another benefit of this lightness in color is that it is easier to stain them with any color you want. You won’t need to paint a double or triple coat; one coat will be enough to help you achieve the kind of finish that you want. Pine also possesses prominent grains with darker knots. This gives the fencing material a unique appearance, worth a second glance.
As compared to cedar fences, pinewood fencing is much cheaper. Pine trees grow up quickly, so as soon as the trees are cut down, they are replaced with new ones. Therefore, pinewood fences are easily available in the market at an affordable price range. So if you have a tight budget, pine fences are an attractive choice.
You should know that pinewood comes with a tendency to get damaged easily. Scratches and dents are a common sight among pine fences. However, these marks give pinewood fence posts an aged look, allowing them to have an old-world charm. If you don’t mind this kind of distinctive appearance, you can get by with little maintenance. But if you want to maintain its original condition, you will need to repair damages as soon as they occur and re-stain or repaint the fence again.
When getting a pine fence, look for wood that has minimum to zero knot(s). Excessive knotting can weaken the wood, which is why it is best to get a fence style that has fewer knots.
3. Oak Fence
Oakwood is a type of hardwood that comes in approximately 600 species. Native to the northern hemisphere, oak wood is supremely strong and durable.
It features a light color with visible grain knots, making it appear super distinctive. Oak fences are best identified by their wavy grains as opposed to their color. A neat finish gives the grain a lovely highlight, elevating the beauty of the fence.
When natural oil is applied, the material shines vividly, creating a beautiful palette of colors. The beauty of the finished oak look is such that it is lovely without any heavy embellishment or style. Depending on the type of finishing, oak fences can be hard and smooth. However, stains can overly darken the grain, giving it a two-toned look. This is why it is best to let oak fences stay in their original color.
Although oak fences come in lighter tones, they may vary in their color from tree to tree and branch to branch. Natural oak wood can take on any color – from light beige to brown to red. Generally, white oak tends to appear beige to brown and red oak appears rosier in its shade. It is never easy to tell different varieties of oak trees apart on the basis of their colors. The same variety of an oak tree can have a wide range of colors.
The best types of oak trees for staining are red and white oak. Depending on the type of finishing, red and white oak fences can appear as dark walnut or as bright as the sun. Due to exposure to oxygen and UV light, oak wood can darken in color over time, turning into a more amber tone.
4. Cypress Wood Fence
Cypress wood fences tend to be lighter in tone, usually yellowish-brown. However, some parts of the fence can have pockets of dark wood – a sign that the wood has been attacked by fungi. Another distinctive physical feature of cypress is its coarse texture with straight grains. Fences made from young cypress trees are less durable than fences made from old cypress trees. Before you invest in cypress fences, it is best to ask the seller about the construction of the cypress fence.
Like cedarwood, cypress has a vivid odor that can cause respiratory irritation in people. If you have scent sensitivity, avoid investing in cypress fences. Like many other wood types, cypress is rot and insect-resistant. This makes the wood long-lasting and an excellent wood fencing option. One of the downsides of cypress fences is that they can be pricey. Cypress trees are native to the Southern United States; their transportation can spike up the trees’ overall cost.
Woodworkers usually consider staining cypress to maximize its quality. If you have recently installed a cypress fence in your garden or backyard and want to stain the wood, you can easily consider a DIY stain project. First of all, you will have to spread a cloth in a ventilated area. Afterward, lay a block of cypress over the cloth. Now sand every side of the wood to prepare the spores of the wood for staining. Once they are properly sanded, gently apply the stain to the wood. Start by finishing along the grains and then working along to fill pores from every angle.
Keep in mind that the longer the stain remains, the deeper the wood color gets. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. Rub the wood using a dry cloth, making sure that there is no wood stain left behind. Make sure that the stain dries up in an even position; otherwise, it may develop coarse patches even before it dries fully. For a second-coating, lightly sand the wood again. Apply less stain with a lighter hand. After drying, apply a sealant to ensure the longevity of the stain.
5. Redwood Fence
Redwood is the most commonly used wood for wood fencing. Although it is costly, its overall quality and aesthetic appeal make it worth the expense. Since this variant of wood is rot and pest resistant, it is considered as the best choice of material for a fence. However, it is still recommended to treat the fence with a stain to beautify the barrier. Continuous moisture, snowfall, thawing, and dry air can easily affect redwood. And staining helps prevent it from becoming old and damaged.
In order to stain redwood, saw the wood to stain it and apply the oil. Let the wood sit for a while to dry out. Using a quality wood brightener and cleaner, prepare the surface and sand the wood thoroughly. Sand the wood only to eliminate mill glazes that may prevent the penetration of the stain.
What kind of wood stain should you use? Well, for the best results, you should use one that is transparent and penetrable. These two features can avoid weathering of the wood and increase its natural beauty. Avoid applying stain in excess or more than the wood can bear. Let it stay on for about 15 minutes until the wood has absorbed the stain. Wipe off the excess using a cloth and then apply a good-quality sealant afterward.
Wood fencing types can come in plenty of styles, each of them offering varied properties. Once you have decided on the type of wood fence you want to get, select the style. For your convenience, we have gathered some of the most popular wood fencing styles that will pique your interest. Have a look.
Popular Styles of Wood Fence
1. Lattice Fence
Wooden lattice fences are a popular type of fencing that adds privacy and beauty to any house. Ever wondered what a lattice fence looks like? A lattice comprises of thin diagonal slats that are shaped in a crisscross pattern. The crisscross pattern creates square-like holes that give an exceptional outlook to the barrier.
You can find lattice fences in three more common styles – crosshatch, horizontal, and arch style. Generally, lattice fences come in redwood and cedarwood types. The best part is that this type of fence can be painted in any color. Modern homeowners typically prefer white or red fences.
2. Picket Fence
This type of fence style is popular in the United States, where it has been in use since America’s earliest colonial times. Historically, pickets were sharpened logs that were used by early colonists to defend their positions. A picket fence symbolizes “Americana,” representing an iconic status of the ideal middle-class life. When you think of a white picket fence, you immediately think of a nice house in the suburbs, with children and the family pet running around in the yard. It also denotes the calm, peaceful lifestyle of a quiet, middle-class neighborhood.
However, today, picket fences are an ornamental way to keep pets and children within their house. Traditional homeowners use wooden or whitewashed picket fences in their front or back yard. Many modern houses also feature picket fences in PVC – a lightweight but strong plastic.
Until the 1980s, cricket grounds were surrounded by picket fences, giving rise to a popular expression “rattling the pickets” which means hitting a ball firmly into the fence.
3. Rail Fence
Commonly found on ranches, rails, and posts, rail fences are best for large yards. The best aspect of these traditional fences is that they come in many styles, widths, and heights, all at an affordable price range.
Although ranch fences are popularly made of wood, vinyl is also a common ranch fencing material that one can invest in. Whether wooden or vinyl, rail fences require constant maintenance. If you have painted your wooden rail fence once, you will have to keep repainting it to avoid rotting and moisture. The element that you can’t paint is the bottom of the post as it is installed in the ground. Eventually, it may rot and will need to be replaced.
Bear in mind that no type of fence lasts forever. They all come with a limited lifespan. In the case of a wooden rail fence, the wood will probably last 10 to 15 years at the most. This is only after you have fully repaired the fence until there is no scope for more repairs.
4. Wooden Framed Chain Link Fences
In order to fully enclose your property (temporarily or permanently), you can consider wooden framed chain link fences. Owing to their strong and long-lasting barbed wire, these chain link fences are considered the most reliable fencing options out there. It is nearly impossible for anybody to get into your property with these chain-link fences surrounding it.
In addition to durability, chain link fences are easy and quick to install. They tend to be resistant to sleet, snow, and rain. With wooden frames all around them, these fences also have an attractive appearance.
Given its aesthetic value, wood is often considered over vinyl and aluminum fencing. As it is clear from this article, not all types of wood are equal. The best way to choose a wood fence is to consider the different characteristics of different wood variants. Once you have done this, you can then pick the one that best suits your preference and budget.