Choosing Fence Styles to Fit Your Needs

Choosing fence styles is an exercise in common sense.

First, you should decide exactly what functions the fence is to serve, then you should consider such factors as cost, appearance, and durability.

If the main purpose of the fence is privacy, it should be tall and free of gaps. So called stockade fences made of upright poles fulfuill this requirement as do tightly spaced picket fences and fences of woven redwoood slats.

If you want to enclose a play area, fence styles should be strong enough to resist the wear and tear of children and tall enough and tightly woven enough to prevent their squeezing out or climbing over.

It should also be free of dangerous projections and open enough to let you keep an eye on the kids. A welded wire fence would meet these requirements.

In rural sections barbed wire is an economical way to fence in livestock. The barbs are dangerous, however, and their use is forbidden in most residential area.

A better choice, especially for smaller lots in built up locales, would be a split rail fence. Not only will it do the job, but it is safe and attractive as well.

In addition, split rail fences are easy to erect, require little lumber, and are longer lasting and more maintenance free than most fences. (A picket fence style, for example, requires periodic painting and is relatively fragile.)

Fence styles require planning. To calculate the amount of wire or boards you will need and the number of fence posts that you will have to set, mark off the corners of the fence line with stakes and measure the distances between; the sum of these measurements is the amount of fencing you must obtain.

In order to figure the correct number of posts, allow one for each corner and a pair for each gate.

Along a straight fence line posts are usually spaced at 16 foot intervals for woven wire, at 12 to 14 foot intervals for barbed wire and at 5 to 8 foot intervals for board or rail fences, depending on the lengths of lumber available.

When laying out a wire fence around a curve, space the posts more closely.

Take special care when building a fence along a property line. Unless you and your neighbors agree on legal provisions, you will have to make certain that the fence is on your own land.

Zoning laws often stipulate that a professional boundary survey be made.


Barbed wire Cheap, quick way to fence large areas, but dangerous, unattractive, illegal in many places. Use: Livestock control

Board Fence Easiest nonmetal fence to erect, good for small farm or barnyard. Use: animal control

Stockade Sold in prefab sections or can be built from scratch; almost maintenance free but somewhat fragile. Use: excellent for privacy

Picket Decorative and traditional but requires painting. Use: boundeary marker, small animal control. play area.

Wattle Like basket weave but made of saplings. Once common in the West. Use: small animal control

Post and rail Attractive inexpensive, easy to build. Use: livestock control, boundary marker.

Basket Weave Sold in prefab sections, easy to erect. Use: excellent for privacy

Woven wire Practical, inexpensive, easy to build, but lacks charm. Use: play area, animal control, garden protection

Zigzag or Spilt Rail Cheap, durable, but wasteful of timber. Use: mainly of historical interest can be used for livestock control

Return from Fence Styles to Self-Sufficient Farm Living

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