The white picket fence delineates the yard.

The Split Rail Fence

Split rail fences, also known as “ranch fences” or “post and rail fences,” are found in agricultural, residential, and public settings. You can find split rail fences in parks, farms, personal yards, in populous cities and rural towns alike. They are quite inexpensive due to the small amount of material they require and work extremely well to pen in livestock or delineate property lines. Split rail fences have been used in this manner since before the American Civil War; that is over a century and a half of use on United States’ soil! While this form of fencing is most commonly seen in agricultural settings, in addition to guiding livestock, people also use split rail fences simply to mark property lines. You can see this type of fence used to mark properties both large and small today all over the country.

If you are looking to add a simple yet beautiful fence to your property, Beitzell Fence Company is here to bring the split rail fence to you! We offer both wood and vinyl split rail fences and offer services to support you every step of the way. We will help you design, plan, and install your split rail fence. Plus we’ve been doing it for over 30 years!

Advantages of Having a Split Rail Fence

There are many advantages of having a split rail fence versus any other kind of fence. Split rail fences are economical. Because they require so few materials, they are quite inexpensive. They are also easy to maintain because of this reason. Split rail fences are fairly simple to build and install, meaning you can make and put up your own split rail fence if you so desire. They are very versatile and can be assembled in any shape, they do not simply need to be a square or rectangle. Split rail fences can easily encircle round areas as well as angular ones. Additionally, split rail fences can be rearranged and moved with ease should you need to change the path of your fence or add or subtract from it. There is a long history of split rail fences in this country, which means there is plenty of knowledge and support for you in your process of bringing a split rail fence to your property. Split rail fences are simple yet add an unmistakable beauty and sophistication to the look of your land, in addition to the practical uses they provide.

Types of Split Rail Fences

Split rail fences can be assembled in a number of different ways. You can have a split rail fence with as few as a one horizontal rail in between vertical posts, all the way up to five or more! It really comes down to you getting to choose as many as you would like.

The oldest types of split rail fences were sometimes called “zig zag fences” because of their need to zig zag in order to stay standing. In these zig zag fences, the rails of wood would be stacked horizontally with the ends of adjacent sections overlapping like lincoln logs. At their most basic form, these zig zag split rail fences do not have any vertical posts, only the stacked horizontal ones. Though for added support, this form can have anywhere from one to three upright posts placed in the internal corners of the “X”s created by the ends of the rails meeting at each corner of the zig zag as a form of extra securement. This form of split rail fence requires no digging, and in its most basic form, no hammering, rods, or nails. During the Civil War, soldiers from both the Confederate side and Union side used the wood from people’s zig zag split rail fences as fuel for their fires.

Split rail fences have evolved to include the form you most commonly see today. This form has vertical posts spaced evenly apart along the path of the fence with holes straight through each post horizontally to hold the rails in place. These horizontal rails are typically between seven to ten feet long but can be any length you desire, just like the number of rails. This form of split rail fence requires post holes to be dug into the ground for the vertical posts to stand from. Some people fill each hole with cement once the post is placed inside, while others simply refill the hole with soil around the inserted post and pack it down.

When a Split Rail Fence Is Not the Best Option

While split rail fences are great for partitioning land for larger livestock as well as delineating property lines, they do not keep out smaller animals or animals that can jump over them. Although split rail fences tend to only be a few feet high, you can construct them to be as tall as you would like. No matter the height of a split rail fence, they tend not to provide high levels of security from other people. If you are looking for a fence to protect against human intruders, a split rail fence is probably not going to be what you are looking for. Additionally, depending on the climate, type of wood used, and chemical treatment of the wood, a wooden split rail fence can crack and deteriorate over time. At Beitzell Fence Company, we only use pressure treated lumber which ensures your split rail fence will last many years to come!


Split rail fences can either be made out of wood or vinyl. Of course historically they have been made out of wood because of how accessible it was in colonial America. Anyone who wanted to could make a split rail fence. People did not need to spend much time searching for materials as there was an abundance of lumber at their disposal. Today, while you might not go out into your backyard or the neighborhood park and start chopping down trees to make your fence, good wood for your split rail fence is still readily available. Cedar, Pine, Spruce, and Hemlock tend to be common types of wood used for split rail fences. Each of these types of wood have their unique advantages, so depending on what you are looking for, the wood might choose you! In addition to wooden fences, split rail fences can also be made from vinyl. Vinyl split rail fences are very durable. Vinyl will bend and flex upon impact instead of breaking. Additionally, livestock will not chew through a vinyl fence like they might with a wooden fence. Vinyl is hard and durable and resists rotting and cracking.

Installing Your Split Rail Fence

You can install your own split rail fence or have Beitzell Fence Company come and install it for you. Installing your own fence can be fun and exciting, and with a split rail fence, fairly straightforward, but installing any kind of fence is also a lot of manual work and very physically taxing. Additionally, installing a fence takes time and planning. That is why Beitzell Fence Company is here to help you! We will be with you every step of the way. Because of the structure of this type of fence, there are a lot of aspects you can personalize to find a look that is right for you! From height of the posts to length of rails, from number of rails to how far they are spaced apart, from materials used to shape of the rails, split rail fences allow you to make a lot of choices in designing your fence to be unique to your desires! You can get a free quote from us for your fence and then we can get started planning together. We cannot wait to bring the split rail fence to you!

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