Despite the abundance of choices in fencing materials, wood has been and remains a top choice for many homeowners. Adored for its natural color, beauty, and durability, it coordinates well with almost any style of home. Fencing contractors can adapt your wood fence’s structure and style to fill any need, making it more versatile than other fencing products.
Narrowing your fence choices to wood still leaves the question of what type of wood to use. Visiting your local hardware store or lumber yard will turn up a host of possibilities. Aside from the obvious color differences, it may be impossible to know which species will look best and last the longest. Understanding the differences between these commonly used woods is key to selecting wood that will build a durable fence that will last.
1. Pressure-Treated Lumber – Used in decking, fencing, and other outdoor products, pressure-treated lumber is softwood treated with chemicals to help it withstand the outdoor elements longer. Much of the pressure-treated lumber sold in stores is yellow pine. While the treatment process extends the life of the wood beyond its natural lifetime, it does not overcome the pine’s inherent properties. This naturally soft wood is porous, which allows it to soak up water from precipitation. Over time, this water can leach the wood’s protective chemicals, leaving it vulnerable and rotting the wood in the process. Fences made from pressure-treated lumber do not have a very long life expectancy.
2. Bamboo – Although it is technically grass and not natural wood, homeowners use bamboo for flooring, fencing, and other home projects in the place of hardwood. Bamboo grows quickly and is a highly renewable building material. However, this tropical grass grows best in tropical climates and must be shipped in from foreign countries. This trip across the ocean increases the carbon footprint of an otherwise green building material. Bamboo is also prone to rot when used outdoors. It must be sealed yearly to protect it, making it high maintenance and raising the cost of ownership.
3. Spruce and Fir – Both spruce and fir are softwood species, making them an ideal choice for homeowners with little woodworking experience. Their light color makes them better candidates for paint, as well, as light colors are easier to cover with fewer coats of paint. Spruce, however, is not a stable wood. It is prone to warping and twisting over time. It often has a coarse grain in addition to knots and other irregularities that make it less attractive than other options. Fir is one of the hardest softwoods and holds its shape better than spruce. However, this higher quality will cost you more money.
4. Redwood – A popular wood species for building outdoors, redwood is known for the deep red hues present in the tree’s heartwood. The benefits of using redwood include a natural resistance to insect infestation and long consistent grain that is less prone to warping and cupping. However, the cost of redwood lumber makes it a less promising candidate for fencing. Because a standard 6-foot privacy fence around the perimeter of a yard requires a sizable amount of wood, it can get expensive quickly. For many homeowners, the cost does not outweigh the benefits in this case. Redwood is, however, an excellent choice for decks, furniture, and other smaller projects.
5. Western Red Cedar – Cedar is one of our favorite choices for fencing. It checks all the boxes for durability and stability without breaking the bank. The many unique properties of cedar trees and their wood made them stand out from other wood species even in ancient history. Early Native Americans called cedar trees the “Tree of Life.” They used its wood to build canoes, homes, totem poles, and even clothing. Ancient Egyptians found a variety of uses for these trees. They extracted the scent to make perfume. The oil was used in the embalming process, and coffins carved out of cedar wood thousands of years ago are still on display in museums today.
The wood’s stable structure resists shrinking and expansion, leading to significantly less twisting and warping even in harsh outdoor conditions. Because it is pitch and resin-free, the wood readily accepts stains and other finishes, making fence maintenance easier and more effective.
While the natural oils in the wood repel attacks from wood-destroying insects, the heartwood contains a fungicide. This naturally occurring substance kills fungal spores before they can establish colonies on the wood.
Cedar wood fencing is a green building product as well. It does not require chemical treatment or kiln drying after harvesting, which reduces its carbon footprint. The continued increase in sustainable farming and harvesting methods helps diminish the impact on forests and the planet while maintaining adequate supplies for building. The pinkish hue of the wood makes it a lovely choice for any project.
The choice of what type of wood to use for your fence will ultimately come down to three factors.
- What do you want your fence to look like?
- What is your budget?
- How long do you want it to last?
While less expensive wood options may look nice at first, they may quickly warp or decay, leading you down a path of expensive, labor-intensive repairs year after year. We recommend that you choose wood with a propensity to stay strong and resist rot, decay, and other types of damage. It may cost a little more now, but it will come out cheaper in the end with less maintenance. Best of all, you will be able to continue enjoying your investment a decade later when it still looks great.