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What Are the Different Types of Fence Lumber?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2016
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When building a fence out of wood, it will be necessary to buy fence lumber to complete the job. Various types of fence lumber exist, ranging both in size and in composition. Most fences are built outdoors, which means the lumber used to build the fence will need to be resistant to water damage, bug infestations, and sunlight damage. Hardwoods are usually best for this application, as are woods that are naturally resistant to such damage such as cedar and teak, though these can be expensive options. Softwoods are also available at a much lower cost, though such woods will need to be chemically treated.

Hardwoods tend to resist moisture damage much better than softwoods. Oak and mahogany, for example, are exceptionally durable, not to mention very attractive. Such woods tend to be very expensive, however, so buying hardwood fence lumber is often not feasible. Cedar, too, can be fairly pricy, though not usually as expensive as other hardwoods. The drawback to cedar is its tendency to fade after continued exposure to sunlight, though this fading can end up being fairly attractive as well. Cedar fence lumber tends to be a fairly popular choice for its durability and aesthetic.

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Composite fence lumber is a relatively new offering. This type of material combines wood with synthetic materials that help enhance the lumber's resistance to water damage and bug infestation. Such lumber can often be made from recycled materials as well, meaning it has the potential to be eco-friendly. While many products are touted as stronger and more durable than wood, it is necessary for the builder to do plenty of research to find materials that truly are durable and strong. Some types of composite materials end up being just as susceptible to water damage as softwoods.

The types of fence lumber can also vary by design. Posts and panels are the two most common types of fence lumber used in fence construction. Posts are usually sunk into the ground and secured in place using concrete footings. These posts tend to be thicker than panels in order to support the weight of the fence. Panels usually feature several slats secured with horizontal supports; the panels can then be secured to the posts, creating the fence perimeter. It is also possible to build panels from scratch using individual slats. Sometimes fence panels will feature trellises or other flourishes on their tops to add functionality and aesthetic appeal.

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