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Post and rail fences are perhaps the most common and recognizable of the different types of wood rail fences. These fences feature vertical posts that support wooden rails that are either finished round, finished square, or unfinished split rails. Wood rail fences such as this one are often used as perimeter fences on farms or around homes, very often to contain animals such as horses or cows. The post and rail fence allows unobstructed views and little wind resistance, making it a good choice in areas that are wide open, such as fields. Other variations of wood rail fences do exist to suit other purposes as well.
A split rail fence is the most rustic-looking of the wood rail fences. Horizontal rails that are generally unfinished — some may even still have bark on them from the tree — are interlocked with each other, forming a zig-zagging pattern that can be fixed at the corners to provide stability. The corners can either be fixed with screws, or with wooden props, which is the more traditional way of building the split rail fence. This design is not a load-bearing design, and it is meant mostly to delineate property boundaries or to keep animals either in or out of an area. Split rail fences are common on farms or in rural areas where wildlife is prevalent.
Plank fences became a common choice for wood rail fences as leftover planks became available from homes being built. The planks are sawed down and finished to form a clean square look, and then they are affixed to vertical posts similar to the ones used on post and rail fences. The posts are also generally square, giving this fence a clean, finished look to complement the home. Unlike post and rail fences — on which rails are secured to posts by carving the end of each rail to fit into a slot bored into the post — planks on plank fences are secured to posts using bolts or screws, making installation far easier.
Most wood rail fences feature more than one rail between two posts. Two or three posts are common; they are placed several inches from the ground, and the one above that rail will be several inches above that one. The last rail, if a three rail design is used, will sit near the top of the post. This type of design provides a barrier for animals, but it still allows wind to pass through. It is a relatively easy design to construct, and it is relatively durable and long-lasting if properly maintained.
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