Post and rail fences come in a variety of styles from fairly basic and functional to those with ornate posts and caps. Classic wood post and rail fences are the most common and are appreciated for their traditional good looks. Vinyl post and rail fences are available too, providing a maintenance-free product. This type of fencing might also be referred to as ranch fencing, pasture fencing or stockade fencing. It’s similar to it’s more natural alternative, split rail fencing.
This page of the Fence Guides website gives you the details you need to have in order to evaluate this type of fencing for your purposes. Along the way, you’ll understand more about the style of fence and how it gets its name, how much a post and rail costs, as well as installation and maintenance factors you may need to know.
The fencing is made up of posts that have slots cut or formed into them. The rails, usually 2-5 in number, are strung between posts and butt end to end in the slots. Posts are spaced from 4’ to 12’ apart. Heights of 4’ to 6’ are most common.
The type of wood used in post and rail fences varies. Spruce is often used because it is fairly durable and affordable. Cedar is more durable but also more expensive. Pine is both less durable and less costly. Treated lumber has much greater durability than non-treated lumber.
When you choose post and rail fencing, you’ve got the option of buying the rails and posts separately and assembling them on site or buying pre-assembled panels that range in length from 4’ to 12’. Gates can be easily integrated into the design.
This fence type is used for decorative purposes, to delineate basic property boundaries and to house larger livestock such as cattle and horses. It is commonly used on ranches, farms and in rural settings where animals are kept. It is not the best type of fencing for smaller animals such as sheep or goats unless the rails are spaced no more than 10”-12” apart.
In terms of cost, if you choose pre-assembled wood panels, they will range from $50-$200. The differences in cost is based on the quality of the wood, how decorative the post and caps are, and the length of the panels. That works out to roughly $12-$16 per linear foot. Pre-assembled vinyl panels cost $4.50-$12 per linear foot for the material. For pre-assembled panels, expect another $3-$5 per linear foot for installation.
If you plan to buy the fencing in pieces, the price for corner posts and line posts will be $8-$16. Rails in lengths from 6’ to 12’ will cost $6-$18 or $1-$1.50 per linear foot. For materials, depending on the length and the number of the rails per section, your total cost for materials will be $6-$10 per linear foot. The cost for installation will range from $3-$5 per linear foot.
If you plan to install the fencing yourself, you’ll need a post hole digger, something to mix the concrete if you choose to use it and a few common hand tools including a saw if you need to cut any rails to exact measurements. On many farms and ranches, installation is a DIY project. It’s not especially difficult, but it is rigorous and time-consuming.
For this reason, many property owners choose to get several written estimates so that they can weigh the installation cost against the time and effort required to do it themselves. Hiring a contractor also ensures a professional job.
If you choose bare wood, you’ll need to stain it or paint it every 3-7 years in order to keep it in top condition. Climate factors in your area will determine how frequently it needs to be done. Cedar doesn’t require maintenance and neither does pressure-treated wood.
Vinyl post and rail fencing is maintenance-free for the most part, though it might requires an occasional wash with a hose or pressure sprayer. All types of post and rail fence will need to be checked regularly to make sure they’re in good condition if the fence is being used for livestock pasture or corral.