Most home fences have traditionally been made from wood, and even though many other materials have become available for fencing, wooden fence rails have remained a staple in fence construction. The different types of wooden fence rails vary depending on the application for which they will be used, and each type of rail has its own aesthetic appeal. Finished round rails are common when building a post and rail fence, though post and board fences are also quite common; a flat board is used as a rail instead of a rounded rail. Split rails are rustic-looking, unfinished wooden fence rails often used on ranches and farms to keep animals either in or out of a piece of property.
Split wooden fence rails are cut from trees, and the bark is sometimes left on the rail. These are the most rustic type of rails, and they are used to build split rail fences. The zig-zag pattern of the split rail fence is one of its most defining features, and such fences very often do not use hardware for construction. Braces are instead build from more bare wood to support the corners of the fence. Split rails can be used in the construction of other styles of fence as well to enhance the rustic feel of the structure.
Post and rail fences use wooden fence rails that are cut either round or square. They are carved at the end to fit into slots bored into the posts. Round rails are fashioned with a lathe to be completely round, providing a clean aesthetic and smooth surface. Square rails can also be cut smooth, though they are not rounded off and provide a different but equally attractive aesthetic. Unlike split rails, these types of rails are completely devoid of any bark from trees, and they are often pressure treated to prevent rot and warping.
The type of wood used for wooden fence rails varies depending on the builder's budget and goals. Cedar is a popular choice for fences because it is naturally resistant to moisture damage, mold, mildew, and warping, though it is more expensive than other types of wood. Pine is another common choice, though some types of pine are prone to warping and rotting; if pine is used for fencing material, it should be properly pressure treated, painted, or otherwise protected from moisture to ensure it is not damaged shortly after installation.