How to Install a Split Rail Fence

Are you looking to add a touch of rustic charm to your property? Look no further! Read our DIY guide on How to Install a Split Rail Fence to learn the installation steps.
Veda Yalamanchili
Veda Yalamanchili
Last Update:
March 8, 2024

Are you ready to transform your property into a charming and rustic oasis? Look no further than the classic split rail fence. Whether you want to define your boundaries or enhance your curb appeal, a well-installed privacy fence can make a big difference. In this blog post, we will show you how to install a split rail fence by yourself, step by step. From selecting the right materials to mastering sturdy construction, we've got you covered. We will also discuss all the essential tips and tricks to install these types of fences. So grab your tools, roll up your sleeves, and let's embark on this journey to enhance your outdoor space.

Understanding the Split Rail Fence

A split rail fence is a type of fence that consists of wooden posts and rails that are split from logs. The rails are usually notched and fit into the holes or slots in the posts. The fence can be left natural or stained or painted to match your style. A split rail fence is also known as a log fence, worm fence, snake fence, or zigzag fence.

There are many advantages to choosing a split rail fence for your property. Some of them are:

- It is easy to install and requires minimal tools and skills.

- It is economical and uses less wood than other types of fences.

- It blends well with the natural landscape and creates a rustic look.

- It allows air and light to pass through and does not block the view.

- It can be customized with different types of rails, posts, and gates.

However, a split rail fence may not be suitable for every situation. Some of the drawbacks are:

- It is not very sturdy and may sag or lean over time.

- It does not provide much privacy or security from intruders or animals.

- It may rot or decay if not treated or maintained properly.

- It may not comply with some zoning laws or homeowners association rules.

Planning Your Fence Project

Planning for your fence project

Before you start installing your split rail fence, you need to do some planning and preparation. Here are some important steps to follow:

Mark your property line

You need to know where your property ends and your neighbor's begins. You can use a survey map or hire a surveyor to help you locate your property line. You also need to respect any easements or rights-of-way that may affect your fencing project.

Check the zoning laws and regulations

Zoning laws for fence

You need to make sure that your fence meets the local codes and ordinances that govern the height, style, location, and materials of fences. You may need to obtain a permit or approval from your city or county before you start building your fence.

Contact the utility companies

You need to find out if any underground pipes, wires, cables, or lines may interfere with your digging. You can call 811 or visit request a free service that will mark the location of any utilities on your property.

Choose the right fence materials

Choosing the right fence material

You need to decide what type of fencing material you want to use for your posts and rails. There are many split rail fence ideas that you can choose from. The most common choices for wood fences are cedar, pine, spruce, hemlock, or locust. Cedar is the most durable and resistant to insects and rot, but it is also the most expensive. Pine is the cheapest and most widely available, but it is also the most prone to warping and cracking. Spruce, hemlock, and locust are somewhere in between in terms of cost and quality. You can also go for vinyl or metal for a more modern look.

You also need to decide how many fence posts and rails you need for your fence. The number will depend on the length and layout of your fence line, as well as the size of your posts and rails. Typically, a split rail fence has two or three rails per section, with each section measuring 8 to 11 feet long. The posts are usually 4 to 6 inches in diameter and 6 to 10 feet long.

DIY Split Rail Fence Installation: Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you have planned and prepared your fence project, you are ready to start installing your split rail fence. Here are the tools and materials you will need:

Step 1: Mark the post locations

Using a measuring tape, mark the location of each post along your fence line. You can use marker flags or spray paint. Make sure the distance between each post is equal to the length of your rails. You can also use stakes and string to help you align the fence posts better.

Step 2: Dig the post holes

Use a post-hole digger or an auger to dig holes for your posts. The holes should be about 10 inches in diameter and 24 to 36 inches deep, depending on the height and width of your posts. You can use a level to check that the holes are vertical.

Step 3: Install the end posts, corner posts, and line posts

Place a few inches of gravel at the bottom of each hole to help with drainage and stability. Then, insert the end posts, corner posts, and line posts into their respective holes. The end posts are the ones that mark the beginning and end of your fence line. The corner posts are the ones that form a right angle at the corners of your fence. The line posts are the ones that go in between the end posts and corner posts.

Make sure the posts are plumb (vertical) and level (horizontal) by using a level. You can also use a carpenter's square to check that the corner posts are at a 90-degree angle. Then, backfill the bottom of the posts with soil and tamp it down firmly with a shovel or a hammer.

Step 4: Attach the rails to the posts

Slide the rails into the holes or slots in the fence posts. The rails should fit snugly and securely, without any gaps or wobbles. You can use a hammer to tap them into place if needed. Make sure the rails are level by using a level. If your posts don’t have slots or holes, you can attach the rails to the posts using nails. Be careful and use safety gear when you are working on installing a split rail fence.

Step 5: Install a fence gate if needed

If you want to add a fence gate to your fence, you need to install two gate posts where you want the gate to be. The gate posts should be stronger and thicker than the regular posts, and they should be set deeper into the ground for extra stability. You can use metal brackets or hinges to attach the gate to the gate posts. You can also use a latch or a lock to secure the gate.

Step 6: Finishing Up and Maintenance

You are almost there. After installing the fence and the fence gate, you need to do some finishing touches and maintenance tasks to keep your fence looking great and lasting long. Here are some tips:


Installing a split rail fence is a rewarding DIY home improvement project that can increase your property's value, appearance, and security. By following this guide, you can install your own split rail fence in no time. All you need is some planning, preparation, tools, materials, and elbow grease.

We hope this blog post has inspired you to start your DIY fence project. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Ergeon today. We would love to hear from you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Split rail fencing

How much does a split rail fence cost?

The cost of a split rail fence depends on several factors, such as the size of your property, the type of material you choose, and the labor involved. On average, you can expect to pay between $10 and $30 per linear foot for a wood split rail fence, and between $20 and $40 per linear foot for a vinyl or composite split rail fence.

How long does a split rail fence last?

The lifespan of a split rail fence depends on the quality of the material and the maintenance it receives. A wood split rail fence can last between 10 and 20 years if properly treated and cared for. A vinyl or composite split rail fence can last between 20 and 40 years if properly cleaned and inspected.

How tall is a split rail fence?

Split rail fencing

The height of a split rail fence depends on the number of rails you use and the style of your fence. A typical split rail fence has two or three rails and stands between 3 and 4 feet tall. But, you can customize your fence height by adding more rails or using different post lengths.

How do I keep animals out of my split rail fence?

A split rail fence is not very effective at keeping animals out of your property because it has gaps between the rails that allow them to pass through. If you want to keep animals out of your property, you can add wire mesh or chicken wire to your split rail fence to create a barrier. You can also plant thorny plants or use repellents along the fence line to deter animals from approaching.

How do I remove an old split rail fence?

To remove an old split rail fence, you need to follow these steps:

- Remove the rails from the posts by pulling them out or cutting them off with a saw.

- Remove the posts from the ground by digging them out or pulling them out with a tractor or a truck.

- Dispose of the old materials properly by recycling them or taking them to a landfill.

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