Pricing Guide: How Much Does a Split Rail Fence Cost?

Most homeowners pay between $1,782 and $3,923 to have a split rail fence installed.

Most homeowners nationwide pay between $1,782 and $3,923 to have a professional contractor install a split rail fence. These fences come in wood, vinyl, composite, or metal. Across materials, the national average split rail fence cost is about $2,853.

Many fence installers will charge by the foot for materials and labor. For a split rail fence, expect to pay an average of $20 per linear foot. Depending on the specific material and height of your fence, that cost could be as low as $11 per linear foot or as high as $29 per linear foot

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How much does split rail fencing cost?

Looking for an easy and inexpensive way to outline your property? A split rail fence, aka ranch fence or post-and-beam fence, might be your solution. Here is what you are looking at roughly for the cost of a split rail fence.

  • National average cost: $2,853
  • Typical price range: $1,782 – $3,923
  • Extreme low end: $799
  • Extreme high end: $23,864

A typical homeowner wanting a border for their front yard (a common use of split rail fences) can expect their budget to fall within the typical range of $1,782 to $3,923 (for an estimated average cost of $2,853). However, project specifics such as size, material, and accessibility can drastically skew those numbers. 

Many people with huge properties of an acre or more, such as pastures for livestock, use split rail fencing to mark their property lines and contain animals (thus the alternate name “ranch fencing”). Large projects like these will cost closer to the extreme high end of $23,864 for professional installation because they require so many materials and hours of work. 

On the other hand, a homeowner looking to fence in a small area, like a vegetable garden, will find split rail fencing to be an extremely affordable option, especially if they use cheaper materials. For a simple wood split rail fence, you may only pay around $799 total for labor and materials. 

Cost Estimator by Size

horse near a rail fence
Photo Credit: Laura LaRose / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Split rail fences have a relatively cheap per-foot cost compared to other fence styles, but they can still get remarkably expensive for large properties. 

Two of the most popular uses for split rail fences are:

  • Front yard landscape decoration, which is usually inexpensive since it doesn’t cover a wide area. 
  • Livestock containment, which often involves several hundred feet of fence and therefore costs several thousand dollars. 

We’ve estimated typical costs for both uses. 

A small front yard of 500 square feet will need about 69 linear feet of fence to line the whole thing. Using the national average split rail fence cost ($20 per linear foot), the total for a small front yard project would come out to about $1,380, including labor costs and materials. 

Remember that your fence could be cheaper, about $11 per linear foot, or more expensive, about $29 per linear foot, depending on the exact type of split rail fence you use. 

It would take about 135 linear feet of fence to surround a mid-sized 2,000-square-foot yard. You can expect to pay around $2,700 on average for a project of this size. Most residential split rail fence projects will likely be closest to this one in size and budget. 

For a large 3,500-square-foot front yard, you would need approximately 180 linear feet of split rail fence. This project, professionally installed, would cost about $3,600

* includes labor and materials
Small (500 square feet)$1,380
Medium (2,000 square feet)$2,700
Large (3,500 square feet)$3,600

When we start talking about livestock containment fences or other projects that need to cover particularly large spaces, we get into some more intimidating numbers. This is where the affordability of a split rail fence really comes in handy, since the cost of a more expensive fence for projects of these sizes would be astronomical. 

Completely surrounding a quarter acre takes about 416 linear feet of fence. According to the national average split rail fence cost, that comes out to about $8,320 total, including professional installation. 

For a half-acre property, you would need around 592 linear feet of split rail fence, which would cost you something like $11,840. For a full 1-acre property, those numbers jump up to 836 linear feet of fence and an overall cost of $16,720.

Based on these estimates, you can easily see how a split rail fence might cost $20,000+ for ranches, farms, and other multi-acre properties.

* includes labor and materials
Quarter acre$8,320
Half acre$11,840
1 acre$16,720

Other Factors That Affect Cost

Though the size of your project is definitely the biggest indicator of cost when it comes to split rail fencing, there are other factors you should consider while budgeting. What material do you want for your fence? Do you need to include wire mesh to keep out small pest animals? How many gates do you want to install?

Your answers to these questions and others can impact the overall cost of your split rail fence project. Use these specifics in addition to size in linear feet for an accurate estimate of what your budget should look like.

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Fence material

The most basic and inexpensive split rail fences are made of wood. Though the cost of different kinds of lumber vary by region, you can expect to pay about $11 to $20 per linear foot for a cedar fence, $11 to $21 per linear foot for a pine fence, and $20 to $30 per linear foot for a black locust fence, one of the most expensive wood options. 

For a fence that won’t require regular maintenance such as painting and staining, you might want to opt for vinyl or composite instead of wood. These options are more expensive, but they’re invulnerable to rot, pests, and warping. One possible downside is that vinyl can turn brittle in especially cold temperatures. 

Composite, which replicates the look and feel of wood grain, costs about $14 to $26 per linear foot. Vinyl, which is smooth and comes in different colors, is around $18 to $29 per linear foot

A less common material for split rail fences is metal such as steel or aluminum. Metal fencing tends to have an expensive per-foot price, so it isn’t very popular for large projects, but it’s durable and low-maintenance compared to wood. A steel split rail fence costs about $20 to $27 per linear foot, and aluminum is even pricier at about $25 to $34 per linear foot

* includes labor and materials
Cedar$11 – $20
Pine$11 – $21
Black locust$20 – $30
Composite$14 – $26
Vinyl$18 – $29
Steel$20 – $27
Aluminum$25 – $34

Add wire mesh

Wooden split rail fence surrounding a stream, with wire mesh covering the bottom of the fence
Photo Credit: Mysterymanblue / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0

While a split rail fence can keep large animals in or out on its own, smaller animals such as dogs or coyotes can easily slip between the spaced-out rails. If you have pets or need to keep out pest animals, you might to attach wire mesh to the rails. 

You can purchase wire mesh for about $1.66 per linear foot and attach it yourself or have your fence installer do it for you. Leave room in your budget for that additional cost if you think your fence needs an extra level of security. 

Fence height

A round rail fence
Photo Credit: BLW / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

A decorative split rail fence for a home is typically 4 feet tall with two horizontal rails. The prices given throughout this breakdown refer to a fence of this size. 

However, if using your fence to contain horses, livestock, or household pets, a taller 6-foot fence with three rails might serve your needs better. To budget for a 6-foot fence, add about 25% to the total cost of the project to accommodate the extra materials and hours of work for your installer. 


Wooden fence gate with sheep grazing in the background
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Split rail-style gates don’t take much material, so they tend to be more affordable than other types of gates. On average, you can expect to pay approximately $250 per gate. While this estimate is a good ballpark number, the exact cost per gate will vary based on the size of the opening. 

For instance, a double driveway gate large enough for a car will cost more than a simple walk-through gate. The price of your gate also will depend on the material, with budget woods like cedar and pine on the low end and vinyl, metal, or black locust on the high end. 

Extra Services

When you hire a contractor to install a split rail fence on your property, you may need or want to tack on some additional services. These services might be necessary for your fence installation, or they might be an aesthetic choice on your part. 

While you’re shopping around, find out if your fence contractor can provide these services or if you will need to hire a separate professional. Either way, the added costs should be about the same. 

Fence removal

Is an old, rundown fence standing where you want to put your new split rail fence? You’ll have to remove the old fence before replacing it with a new one, but you may not have to do the work yourself. Most pro fence installers will tear down your existing fence and haul away the debris if you’re willing to pay for it. 

Removing fences installed with concrete or taller fences with more material will cost more than small, simple ones like split rail. The amount you spend on fence removal depends on the type of fence and how much of it there is. 

Added cost: $3 to $5 per linear foot of fence to be removed 

Tree or bush removal

Trees or bushes in your yard can present obstacles to a new fencing project, too. While you might be able to remove smaller plants yourself without too much difficulty, you’ll need professional help for tall trees or plants with complicated root systems. 

Most tree services base pricing on the height of the plant and how accessible it is. For example, removing a tree close to a building or power line would probably cost more than removing one of the same size out in the open.

You could potentially save money by having multiple plants removed at once. There isn’t really any way to find out how much tree or bush removal would cost for you without talking to a tree care professional about your specific needs. 

Added cost: $385 to $1,070 per plant or $10 to $14 per foot of height

Land grading

White wooden fence following the lay of the land
Photo Credit: Melissa Fague / PI Photography and Fine Art / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Most of the time, a split rail fence will follow the lay of the land. Unlike many other types of fencing, split rail often covers vast, rolling properties with hills. 

That being said, there are cases in which a slope may be too steep or a stretch of land may be too uneven for installing a fence. If that’s the case for your property, your contractor may need to excavate and reslope the land before installation. 

Your land grading cost will depend on exactly what you need done and the equipment and time it takes a pro to do it. 

Added cost: $900 to $3,000

Painting / staining

Based on the material you use for your split rail fence, you may need to paint or stain it after installation. 

A wood split rail fence, for instance, needs a coating of outdoor paint or stain to protect it from pests, rot, warping, and natural elements. If aesthetics are important to you, you may want to paint a metal or vinyl fence to better match your home and the rest of your property. 

Even for a wood fence that needs it, painting or staining doesn’t automatically come with installation. You’ll have to pay extra for material and labor to have your contractor paint or stain your split rail fence. Overall cost will vary based on the size and material of your fence as well as the quality of coating you want to use. 

Added cost: $500 to $3,000

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Cost of Installing a Split Rail Fence DIY

A wood split rail fence is one of the simplest fencing styles to install, so it makes a good DIY project. You don’t have to set anything in concrete or use tools and fasteners to attach posts and rails to each other, as you do with most other types of fences. 

The most difficult parts of the job, which may not even be necessary for your property, would be installing your fence on a slope and cutting horizontal rails to fit your yard’s size and shape. 

Now, we’ll cover the costs and work involved in building 150 feet of 4-foot tall, two-rail fence. You can compare these numbers to the cost of professional installation and decide if going the DIY route is worth the time and effort. 

Equipment needed

Installing a split rail fence doesn’t take many specialized tools, so an experienced home improvement DIY-er will probably already have all the needed equipment. For this reason, a home-built split rail fence could be an especially affordable project. 

Based on average prices from Amazon, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, here is the approximate cost of buying all the necessary tools to erect your split rail fence.

Post level$9
Work gloves$10
Mason’s line$15
Protective safety glasses $16
Hand saw$16
Tape measure$18
Post hole digger$50
Stakes$4 apiece; $60 total

Cost of materials

For the 150-foot fence in this example, you would need about 28 11-foot long horizontal rails and 15 pre-drilled fence posts made specifically for a split rail fence. End, corner, and line posts are all different, with different holes, so make sure you get the right amount of each one for your  property. 

We calculated costs for a classic wood split rail fence, but the actual price you pay will vary by material. Different types of wood can cost more or less, and other materials such as vinyl, composite, aluminum, or steel will definitely be more expensive. 

End, line, and corner posts$15$225
Horizontal rails$13$364
Split rail gate with hardware$183
Gravel$400 for large bag
Outdoor paint or stain$125

How to install a split rail fence DIY in 9 steps

1. Measure and plan your fence. Measure the perimeter of your yard or property to determine how many posts and rails you need to buy. Most wood rails come in 8- or 11-foot lengths, and you may need to cut some of them shorter with a hand saw to fit the necessary layout. 

2. Stake out the outline. Put stakes in the ground at each corner of where your fence will go and tie a mason’s line or other durable string tautly between each one. Measure where each line post should go based on the length of your rails and put a stake in the ground to mark each spot. Each stake should touch the string to ensure the posts will be in line with each other. Leave an opening where you plan to install the gate. 

3. Lay out posts and rails. Since you’re working with pre-cut rails, it’s a good idea to lay out the posts and rails dry before you dig the post holes. Make sure you’ve spaced everything out correctly first so you don’t have to make adjustments later when it’s more difficult. 

4. Dig post holes. With a post hole digger, create a hole in each spot you staked out for the end, line, and corner posts. The holes should be one-third the height of your post plus 6 inches deeper for the gravel base. They should be 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

5. Prepare gravel base. Pour 6 inches of gravel into each post hole. This gravel base will help water drain away from the base of the posts in the future. 

6. Install end posts first. Place the end posts in their holes and backfill with dirt, packing it in tightly around the base. Use a post level to make sure the posts are plumb (vertically straight) and level. 

7. Install line posts and horizontal rails. Set the line posts in their respective holes. Insert the horizontal rails into the pre-cut holes in each post. 

8. Finish fence. Adjust the posts and rails as needed now that you have them set up. Make sure every post is level and plumb, then backfill the holes with dirt just as you did earlier with the end posts. 

9. Paint or stain the wood. Since the fence in this example is made of wood, you’ll need to coat it with an outdoor paint or stain to protect it from rot, pests, water damage, and warping. You’ll need to apply a fresh coat of paint or stain every few years. 

DIY cost vs. professional installation cost

Wood split rail fence viewed going out into the distance
Photo Credit: Mustang Joe / Flickr / CC0 1.0

Purchasing the tools and materials necessary to build your own wood split rail fence would cost you about $1,514 for 150 linear feet of fence. If your fence will be bigger or smaller than that, your material costs will rise or fall in accordance.

Your overall budget and the installation method will also change significantly if you use vinyl, composite, or metal panels instead of wood. 

In comparison, to have a fencing contractor install and stain the same 150-foot long, 4-foot tall wood fence as the one in the example, you would pay approximately $2,900.

So, you could save yourself about $1,500 by building a project of this size DIY. You would save even more on a larger project that would take longer to install, resulting in higher labor costs. 

Cost of Split Rail Fencing by Location

Of everything that goes into the overall price of a split rail fence, professional labor costs will vary the most by region. Local taxes and different levels of demand in different markets make contractors’ rates highly subjective by location.

For example, a contractor in California will most likely charge much more than one in Oklahoma for the same split rail fence job.

Availability of materials in your area is another major factor in regionally specific prices, especially if you want a wood fence. Different kinds of lumber are more affordable in areas where they occur naturally and more expensive if the supplier has to ship them a long distance. Talk to your fence contractor or the retailer where you buy your fence materials to find out which materials are most cost-effective for your area. 

FAQ About Split Rail Fences

1. Do split rail fences need concrete?

No. You can set the end and corner posts in concrete for greater stability if you want, but it isn’t necessary. Concrete may be a good idea if you live in an area with frequent high winds and severe weather. 

2. What is the cheapest fence to install?

The cheapest split rail fence would be a two-rail fence made of cedar or pine. 

3. Does Home Depot sell split rail fencing?

Yes, but most (if not all) of the selection at big national retailers like Home Depot is pre-assembled vinyl panels. For wood split rail fence pieces, you may have to buy from a local lumber supplier. 

DIY or Hire a Pro to Install Your Split Rail Fence?

A split rail fence is one of the cheapest and easiest-to-install fencing options. For these reasons, it’s a great choice for homeowners who want a fence for looks but aren’t particularly concerned about privacy or security. 

For a typical residential split rail fencing project, you should expect to spend around $1,782 to $3,923, or $2,853 on average, for materials and professional labor. Especially large projects such as livestock containment fences will probably cost closer to the high-end price of $23,864.

If you’re good with your hands, you could build your own split rail fence. It shouldn’t be too hard for most DIY-ers. Your cost would vary based on material and project size, but you can trust as a general rule that doing the work yourself would be cheaper (and more of a hassle) than hiring a pro for the same job. 

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Main Photo Credit: DebWatson / Pixabay

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer and editor with a passion for sustainable, earth-friendly gardening and lawn care practices. When she isn't sharing her knowledge about lawn care and landscaping, you can find her curled up with a good book and a cat in her lap.