5 Different Types of Wood for Fencing

wooden fence with a sky background

You want to install a wood fence to improve your home’s curb appeal. But with so many different types of wood fencing, how do you choose?

While aesthetics certainly play a big part in your choice of wood fence material, it shouldn’t be your only consideration. You should also base your decision on other factors such as durability, functionality, and of course, cost.

Fortunately, the best way to quickly – and sensibly – pick the type of wood for your fence is to understand the characteristics of each one. This way, it becomes as simple as matching them to your preferences.

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What Are the Different Types of Wood for Fencing?

Wood has always been around as a part of nature, so it’s only natural to use it for fencing. It also makes sense for people to have narrowed down the best wood types after centuries of using wood fences. While some have excellent durability and come in various colors, others may start to deteriorate after only a few weeks. Avoiding the latter is as easy as picking from the most popular varieties listed below:

1. Cedar

image of long cedar tree
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Some people have the wrong impression that cedar doesn’t last a long time because it is a type of softwood. However, this is far from the truth. In fact, it’s one of the mid-priced options because of its durability – even if left untreated. Its natural acid and oils also repel insects effectively. If properly maintained, a cedar fence can last up to 30 years.

Cedar comes in two subvarieties – red cedar and white cedar. Red cedar offers a more striking charm, whereas white cedar has a more pale color and is less conspicuous. Some people prefer white cedar because it doesn’t give off a distinct cedar smell like the red variety.

What Does Cedar Look Like?

The vivid color of cedar wood makes it difficult to paint over, usually requiring a couple of coats to cover it. White cedar has a lighter color and straight, even, and fine grains. Its knots are also small. On the other hand, red cedar has a more rustic charm. It also has a straight grain, but its color is more on the light brown side with a slight hint of red.

When Is It Best to Use Cedar?

With its natural oils that repel insects, cedar fence is perfect for humid regions like Texas and Florida, where termites are always a problem. It also will last longer than other wood types as it’s more resistant to rot and decay. Apart from these things, its affordability also makes it one of the most used fence materials in the country.

Pros of Cedar

✓   Resistant to rot and insects

✓   Very durable, even if untreated

✓   Requires less maintenance

✓   Emits a pleasant scent

✓   Staining makes it even more durable and attractive

Cons of Cedar 

✗   Its scent can be irritating to some people

✗   Painting over it requires several coats

✗   It turns gray as the wood ages

Cost

Including installation, using cedar or Western red cedar costs around $33 per linear foot.

2. Pine

pine tree in a yard
Photo Credit: Unsplash

Another type of softwood you can use is pine. Working with it is easier compared to most hardwood types. If you want to enclose your yard with vertical boards or picket fences, you can easily do so with pine.

Compared to cedar, pinewood is considerably less expensive since it is more readily available. Pinewood’s soft texture is not as tough as cedar, so it’s more manageable.

It also has a natural stiffness, making it resistant to shock and blunt blows. However, it can be prone to warping, so it’s not a good idea to use it in windy cities, especially if you’ll be using it for a high fence. Another drawback is that it can be susceptible to dents and scratches. Although, with its light color, a single coat of stain or paint will be enough to cover any marks. With proper maintenance, a pine fence can last 10-15 years.

What Does Pine Look Like?

Depending on the pinewood variety, it can have a yellowish tone or a white color. You’ll find that it’s usually available in creamy white. Because of its light color, pinewood is like a canvas that you can easily paint over with just a single coat.

When Is It Best to Use Pine?

Pine is ideal for homeowners with a limited budget. And since it can be prone to warping and rotting, it would be better to use this wood for regions with a more pleasant climate year-round. Treating the wood will help make it waterproof, windproof, rot-resistant, and last longer.

Pros of Pine

✓   Relatively inexpensive

✓   Naturally stiff and shock-resistant

✓   Easy to paint over since it only requires a single coat

✓   Has natural grains and knots, which adds to its aesthetic

✓   Soft and easy to work with

Cons of Pine

✗   Scratches and dents more easily

✗   Requires more maintenance work

✗   More likely to rot or warp over time

Cost

At $28 per linear foot, pine is a cost-effective option. This price already includes the cost of installation.

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3. Oak

oak tree in a yard
Photo Credit: Globetrotter19 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

There are up to 600 known varieties of oak worldwide, with North America having the most oak species compared to other continents. This type of hardwood comes in so many colors that even members of the same species have different variations. Plus, its color can darken over time when exposed to UV light and oxygen.

What makes oak stand out from its wood counterparts is its beauty. You can even enhance this feature when you apply natural oils to it. As such, it’s best just to pick the color you prefer and let it shine on its own without using stains.

What It Looks Like

The wide range of color options for oak – from light beige to reddish hues – may seem quite confusing to distinguish. However, its grain pattern sets oak apart from other wood types. Oak has an uneven texture and a straight grain. It also has rays that run along its grain. Depending on the variety, these rays may look like dotted or longer lines.

When Is It Best to Use Oak?

Choose oak if you’re looking for a highly durable wood to make your fence last longer. You also have more color options with this wood, so you can use it to add character to your property. But since it doesn’t naturally repel insects, it’s not a good choice for areas that get a lot of rain throughout the year. You can use oak for your fence if you live in a region with a mostly dry climate, like Arizona. Still, you can have the oak treated to help it withstand the snowy weather of Northeast states, including New York and Massachusetts.

Pros of Oak

✓   Has a wide variety of colors to choose from

✓   Prominent natural grain adds aesthetic charm

✓   Untreated oakwood is sturdier than pressure-treated pinewood

✓   Known for its durability, untreated oak can last for 20 years

✓   Some species of oak are naturally water resistant

Cons of Oak

✗   It does not have a natural insect repellent property

✗   Low-quality oak boards have the potential to warp

✗   Color darkens over time

Cost

Oak fences cost around $35 per linear foot, including installation.

4. Redwood

group of redwood trees
Photo Credit: Pixabay

When it comes to the most expensive and popular wood, redwood is the clear winner – for a good reason. It’s sturdier than cedar, making it heavier and more difficult to work with. However, this also means that it’s denser and has extreme durability, which is why a redwood fence can last up to 20-25 years.

The aesthetic appeal of redwood can certainly elevate the appearance of any home. Higher grades of this wood have a deep red color that adds elegance and improves curb appeal. Redwood also can naturally repel insects and has rot-resistant properties. Although, it still requires treatment to withstand the constant barrage of the elements.

What Does Redwood Look Like?

Because redwood has a natural reddish-brown hue, it does not work well with tinted stains. However, most people prefer this type of wood because of its natural color. The higher the grade of the redwood, the darker it gets. It usually doesn’t have knots, looks more flawless, and its grain pattern is very tight.

When Is It Best to Use Redwood?

Since redwood is extremely durable and long-lasting, it’s a great option for fence posts and installations. It has a natural resistance to rot, infestations, and moisture – ideal for use in areas like the Pacific Northwest. But regardless of the climate in their region, homeowners in other parts of the country also use redwood for their fences because of its beautiful, natural reddish-brown color.

Pros of Redwood

✓   Repels pests with its natural oils

✓   Doesn’t require color stains since it already has a natural reddish-brown hue

✓   Easy to clean and maintain even with the use of everyday cleaners

✓   Moisture resistant so it can resist rot and decay

✓   One of the most durable woods for fences

✓   Does not require waterproofing

Cons of Redwood

✗   Natural properties make it one of the most expensive

✗   It can get discolored easily due to chemical reactions

Cost

One of the more expensive wood types, redwood costs roughly $48 per linear foot, including installation.

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5. Cypress

group of cypress trees
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Cypress has almost the same properties as redwood. It’s rot-resistant and just as durable as redwood, lasting anywhere from 15-30 years. Plus, it contains cypretine – a natural compound that protects against insects. It has a distinctive characteristic of having a rough texture. Unlike redwood, cypress emits an aroma that can be irritating to some people.

This wood type can be pricey, especially if you choose those made from older cypress trees. Additionally, cypress trees are common in the Southeastern United States. So, the farther you are from the region, the more expensive it becomes due to transportation costs.

What Does Cypress Look Like?

While cypress wood comes in various hues, ranging from pale to yellowish to brownish, it is one of the easiest to stain. As such, this wooden fence material is ideal for those who want to paint their fences a particular color. Most boards are usually knot-free. But if you prefer a few knots, you can get the cypress wood that costs less. It tends to go grayish as it ages and usually develops into a honey-gold color during the first year.

When Is It Best to Use Cypress?

As it is heavy and durable, cypress is perfect for windy areas. It will not twist or warp like pinewood. Additionally, this wood type works great in handling unpredictable wet-to-dry climates. That’s why homeowners in rainy states like Florida and Louisiana choose cypress due to its natural resistance to rot and insects.

Pros of Cypress

✓   Repels insects and is impervious to rot

✓   A popular alternative to redwood and cedar, especially for those in the South

✓   Less likely to get scratches or dings compared to cedar

✓   Tight grain means it can better support and hold nails

Cons of Cypress

✗   Wood from younger cypress trees tends to be less durable

✗   It emits a wood scent that can be irritating to those who are sensitive to smell

Cost

On average, cypress costs $29 per linear foot.

What Things Should You Consider When Selecting the Wood Type?

You now have a good understanding of the five most commonly used types of wood for fences. So, what’s next? Whether you’re planning to install a vertical board fence, lattice fence, or go with other fence options, you should have a clear picture of how the wood will fit your requirements. Consider the following factors when choosing your fence material:

Budget

As with any home improvement project, you should always have an allocated budget. When it comes to fence installations, your budget will considerably affect the type of wood you choose. You should choose the most durable and long-lasting material for your fence. In the long run, your additional investment may help you save money so it doesn’t need to be repaired or replaced as soon.

Before setting aside the budget for a new fence, think about how long you intend to live on that property. If you plan to relocate in a few years, it is probably not worth the investment to buy the best wood. But if you plan to live in your home for a long time, having a durable, sturdy fence that will last is a good plan.

Local Weather

The weather in your area also will affect the fence’s lifespan. Choosing the wrong wood type for your local climate will result in a shorter lifespan for your fence.

For example, if you live in a region where it rains most days of the year, you should use a material that is not prone to rotting, such as redwood. To avoid mistakes, consult with your local fencing contractor. They will know the right wooden fence type suitable for your area.

Insects

Another factor to consider is whether the wood is prone to insect infestation. As you may already know, termites and carpenter ants love eating wood. So, if you don’t want these pests nibbling on your fence, choose a wood with a natural insect repellent like cypress. Another choice that can help prevent termite infestation would be pressure-treated wood.

Maintenance

Choosing the most durable, moisture-resistant, insect-repelling, and rot-resistant wood for your fence will help maximize its performance while requiring little maintenance.

Still, you may want to treat, seal, and stain your wooden fence every three to five years to prolong its lifespan. These extra steps can help protect the fence from pests, excess moisture, and harsh weather conditions. It also will give added protection against warping, cracking, rotting, splintering, graying, and fading.

Before sealing and staining it, you will want to remove any mold and stains by applying a fence cleaner and rinsing it off with a pressure washer.

FAQ About Wood Fences

How long will a wooden fence last?

As long as you keep your wooden fence in good condition, it can last for up to 20 years or even more. You might have to replace individual boards and planks a few times. But if you maintain it regularly and properly, you will be able to get the most out of your wood fence.

What is the cheapest type of wood fence?

Pressure-treated pinewood is the cheapest option for wood fencing. On average, it only costs around $17 per linear foot. Chemical-infused pinewood is more cost-effective than cedar for rot and termite protection.

How do I keep my wooden fence from rotting?

Even if you choose a wood type that is not naturally rot-resistant, you still have a way to keep your wooden fence from rotting. Apply a stain or wood preservative to provide rot protection. As moisture causes wood to rot and decay, preventing it from seeping into the wood also will help. So if you want even more protection for your wood fence, apply a waterproofing sealant.

How do I extend the life of my wooden fence?

The following tips can help you prolong the lifespan of your new fence:

* Remove any leaves from your fence’s base to prevent pests from infesting the wood.
* Inspect your wooden fence every few months to ensure it’s in good condition.
* If you notice any damage to the fence, have it repaired as soon as possible.
* Apply stain or other protective sealants every few years to protect your wood fence from the elements.
* Avoid planting or remove trees near the fence to prevent their roots from damaging it.

Choose the Best Wood for Your Fence

Investing in wood fence installation for your property is not a small matter. It requires careful planning, which usually begins with choosing which type of wood to use. The five most common materials you’ve discovered here are popular for a reason. They all work great as a wood fence, so it’s just a matter of nitpicking the fence details you want to have.

If you’re still unsure which one is the best wood for your home, now is the perfect time to consult with a fencing contractor. With a stronger insight about these wood types, you can better understand the answers they provide.

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Melanie Joseph

After discovering her passion for writing through her beauty blog, Melanie left her engineering job in California, became a writer, and never once looked back. When she isn't writing, she loves dipping in the pool, tending to the garden, or doing simple home improvement projects.