Our Guide to Post and Rail Fencing

Our post and rail combines a robust and traditional design, with good vision through the fence and also has the added benefit of being able to be used as an attractive option as a livestock barrier.

Post and rail fencing

Post and rail is a generic term used to describe fencing system comprising of solid timber post with rails and has three main variations to choose from: cleft, half-round and square cut. Post and rail is great for livestock, but also demarcation; it has the benefit of being able to deal with land that curves. 

Why is it popular?
Attractive, sturdy post and rail fencing is a very effective style of fencing. It’s strong and can serve as a perimeter enclosure for long stretches of property. It also makes a nice surrounding for a small to mid-sized yard or garden, allowing open views of the area.

The rustic appeal of post and rail fencing draws in the eye. Its simple structure – vertical fence posts and cross rails – makes most homes or agricultural areas' landscaped areas look open and lovely.Yet, this fencing is fairly cost-effective to install, has great toughness, can last for many years.

Other Benefits
Post and rail fencing is often constructed using morticed fence posts. These have rectangular holes cut into the sides, to allow easy insertion of end-slotted rails. The simple method of installation can save hours of work installing cross rails fixings. It’s also part of what gives this fencing a natural, countryside look.

• Cleft chestnut rails have a marvellous rough-hewn look. Use pressure-treated fence posts, and you’re guaranteed some seriously long-lived fencing.

• Add galvanised wire, and post and rail fencing makes a perfect pet or small animal enclosure. Or, hold in dense foliage to make it grow upwards. Livestock owners with children use this combination to protect kids from animals’  while keeping the animals from escaping. Similar setups can make perfect pen-to-pen walkways for small livestock.

• For everyday gardens, post and rail fencing offers many benefits. The wire-fencing combination can support and protect new plantings of shrubs and hedges.Use green PVC coated wire for a look that blends in, or galvanised steel wire if preferred. 

• Other fence rails available include arris rails with right angled triangular shapes to shed water and defy fence rot; cant rails protect fences with their sloped tops to protect fences; and, half round rails and rectangular rails work great, too.

Points to consider
When deciding upon the style and type of Post & Rail Fencing system you wish to install, you should consider the following areas:

  • Will the fence be suitable for the job required?
  • How quickly do you want to erect the fence?
  • What's your budget?
  • Which style of post and rail do you prefer? 
  • Additionally if the fence is to be erected to contain animals, then consideration should be given to the number of rails required. For smaller animals, more rails per bay of fence are required, unless you intend to add livestock netting to the fence.

    Let's now look at the three types of post and rail fencing:

    1. Chestnut Cleft
    Cleft is one of AVS's top-sellers, otherwise known as Sussex Rail, and the timber we supply is usually sourced and cut locally in Kent or Sussex coppice. This means the timber re-grows for future harvesting and hence is a sustainable and environmentally friendly choice.

    Chestnut cleft is essentially a split log; sold in a 9' 6” length with the ends pre-shaped. It's used with morticed posts of either square cut or split chestnut. The rail should be used with the bark side down, so the split apex side is on the top.

    This variation has many advantages for users. Firstly the manufacturing process of the rail means that it retains a face with bark initially intact and this helps to add to this systems rustic appeal.

    Secondly this system is versatile as there is an option to swap the cleft posts with softwood or oak posts, de. Finally when the fence is erected the rail can be slotted into a morticed hole within the post, which gives even greater strength to the fence system.

    Commonly used as 2-rail fencing but 3 to 5 rails are also used. The rails simply sit in the mortices; usually protruding through the post to ensure a good fit. The mortice set up is either two side-by-side mortices, a 65mm x 25mm for each rail, or a large central mortice for both rails to sit in, butting up to each other. 

    Post length commonly used would be between 1.95m and 2.1m depending on the material, with the height of the fence usually around 1.2m to 1.35m. The posts are this length as the post, when set in the ground can be back filled and rammed (rather than concreted) in, thus giving a better strength with the depth. Back filled and rammed is when the spoil dug out of the hole is then put back in after the posts has been positioned and rammed down to secure the post. Some situations would require the post to be concreted in, such as poor ground conditions or the specific purpose of the fence.

    If using a square cut post, it would typically be a 125x100mm or 150x75mm; with either a flat top, full back weather or a two way top. There is no set direction for the weathering and it must be asked of the customer the direction; an easy way of asking would be if the water is falling onto the rails or down the back of the post for example.

    Cleft posts are usually half round logs, irregular in shape and diameters and pre morticed with side-by-side mortices. They can be more troublesome to fit, as the shape of the post sometimes means that the hole will have to dug at an angle, to suit the post, and levelling the posts is harder as the sides are obviously not regular.

    2. Square Cut 
    This refers to any type of post and rail whose rails are sawn along their length creating a rectangular rail. This system is normally cheaper than Cleft and has a cleaner appearance preferred by some.

    When the fence is erected the rails are normally nailed to intermediate posts, which are set at 1.8m centres. This is combined with a staggering of the rails joints, to ensure that the fences weight is distributed evenly.

    Another method is to have the posts set at 3.6m centres, with a pricker post in the centre of the bay; a pricker post is usually made from the same material as the rail, pointed and driven into the ground with the rails nailed to it. this acts as a support but also stops the rails from bowing, distributing any external force throughout the bay.

    With this variation of fence system it's also possible to have the posts pre-pointed so that they can be driven into the ground during erection, making the job much quicker to complete. 

    It is possible to have the square rails morticed into the posts for greater strength, but this is a more time-consuming and expensive option.

    3. Half Round 
    With this style the rails are half-round and the posts are either round or half-round. Round posts are used when erecting the fence mechanically and give more strength. Either peeled and treated (which are irregular in shape) or machine rounded (uniform ) can be used according to taste and budget. Morticing is not usually an option so rails are nailed into position, giving a very attractive fence at a modest budget.

    Sold in a 3.6m length x 100mm face, the rail is nailed onto a face of a post. The number of rails is personal choice.

    The posts could either be machine round or half round, these would usually be driven into the ground; or a square cut post, which could be driven in or dug in, if the customer is using square cut posts, then there is no set dimension to use, but remember the wider the post the greater the area to fix the rail to, so a 125mm or 150mm face would be a better option. Usually set with a 1.8m centre with the rails staggered for added strength.

    • This blog is just a useful starter guide when deciding upon a suitable post & rail fence system for your premises. But we recommend you speak to one of AVS’s knowledgeable in-branch , who will be happy to answer any questions you have about post and rail as well as giving you a free quote.

    1st Nov 2019