How to Build a DIY Split Rail Fence

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Split rail fences are the simplest and most economical type of fence. They are traditionally used in agricultural settings, but they’ve become extremely popular in suburban yards recently. Split rail fences are not particularly secure, so they are generally installed as decorative fences, used to create a border around an area. However, by covering the fence with welded wire, it is possible to use split rail fences to keep pets in your yard.

Adding a split rail fence to your yard enhances its appearance with natural, rustic beauty. Because the design is so simple, a split rail fence is easy to build yourself, even for first time DIYers. Here are the easy steps to building a split rail fence.

Wait! Before You Start Your DIY Fence Project…

A split rail fence and its end post.Before beginning your DIY fence project, there are a few considerations that are the same when building any style of fence. It’s important to be a good neighbor, you should check your property lines to ensure that where you’re building is indeed your property. As long as you’re complying with laws and only building on your own property, it is not required that you check with your neighbors before putting up a fence. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt to alert them of your plans. You should also check your utilities first and make sure you’re not interfering with any cable or electrical lines.

Choosing a Style of Split Rail Fence

In colonial America, split rail fences were built by laying logs on top of one another in a zigzag formation, like this:

A zigzag split rail fence.

Today’s suburban fences are typically created with a different design, involving rails that fit through the holes on posts. Split rail fences commonly have between two and four rails. Also, unlike in colonial times, it is no longer necessary to chop down trees and split the rails yourself. You can now purchase precut rails and even fence kits that make assembly a breeze.

The most common material used is cedar, and pine is also very popular. Standard rail length is either 11 or 8 feet, but it varies. The measurements of your yard may impact the rail length you choose.

Make Sure You Have These Materials


  • Stakes and string
  • Gravel
  • A post hole auger
  • Carpenter’s level
  • Measuring tape

Fence materials:

  • End posts: These posts have holes drilled on only one side for inserting the rails. They’re the stopping points of your fence.
  • Line posts: These posts are drilled all the way through, and they connect portions of your fence that continue in a straight line, as opposed to the corners.
  • Corner posts: These posts are drilled for the right angles of your fence.
  • Fence rails

Steps to Building a DIY Split Rail FenceA split rail fence along a suburban road.

  1. Mark and measure your yard to ensure that your fence materials fit. This is where your stakes, string, and measuring tape will come in handy. You may need to add shorter sections at the end of your fence. If you’re using precut rails and don’t want to chop any wood, there are other ways to make your fence fit. You have flexibility with the spacing of any openings in your fence as well as the size of your gate if you add one.
  2. Dig your post holes with your post hole auger. Holes should be six inches deeper than you need.

  3. Fill six inches of the holes with gravel. This helps absorb moisture from the ground.

  4. Starting with the end posts, insert posts into the holes. Then, fill in any gaps with the surrounding soil. Using your level, make sure each post is straight. You can get out your string again to check that the tops of each post are the same height as you install line posts and corner posts. Also, make sure that the holes are facing the right direction when you place your posts.

  5. Insert your rails into the holes of the posts, and voila! You now have a split rail fence.

Wasn’t that easy? Split rail fences can be installed in only a few hours, so just pick an afternoon, and soon you’ll have your own DIY split rail fence. Then, you can do the most important step: enjoying your brand new fence!

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