In any suburb across America, you're likely to see both picket fences and split-rail fences. If you're looking to increase your property's value or curb appeal, then you've likely considered installing one of these types of fencing. Before you make your decision, consider the differences between these styles of fencing:
Picket fences consist of several vertical, pointed stakes that reach between each post. These stakes, or pickets, are supported by an upper and lower beam.
Due to their strong structure, picket fences were originally used by military forces around the world—but they were used most frequently in France, from where the word picket originated. In most cases, picket fences were used defensively to secure forts or outposts during war. However, they were also constructed on battlefields to prevent or hold back cavalry and infantry charges—since the pickets were sharp enough to cause injury to enemies.
Nowadays, picket fences are used for the opposite of their original purpose. Rather than serve as a militaristic barrier, picket fences have become iconic across the United States as a staple of peaceful, suburban living. Although the uses of picket fences have changed throughout the centuries, their strong structure remains the same.
The main advantage of picket fences is that they have only minimal gaps between each stake. This design ensures that your children or pets will be unable to run past your picket fence and out into your busy street. Additionally, the bottom of each stake reaches below the lower horizontal beam, which can prevent smaller animals from entering or exiting your property.
Split-rail fences initially consisted of vertically-cut beams of wood. They were unique from other styles of fencing since they didn't require any posts. Rather, each long beam of wood would be stacked on top of another. For support, each series of stacked beams would intertwine and zig-zag with each other—which would create an uneven perimeter.
The original design of split-rail fencing required a significant amount of wood. For this reason, they were commonly used in heavily-wooded areas such as forests. However, the simplicity of the split-rail design allowed these fences to become popular among property owners who preferred to build their own fences—including President Abraham Lincoln.
However, modern split-rail fences are typically constructed with posts. Although this takes away the most unique design trait of split-rail fencing, it eliminates the unnecessary zig-zagging along the fence line. This change occurred once communal living became standard and straight property lines were drawn between plots of land.
The advantage that modern split-rail fencing has over picket fencing is that it requires significantly less material. Rather than having several vertical stakes and two horizontal beams between each post like a picket fence, modern split-rail fencing consists of only two or three horizontal beams between posts.
Which Style of Fencing Should I Build Around My Property?
If you have young children or swift pets in your home, then installing a picket fence around your home will save you from the hassle of chasing and catching your children or pets before they sprint out towards your street. However, since picket fences require a significant amount of material, they'll cost a bit more than their split-rail counterparts.
If you're not concerned about children or pets running free, then installing an affordable split-rail fence around your property may be more practical than installing a picket fence.
However, you must also consider aesthetic value when installing a fence. Picket fences are more versatile in their appearance than split-rail fences, since their stakes can vary in height across the fence and create a wave-like appearance or remain uniform. Split-rail fences are more simplistic than picket fences and can help you achieve a minimalistic appearance.
Regardless of whether you decide to install picket or split-rail fencing around your property, it's best to leave the job to a professional fence installation company or contractor. By doing so, you can ensure that your new fence will remain sturdy for years to come.