How to Install Split Rail Fence

The split rail fence was created at a time when power tools and manufactured fencing materials had not been invented. As a result, building a split rail fence does not require digging holes for posts or the use of many tools. Using the correct materials, the instructions that follow explain how to install split rail fence.


  1. 1
    Drive stakes into the ground using a mallet where you want the stacked fence to begin, where you want the fence to end and at any corners. Connect the stakes using twine so that you can clearly see the length and path the fence is to take.
  2. 2
    Lay out the heaviest rails along the twine pathway you set up.
    • Arrange the split rails in a zigzag pattern with the rails meeting at an angle between 60 degrees and 120 degrees -- the smaller the angle, the stronger the stacked fence.
    • Place the first end of the first split rail on a stable rock to avoid rot and the second end on another rock situated according to creating the proper angle.
    • Position the first end of the next split rail on top of the second end of the previous split rail so that there is at least 6 inches (15.24 cm) of overlap from both rails. Then place the second end of this rail on a rock.
    • Set out the first layer of split rails until you have the whole bottom of the stacked fence outlined.
  3. 3
    Stack rails on the outline of the fence 1 layer at a time maintaining the lines and angles as evenly as possible.
  4. 4
    Wedge a rail upright as a fence pole on either side of each angle after the 3rd layer of split rails. This will help with keeping the angles the same.
  5. 5
    Stack more layers of rails until you reach your desired height, usually 4 to 6 layers.
  6. 6
    Wrap wire around the bottoms of both fence poles at each angle, and use pliers to twist the ends of the wire until it bites into the wood. Do the same at the top of each set of poles.
  7. 7
    Clip the excess wire ends using wire cutters.


  • As the fence ages and the bottom rails begin to rot, you may need to add fresh rails to the top between the poles and adjust the tightness of the wire holding it all together.
  • At the ends, allow rails to lean downward on top of each other. For a more finished look, you can place blocks cut from rails and use them to prop between the end rails and affix poles to either side.
  • Leave a 52 inch (1.32 m) opening at any point where you wish to place a 48 inch (1.22 m) gate.
  • Saw the tops off of the upright fence poles at an even level for a more consistent appearance.


  • If you prefer the newly cut golden color of the cedar to the grey patina that it takes on over time, a preservative treatment will need to be applied periodically.

Things You'll Need

  • 10 foot (3.05 m) long Split Rails (usually cedar)
  • Stakes
  • Mallet
  • Wire
  • Wire Cutters
  • Pliers
  • Saw
  • Twine

Article Info

Categories: Walls Fences and Decks