Post and Rail Fencing – Ideal Surroundings

Picture: Fencing installed by RS Fencing |

What is Post & Rail Fencing?

Post & Rail fencing is a generic term used to describe any fencing system comprising of solid timber post & rails and has three main variations comprising of Cleft, Half-Round & Square Cut. Post and rail is not only for livestock, but also demarcation; it has the benefit of being able to cater with modest curves.

The system 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.

Why is it Popular?

Attractive, sturdy post and rail fencing is a very popular, effective style of fencing. This has been the case for many years, as this type of fencing is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, 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, businesses or broad landscaped areas look open and lovely.

Yet, this fencing is fairly cost-effective to install, has great toughness, can last for many years and it exudes authority. It also comes in many styles, with many differences in rails to complement the looks of your property.

Other Benefits

Another key feature makes it a very sought-after type enclosure. 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 getting 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. Nature garden landscapers and livestock owners with children use this combination to protect kids from animals’ nips and keep the critters 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 blend-in look, 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.

Often used to construct garden decking, 150mmx47mm heavy fence rails make powerful containment for large livestock. Joist hangers or special Carpenter Mate Screws or Timberlock Screws are usually preferred to support these heavier rails.

Just as home-owners and gardeners appreciate post and rail fencing for its rugged look and simplicity, countless agricultural workers rely upon it daily.

Perfect for countryside use and pastoral gardens, post and rail fencing gives the same look to in-city gardens. See AVS to get all the quality supplies to install it, as well as the tools and expert help you need.

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?
  • Your Personal Preference (What look do you prefer?)

Additionally if the fence is to be erected to contain stock, then consideration should be given to the number of rails required. This is naturally determined by the size of the stock animal that is to be contained. I.e. For smaller animals more rails per bay of fence are required, unless you intend to add livestock netting to the fence.


Your Options:

Chestnut Cleft

Cleft is one of AVS’s most popular 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 system.

Cleft chestnut is a split log in essence; sold in a 9′ 6” length with the ends pre-shaped. It is 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 offers a versatile solution as there is an option to swap the cleft posts with softwood or oak posts, depending on available budget & preference. 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 are not mechanically fixed but left to sit in the mortices; usually the rails protrude 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 butt up to each other. These would need to be defined as inters, ends or corners; the corners would often be a square post for strength but the ends of the rails would not protrude.

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 – 1.35m. The posts are this length as the post, when set in the ground can be back filled and rammed rather than concrete 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.

Square Cut Post & Rail Fencing

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 is also possible to have the posts pre-pointed so that they can be driven into the ground during erection. This helps speed the erection process and is a great benefit when undertaking large jobs.

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.

Half Round Post & Rail Fencing

Very similar to the square cut above except that the rails are half round and the posts are either round or half round. Round posts are used when erecting the fence mechanically and also give more strength. Either Peeled and treated (which fluctuate in girth from end to end) or Machine rounded (uniform in section) can be used according to taste and budget. Morticing is not usually an option so rails are nailed into position. Overall this type of system offers a very attractive fence at a modest budget.

Sold in a 3.6m length x 100mm face, the rail would be nailed onto a face of a post. Not always the front face as they may be put on the back if there are animals in the field pushing against the fence line. Again the number of rail 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 dimensions 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.

As the rails are being nailed on the there is no requirement to know if they are ends etc.


This article should act as a useful starter guide when deciding upon a suitable post & rail fence system for your premises. However before you begin we would recommend you speak to one of AVS’s knowledgeable advisers, who will be happy to answer any questions you may have and provide you with a free quote.

There are endless choices of rails, if you shop at a known supplier of quality timber goods like AVS Fencing Supplies, renowned fencing supplier to the UK. There, you can match timbers to the look of your buildings and vary it in many ways.

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13 Feb 18