"Good fences make good neighbours," Robert Frost quotes his neighbour as saying in his poem, "Mending Wall." Should you take the folk wisdom to heart and rein in your own yard, you'll have a number of wooden fence styles to choose from. The traditional white picket fence complements traditional homes or, with slight variations in proportions and detail, it can suit a more modern abode. Other wooden fences span the stylistic spectrum, from rustic to formal.
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Picket fences tend to be fairly short, generally measuring under 4 feet in height. They have narrow vertical boards, approximately 3 to 4 inches across. Unlike privacy fences, which rise at least 7 feet tall, the picket fence doesn't interfere with visibility but creates a subtle visual border. A picket fence may have boards with gothic, or pointed, tips, the most traditional style. French gothic tips have a slight indentation before narrowing to a point. For simpler or more contemporary styles, picket fences may have flat-topped or "dog-eared" boards, with small diagonal cuts lopped off each corner.
The posts of a picket fence may be level with the other vertical boards or may rise up slightly higher. To add slight visual interest, the posts may have rounded, squared or bevelled tops. For a more decorative look, they sometimes have finial-like caps. The caps may be turned or carved to complement a range of architectural looks, including modern, Victorian, classical, colonial or ranch styles.
Post-and-rail fences are a classic wooden fence style, often used to contain livestock within pastures or corrals. Like picket fences, post-and-rail fences are fairly low, generally built to heights of 3 or 4 feet. Developed and traditionally valued for their minimal requirements for materials, the post-and-rail fence offers high visibility. With far simpler construction than picket fences, they consist of thick, widely-spaced vertical posts and two to three horizontal rails. Typically, the rails fit into notches in the posts. Sometimes post-and-rail fences have two horizontal rails, one at the top and one at the bottom of the fence, with a third rail running diagonally. The diagonal element may alternate between each set of posts.
For a rustic or rural look, adapt either post-and-rail or picket styles with roughly-hewn or unfinished materials. Use a wood such as cedar, which weathers well, to avoid painting or otherwise treating the fence material. For a truly rustic look, you can create a simple yet durable fence using whole branches. Set them at alternating diagonals, lashing them together with durable cord or twine.
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