Split Rail Vs Doweled: Which Fence Suits You Better?

Westchester wooden gates and fences

In a previous piece, we compared aluminum and steel fences to see which one would make the better metal fence. Now let’s talk about two options that can give you breathtaking Westchester wooden gates and fences.

Split rail and doweled fences are two of the fencing options currently available at USFence. While both are better suited for properties in the countryside, that doesn’t mean they can’t add flair to your urban home.

The question is, which one would make better fencing? We’re here to find out! Below, we’ll delve into the difference between split rail and doweled fences, their respective pros and cons, as well as a few tips to follow when getting either. Let’s get started!

Differences Between Split Rail and Doweled Fences

At first glance, you would think split rail and doweled fences are one and the same. In many ways, you can be forgiven for making that error. Aside from their rustic vibe and wooden nature, the way they’re installed looks pretty much the same. And as mentioned above, both will make fantastic Westchester wooden gates and fences.

However, if you take a closer look at them, you’ll eventually notice a few key differences between the two. For your convenience, some of these discrepancies are listed below.

Materials Needed

Split rail fences need half as much timber for its rails as doweled fences do. As you’ll see below, this will affect their respective weight, sturdiness, and price. Anyway, since they require less timber, split rails are relatively easier to handle. Even so, both split rails and doweled fences are quite easy to install, especially if done by a professional.

Weight

Since split rails need less material, it’s easy to assume that they’re lighter than doweled fences. But that’s only true if you’re using the same wood for either fencing option. As you know, not all woods are created equal in terms of quality and weight. For example, if the doweled fences available are made from lighter wood and the split rail ones are made from heavier wood, then it totally negates the amount of timber used.

Sturdiness

In terms of sturdiness, it’s easy to assume again that doweled fences outperforms their split rail counterparts. But again, that’s only true if they’re using the same wood. By choosing different wood, you can actually make split rails more durable even with less timber used. Moreover, it’s easier to reinforce split rails with wire fences to make them sturdier. That’s not easy to do in doweled fences as they don’t have flat sides.

Price

As far as price goes, split rail fences are cheaper than doweled ones, again assuming they’re made from the same wooden material. If you happen to choose a more expensive wood for your fencing, then expect the price to go higher regardless of whether you opted for split rails or doweled.

Overall Look

Finally, split rails and doweled fences practically look the same when viewed from afar. But if you step closer, you’ll notice that doweled fences look smoother than its split rail cousins, with rounded ends to give it a classier look and feel. Meanwhile, split rail fences give off a more rustic vibe with their rough-around-the-edges look.

Pros and Cons of Split Rail Fences

So now that you know the differences between split rail and doweled fences, time to look at their respective benefits and drawbacks. Let’s start with split rails.

Popular in the US since colonial times, split rail fences have been heavily used in many countryside properties. Today, it’s becoming increasingly popular in cities and suburbs, too. So if you want eye-catching Westchester wooden gates and fences, split rails is an option you shouldn’t ignore.

That being said, below are the advantages and disadvantages of having split rail fences.

The Pros

Low Cost

As mentioned above, split rails are cheaper because they generally require less material to build. By choosing an affordable timber, as well as the number of rails, you can lower the cost even further. The best part is, the fence will still be durable even if you opt for two rails instead of the usual three.

Easy to Install

Thanks to its minimalistic design, split rail fences are quite easy to install. In fact, it will only take you a day or two to do so! Furthermore, split rail fences are suitable for most kinds of terrain. So even if you’re installing its main posts on hard or rocky soil, you won’t have any problem doing so.

More Area Covered

Since they’re cost-effective, split rail fences also allow you to enclose more land. This makes it great for farms, ranches, and properties with large gardens. What’s more, split rail fences are suitable for uneven or hilly grounds since they can contours to the land easily.

Low Maintenance

Once installed, split rail fences will last a long time without needing any repairs. Yes, you’ll have to clean it regularly, but that’s basically it. If you have a pressure washer, then you can even finish the task within minutes! And to make sure they stay pest-free, you can coat them with preservatives and non-toxic pesticides.

Rustic Look and Feel

Split rail fences offer a distinctive rustic charm that you won’t get from other fencing options. If you live in a cabin, cottage, or any house made from wood, then you can bet that split rail fences will complement your home.

The Cons

Less Privacy

While split rail fences can enclose your property, its openness doesn’t provide you much privacy. So if you just want to fend off intruders or large animals from entering your premises, they’re great fencing options to consider. But if you want to prevent your nosy neighbors from peeking into your yard for their daily dose of gossip, then you might be better off with other types of fences.

No Shade

As split rail fences don’t come with any solid walls, they will not provide you any shade against heat and sunlight. This makes them unsuitable for you in case you have children or pets who love playing in your back or front yard. However, this problem can easily be remedied by installing roofs on specific areas in your yards.

Not Ideal for Small Pets

Split rail fences are great for keeping in large animals like cows and horses. Unfortunately, they’re not as effective for smaller animals like dogs, cats, and chickens. At the same time, they won’t be able to fend off small critters and strays from slipping into your property. The only way to remedy this is by reinforcing the split rails with mesh wires, which can make your fence look less attractive and welcoming.

Not Suitable for Every Home

Split rail fences might help your property make a bold statement, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. If your home doesn’t have a rustic or Victorian theme, then it will clash unpleasantly with split rails. Furthermore, you should also mind the fences used in your neighborhood. If they mostly use wrought iron or white picket fences, then you should do the same.

Pros and Cons of Doweled Fences

Next let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of doweled fences. Like split rails, they can make excellent Westchester wooden gates and fences for your properties. However, they also have their own downsides. Anyway, check out these pros and cons below.

The Pros

Low Cost

Though they require more timber than split rail fences, doweled fences are still relatively cheaper than other fencing options out there. And like its split rail cousin, you can lower the cost even more by choosing more affordable wood materials. You can also opt for two rails instead of the usual three to further make the fence cheaper.

Easy to Install

Like split rail fences, doweled ones have a minimalistic design. This makes them similarly easy to install, as well as make them suitable for all types of terrain. Or you can get a professional to do the installing for you, and they might get it done within a day.

More Area Covered

Doweled fences also allow you to enclose larger areas thanks to their minimalistic design. Similar to split rails, they’re great for fencing farms, ranches, and residential properties with large yards. And they can easily flow with the contours of the land, making them perfect for uneven or hilly grounds.

Low Maintenance

Once installed, doweled fences will behave similarly to split rail ones, lasting a long time without needing any repairs. You’ll just have to regularly clean it (preferably with a pressure washer, but you can rely on a regular hose), as well as coat it with preservatives and wood-friendly pesticides to keep them in tiptop shape.

Classy Look and Feel

Unlike split rail fences, doweled ones are milled rather than split. Combined with its smooth and rounded ends, they give off a vibe that’s more classy and refreshing. This essentially allows doweled fencing to complement more types of homes, not just cabins, cottages, or properties made from wood.

The Cons

Less Privacy

Like split rail fences, doweled fences can securely enclose your property. However, it’s also not effective if you want more privacy. So again, if you want fences to prevent your nosy neighbors from prying into your property, then you might be better off with other types of fences.

No Shade

As with split rail fences, doweled ones don’t come with any solid walls. Thus, they won’t provide you any shade against heat and sunlight, too. If you have children or pets who love playing in your back or front yard, then either you install roofs on areas where they play, or you check out alternative fencing options.

Not Ideal for Small Pets

Doweled fences are similarly great for keeping large animals like cows and horses in or out. But if you have any smaller animals like dogs, cats, and chickens, don’t expect these fences to barricade them. Additionally, you should expect your property to be invaded by small critters and strays. Again the only solution to this problem is by reinforcing the split rails with mesh wires, which would prove difficult as you’ll see in a bit.

Difficult to Reinforce With Wires

One of the great things about split rail fences is that they can be reinforced with wires or mesh wires. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about doweled fences. Thanks to their rounded ends and milled surfaces, wires tend to slip from them. To keep them in place, you’ll have to nail them to the fences, which can damage it as well as make it look unattractive.

Tips Before Buying Split Rail or Doweled Fences

As you can see, split rails and doweled fences offer more or less the same benefits and drawbacks. That makes both of them great options if you want Westchester wooden gates and fences.

Take the Necessary Measurements

Before anything else, you need to take the necessary measurements. This means two things. First, you need to measure the total perimeter of your property. Second, you need to decide on the fence’s height. Doing these will help you save money when getting the materials.

Know Your Neighborhood’s Fence Policies

Next, you need to find out as much as you can about the fencing policies in your neighborhood. For good measure do some research on your town or city’s by-laws on fencing, too. That way, you can ensure that the split rails or doweled fence you built adheres to rules and regulations.

Pick the Right Wood

Then you need to decide on the wood you’re going to use for your split rail or doweled fences. There are several great options to choose from. For example, western red cedar can make quite a durable fence, and they give off a pleasant fragrance to boot. But if you’re a bit short on budget, you can always settle for plain old, pressure-treated wood

Get Some Wires and Wire Meshes

At the same time, you should also get some wires and wire meshes. That way, you can reinforce your fences as you install them. Keep in mind that this might also make the entire fence look less attractive and welcoming.

Which is Better: Split Rail or Doweled?

So finally, we’re back to the main question. Would split rail fences make the better Westchester wooden gates and fences? Or would doweled fences? Based on the insights above, both of them are the answer. Ultimately, it all comes down to you to choose between the two. So pick the one that will bring out the best in your home.

About the Author

Isaias is one of USFence’s newest bloggers. Working as a writer since 2011, he’s quite knowledgeable about fencing, home improvement, and gardening. As such, he’s written countless articles on those and other topics.

Isaias currently resides in the Philippines, and he has plans to visit Japan someday to learn more about its architecture, history, and culture.