According to the International Association of Certified Home Builders, a wood fence has an approximate lifespan of about 20 years with regular maintenance. A fence's life expectancy can be increased significantly, however, if you pay more up front for a high-quality wood. Here are a few of the species that tend to hold up better than others, along with a few characteristics of each that will help you decide if any of these are the right choice for your next fence project.
A fence's life expectancy can be increased significantly if you pay more up front for a high-quality wood.
1.Western Red Cedar
Like many of the woods on this list, western red cedar is naturally resistant to many of the ills that your average pine is likely to succumb to. Its beautiful appearance is prized by many homeowners, and its natural resistance to moisture, rot, and insect infestation make it a great choice for pickets as well as posts.
A tough, hardy wood, white oak weathers well and stays strong when exposed to the elements. Many folks who keep horses choose white oak for its strength and the fact that some horses enjoy chewing on pine (though pine is usually cheaper). Oak does have a tendency to warp or bow, however, so this should be taken into consideration when the fence is planned.
Another favorite for those who keep horses, black locust is one of the toughest woods found north of the equator. Championed in particular for being an excellent material for posts, black locust fences can last for decades and decades without any significant maintenance needs.
Some of the most durable and beautiful fence, deck, and outdoor woods of any kind come from South America. Woods like Ipe, Tigerwood, and Brazilian Cherry are extremely hard, heavy, and dense--so dense, in fact, that they must be pre-drilled (a hammer and nails just doesn't cut it with tropical hardwood). The most obvious drawback to these species is their price, which is significantly higher than other fence options.
The use of tropical hardwood has been criticized by some for being less-than-friendly to the environment. While it is true that these woods are harvested in tropical regions and then shipped to the U.S., the fact that tropical hardwoods are available from responsible sources and will need to be replaced far less frequently than many domestic woods provides a sound argument that they are actually a greener choice than many others on the market.
5.Pressure Treated Pine
Less expensive than the preceding types of wood, pressure-treated pine gets its durability and moisture resistance not from Mother Nature, but through chemical treatments and physical processes performed by people. Though once championed as the very best in outdoor building materials, pressure-treated pine is losing popularity among some sections of the population. More expensive and much more resistant to rot and insect activity than untreated pine, the chemical used to make it so hardy (as well as the energy use involved in the pressure treating) have raised a few eyeballs among environmentally-focused homeowners and contractors. This material's practicality should not, however, be ignored by any prospective fence-builder.
While not technically a wood, the look of synthetic fencing materials is now closer than ever to true wood. PVC fencing can last a long time - many put its estimated lifespan at 100 years or more - and will require only minimal maintenance. Bugs don't eat it, fungus won't harm it, and it won't check or develop cracks due to moisture issues. PVC fencing is pricey (though not as pricey as some tropical hardwoods), and it's not actually lumber, but investing in it will give you a practically worry-free fence for decades and decades to come.