Standard Types of Wood for Fence Posts

Which types last the longest and cost the least amount of money?

New home backyard red stained cedar wood fence construction
JPLDesigns / Getty Images

If you have decided to build a wooden fence, it makes sense to investigate the type of lumber you want to use for your wood fencing. The most common types of wood used for fencing are pine, cedar, redwood, cypress, and spruce. Before making any purchases, you have many things to consider like climate (weathering and the posts coming in contact with the soil), the scope of your project, the budget, the type of fence, and what you can afford.

Look at the factors to consider as you develop your fence project and review several types of wood for the fence here.

Things to Consider Before Purchasing Fencing Lumber


Choose the wood that will stand up to your home's environment. You need the fence to deter decay and be long-lasting. When selecting a type of lumber for your wall, consider weather factors like rain, snow, heat, sun, and humidity. For example, damp, shady spots can lead to mold, mildew, and decay.

Places with wintery weather can expect moisture damage from rain and snow, wildly swinging temperatures cause cracks, and heavy snowdrifts can break or topple a fence entirely.

Regardless of your type of fence, treat your fence with a weatherproofing sealant to protect against moisture and extremely low or high temperatures. Also, ensure that the finish has UV protection to preserve the natural color of the wood longer. Clean and refinish the fence every other year to maintain its look and integrity.

Size of Fence

Wooden posts are typically 4 x 4 lumber and at least 8 feet long (remember, some of that length will be underground). Panels generally are 1 1/4 inches thick by 6 inches wide, with a length to match the height of the wood fencing. Lumber dimensions for the rails vary according to the style of wood fencing that you choose (in some cases, you will be able to use the same lumber for the rails as you used for the panels).


Wear work gloves, a facial mask, and goggles when cutting pressure-treated lumber. This lumber type contains chemicals and preservatives you should not breathe in or come in contact with.


When considering the amount of money you intend to spend on a wooden fence, you must consider whether you plan to stay in your house for a long time. The real question is, do you want to get another fence in the next 10 years, 20 years, or more?

Don't skimp on the installation costs if this fence is an investment. Durable wood will cost more, but if it can last 30 years and need minimal repairs, the investment makes it worth it over the long term. Getting a high-quality fence company with a long-standing reputation for good work is worth it.

Types of Wooden Fences

How you envision your fence should also determine if it is visible to others. Is it for a secluded backyard, or how will it match your house?

  • Privacy fence: Quality wooden privacy fences are great for security, and higher fences double as a privacy screen.
  • Ornate fence: You don't have to go with the standard vertical paneling. Panel orientation can also be horizontal or diagonal. But a vertical orientation is cheaper since the longer boards required for other styles cost more. These fences can be capped off with lattice, finials, or adornments, such as hanging pots.
  • Semi-private fence: Semi-private fences have spaces in between panels to give a looser, airer feel. Also, these fences can be short or tall depending on your preference.
  • Picket fence: Classic picket fences give a cottage feel; they look best when plants are grown in front, behind, or both.
  • Lattice fence: Lattice fencing is an open framework made of strips of wood overlapped or overlaid at a diagonal for a crisscross look or straight up and down for a checkerboard pattern. The individual strips of lumber used for lattice typically measure 1/4 inch by 1 1/2 inches, come in various lengths, and are pressure-treated so the wood will last a long time. Lattice is often used in trellises, porches, decks, gazebos, privacy screens, and for vining plant gardens.

Popular Types of Wood for Fences

Fencing wood comes most commonly in pine and cedar, though cypress, redwood, and spruce are good options, depending on your needs.

  • 01 of 05


    Pine wood

    Anna Blazhuk / Getty Images

    Pine is the least expensive option for wooden fencing. It must be pressure-treated to stand up to decay and the elements when used for fencing. It resists shrinkage but can still warp, crack, or twist. When properly treated, it can last a lifetime, even if it comes in contact with wet soil. Most fencing companies will warranty a pressure-treated pine fence for 10 years, although some will offer a lifetime warranty.

  • 02 of 05


    Cedar wood

    bruceman / Getty Images

    Cedar is much more expensive than pine. The wood contains natural oils that are insect and decay repellants. It has a pleasant scent, a warm yellowish hue, and looks nice. It doesn't require much maintenance but is a better choice for a dry environment. Its posts will need to be set in concrete since it may decay in direct contact with soil. It can last up to 15 to 25 years, depending on its quality and conditions.

    When comparing cedar lumber and pressure-treated lumber, most people choose cedar based on appearance alone. You will also pay extra for its good looks since pressure-treated lumber is cheaper.

  • 03 of 05


    Redwood plank flooring

    lukbar / Getty Images

    Redwood is a more durable wood than cedar. Like cedar, it contains tannins (slightly more than cedar does) that are naturally insect-resistant and long-lasting. It's priced slightly higher than cedar, and many people prefer its reddish-brownish natural look. A redwood fence can last 25 years or more with little maintenance needs.

  • 04 of 05


    Closeup of finished cypress wood planks

    Aleksandr Zubkov / Getty Images

    Cypress is a popular alternative to cedar because it is similar in price and quite rot-resistant. It is a fast-growing, evergreen species that is harder than cedar and most types of pine. It has a pleasant aroma and is not a very knotty tree. It has natural oils that resist insect activity, but over time those will wear down, and you may need to treat your cypress fence with an insecticide to keep insects away.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05


    planks of light timber
    Mint Images - Paul Edmondson / Getty Images

    Spruce is commonly used to create prefabricated, stockade-style, or picket fences. It's usually the most economical choice. The wood is creamy white to yellow and darkens with age. Spruce is a good option if you plan to paint your fence anyway. Its most significant drawbacks are a lack of durability in humid environments and insects that gravitate toward spruce.

Avoiding Rot

Exposed to the elements as it is, wood fencing either needs to be made of rot-resistant lumber that has oils or resins that naturally preserve the wood, or it needs to be treated to make it rot-resistant. Treatment comes in pressure-treating wood with chemical preservatives, or you can paint on a preservative to seal any wood you choose. Cedar, redwood, and cypress are the most common decay-resistant woods.

If your wood fence is susceptible to an insect infestation, it will destroy its integrity, causing it to rot and fall apart. Destructive insects include termites, carpenter bees, and carpenter ants. The wood you choose should have a natural repellent, be pressure-treated, or require regular application of insecticides to prevent an infestation. The most naturally repellant woods are cedar and redwood.

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Basic Facts About Mold and Dampness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020.

  2. Preservative-Treated Wood and Alternative Products in the Forest Service. United States Department of Agriculture.

  3. Wood Myths: Facts and Fiction. University of Massachusetts Amherst

  4. Biological Deterioration & Damage to Furniture & Wooden Objects. Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute.