Best Wood for Fencing: Types, Considerations & More

Best Wood for Fencing: Types, Considerations & More

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So, you’re building a fence and decide to invest in wood as your building material. What option will you choose?

Today we will review four things to consider first when looking at the different types of wood available to you. From there, you will find a list of five different types of wood along with their relative cost, benefits, and any special maintenance considerations.

4 Things to Consider When Choosing Wood for Fencing

Several factors should be weighed and measured before choosing the type of wood for a fence. Here we have gathered four questions to consider before moving forward with choosing your wood.


While any wood will work for your fencing, not every kind will make for a long-lasting and durable fence in your climate. In areas where the weather goes through extreme temperature highs and lows, it is important to choose a wood that can expand and contract without splitting.

For extremely sunny climates, it is essential to choose materials that won’t crack or dry out. In addition to the weather, a long-lasting wood fence must be able to withstand pests that are native to or invasive in your environment.

Finish Type

Planning how to finish the fence, whether painting, staining, or just coating with a clear sealant, should affect which wood you choose. Some materials absorb stain differently, while the natural resins present in other materials will cause poor adhesion with certain types of paint.


However unpleasant, setting a budget is necessary to narrow down building material choices before getting too far into a project. Not only does the budget affect the type of wood used, but it affects the design of the fence as well.


Not all fencing is plug-and-play. For a beautiful fence that lasts for years, additional maintenance is likely required during a period of once every 1-3 years. Account for the type of care your fence needs and how much time you are willing to put into it.

5 Best Types of Wood for Fencing

With all of the wood options available in the fencing market, it can be hard to pick and choose. Here are a few options available on the market, their life expectancies, cost*, and the benefits of each. While briefly mentioned here, I wrote a separate detailed article about how long cedar and other wood fences last.

*Cost is based on 2022 estimates in the midwestern United States.


Life Expectancy: 15 – 20 years
Cost: Moderate to High

Cedar trees are a long-lasting hardy softwood variety that are ideal for outdoor use. Both western red cedar and eastern red cedar are great fence options.

Western Red Cedar

One of, if not the most common types of wood used for fencing is the western red cedar. For a long-lasting, durable fence, this wood ticks all of the boxes. Its straight grain and coarse texture withstand damage from extreme temperatures and water. It is naturally rot-resistant, and the strong oils in the wood also offer moderate insect resistance. Warping is not typically an issue.

Western red cedar has a beautiful pinkish-red tone that, when left untreated, will gradually weather to a silvery gray color. It can easily accept oil-based stains and paints as well as latex-based paints. Refinishing is not necessary until these layers have worn thin enough to leave the wood exposed.

Maintenance involves cleaning off mold and mildew with a stiff-bristle brush (non-metallic) regularly, once every 1-3 years. The previous finish must be scrubbed off before re-coating if using a stain, paint, or clear coat. Western Red Cedar costs between $6 and $15 per linear foot of fence material.

Eastern Red Cedar

Additionally referred to as aromatic red cedar, eastern red cedar is an extremely hardy wood. It has a straight grain and fine texture, though often with knots present. The hardwood is extremely resistant to decay and insect damage, which is why it is often used in ground contact, like fence posts. It does not warp, swell, or contract with moisture and extreme weather.

This type of wood is extremely aromatic, which is part of what makes it so unattractive to pests. It can be, and is often, left unfinished to preserve its aroma. The reddish brown wood will weather to dark silvery gray with time, or it can be finished with stain or a clear coat.

Care and maintenance for this material are very similar to the western red cedar instructions above. The cost of eastern red cedar can be anywhere from $4 to $15 per linear foot.


Life Expectancy: 10-15 years
Cost: Low to Moderate

Pine–specifically, pressure-treated southern yellow pine–is a very common and inexpensive option for fencing. Having a lower life expectancy than other types of wood, the material is pressure treated to increase the wood’s resistance to rot and moisture, but it will still crack and warp in extreme temperatures and wet environments. Because of this, it is best for mild climates.

This wood is light and creamy in color with a straight grain and fine texture. It cannot be left untreated, as pine is not naturally very resistant to decay. It takes to stains and paints very well.

To maintain a pine fence, a regular cleaning schedule should be completed every few years. After cleaning, the fence should be treated using a moisture-resistant coating with UV protectant. Pine fencing averages about $3 to $7 per linear foot.

Douglas Fir

Life Expectancy: 15 – 20 years
Cost: High

Douglas fir is a durable softwood used in fencing for hardy, durable installations. It has moderate rot resistance but is susceptible to insect damage. It has a straight to wavy grain, which gives the planks a pleasing appearance. It does not warp but may crack. This wood is hardy and can withstand many different climates.

This wood can be left unfinished, but to preserve the light brownish-yellow coloring, a clear coat or stain will be needed. Otherwise, it weathers to a light grey. Douglas fir takes to stain with proper preparation, but the natural color may still peek through.

This material requires minimal maintenance. It does not require regular refinishing, and simply needs to be cleaned of debris every few years. Pricing for douglas fir is between $6 and $7 per linear foot.


Life Expectancy: 15-30 years
Cost: Low to Moderate

Very strong in decay resistance, cypress is a great long-lasting softwood option for fencing, especially for those in the southeast United States where the wood is native and least expensive. It has moderate resistance to insect damage and does not warp. While natural to the southern, wet states, cypress’ rot-resistant properties make it ideal for any wet climate.

This wood’s rot resistance is so effective that it requires no finishing. The natural pale yellow color is very appealing, though it stains and paints very well. Like many other softwoods, the wood will fade to a light gray color.

Over time, the fence may darken with dirt or moss and mold coverage. Periodic cleaning should take place to remove the buildup and a water-repellant sealant should be applied every 1-2 years.

The cost of cypress varies depending on where you are in the country, but it can be as low as $2 to $3 per linear foot, or up to $8.50 per linear foot.


Life Expectancy: 15-25 years
Cost: Moderate to High

Redwood is a luxurious wood to use for fencing. It is very durable and resistant to decay, and its natural oils are an effective insect preventative. It can withstand regular moisture, and its density keeps it from splintering or splitting, though it may warp or crack if it gets too dry. This wood is great for many environments, but not those that are extremely arid.

The deep, rich reddish-brown color will naturally fade to a silvery gray over time without treatment. A clear sealant can be used to protect the natural color and prevent damage from the sun.

Maintenance on redwood fencing is required less frequently than other materials, typically every 3-5 years. Dirt and mold should be scrubbed off and cracked or separated boards should be repaired, along with a reapplication of protective coating.

Expect redwood to cost anywhere from $4 to $7 per linear foot.

Choosing Wood for Fencing vs. Fence Posts

Not all wood is best suited for the main fencing or the fence posts. Below are some additional things to consider when choosing wood for fence posts.

Moisture and Decay Resistance

Fence posts will be consistently touching the ground, under constant threat of rot from moisture or insect activity. Posts need to be able to withstand long contact with moisture, bugs, animals, and regular compression and decompression in climates with yearly ground freeze.

Eastern red cedar is a fantastic option for wood posts, whereas pine may be a less-beneficial choice.


The posts for your fence will be subject to regular stress. From the weight of the fence to the added strain from wind and rain, posts need to be able to withstand the elements without cracking or warping.

For overall sturdiness, eastern red cedar is also the top choice for fence posts.

Screw and Nail Holding Properties

Being the main attachment point for large sections of your fence, it is important that posts reliably hold screws and nails without slipping or cracking.

Cypress is the superior wood in this list for screw and nail-holding properties. The natural properties of the wood keep the connectors snugly in their place with little concern for premature rejection.

Wood for Fencing: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some commonly asked questions about wood fencing.

What Is the Cheapest Wood You Can Use for Fencing?

Depending on where you live in the U.S., the cheapest fencing available is either pine or cypress. Cypress is the least expensive in the southeastern U.S., but as you get farther away from its source, it becomes more expensive.

Expect to pay between $3 to $7 per linear foot for pine fencing, and up to $8.50 per linear foot for cypress, but cypress can cost as low as $2 to $3 per linear foot in states like Florida.

What Is the Most Durable Wood You Can Use for Fencing?

The longest-lasting fence that requires the least maintenance is cypress. This material is a great option for those that want durable, beautiful, and low-maintenance wood.

The most durable fences that can withstand damage from dings, impact, and other nicks are otherwise made of redwood or cedar. These two options have slightly less natural rot and insect resistance than cypress, but that should be negligible with proper care and maintenance.

Are There Any Types of Wood You Should Not Use for Fences?

Very soft woods and those that absorb moisture should not be used for fence materials. Plywood and composites such as OSB are not ideal for fencing. They are both known to swell with moisture, which will cause premature cracking and warping.

Solid softwood and hardwood varieties that are not useful as fences are those that will crack and warp with moisture and UV weathering. Wood that is considered high-end or decorative, such as mahogany, walnut, and cherrywood, may be able to withstand the outdoors, but the cost will greatly outweigh the benefit.

What Is the Best Finish for Wooden Fences?

The best finish for any wooden fence is one that protects against UV damage and rot. Personal preference aside, while some of the woods from this article can be left untreated, all of them benefit from some form of staining or clear UV-protective sealant.

Stain is most commonly used on fences, either to enhance or completely change the color of the wood material. A good, long-lasting stain with built-in UV protection will be the best for your fence.


There is no one type of wood that is best for all fencing, but there are some that may be better for your climate or budget needs. We have addressed some questions that should be asked prior to choosing which wood is best for you and introduced five types of wood that are commonly used for fence installations.

Check back in for more information on wood, woodworking, and other great construction tips.