Green wood fencing

Potential problems and solutions when using green wood for fencing. January 16, 2002

I'm going to fence in a piece of land for horses. Can green wood be used for fencing?

Forum Responses
It depends on what kind of wood it is. Cypress is put up green very often. Pine lasts longer treated and to treat it requires that it be dried to about 16% or less. That takes about 6-8 weeks in North Florida. White oak hearts are fairly rot resistant and are more easily managed when green. Oak gets awfully hard and brittle when dry and must be drilled for fasteners.

I wouldn't use any wood for posts in the ground that hasn't been treated, regardless of its reputation to resist rot. Fencing is too much trouble to have to do it every few months.

Osage orange lasted about 40 years on my granddad's farm here in KY.

If you nail the fence boards up and they are green, as they dry quickly, there's about a 50% likelihood that you'll get a split at every spot where you have a nail. So, it is better to dry the wood a little before nailing it or pre-drill the holes in any species prone to end checking.

Most fence board decay will occur where the posts (or other fastening spots) meet the boards. Avoid water trapping construction, as that is the cause of decay.

With green lumber, you will also notice that nail heads will pop out a little as the wood shrinks. Green posts would dry in place and often develop cracks where there is a nail and eventually the fence boards would not be well fastened. Perhaps this is the reason that early fences were not nailed together. Or maybe nails were too expensive?

So, expect to do some major maintenance after a few warm summer months, if you use green wood, to make sure everything is tight and firmly fastened.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

Here is a picture of a horse exercise pen that we sawed out this summer. It’s 6’ tall and runs some 600 feet in an oval shape about 200’ long by 100’ wide. It is all out of fresh sawn oak right off our Wood-Mizer. There are 100 red cedar 4x4 posts that were also sawed out. Not in the picture is another attached pen about 30 feet in diameter that is used to hold horses between exercising.

Galvanized deck screws were used to fasten the boards onto the rails. After the wood dried a few days, it was sprayed inside and out with an oil-based preservative. It looked like oil-finished walnut when it was done.

Only nail the vertical 1 by planks on one side until they dry and shrink. Renail them in a month.