Split rail fencing is a familiar feature in suburban and rural settings. Used for hundreds of years, each type has a unique origin and was developed to solve livestock control problems. Which kind is best? It depends on what you're fencing.
Common designs for use in the home landscape include the post rail and snake (that's the zigzag configuration seen at a lot of historical properties). The post rail can also be built with an additional horizontal crosspiece for added strength.
Split rail fences are most commonly constructed of a durable hardwood like oak or cedar.They are being made of pressure-treated lumber these days. Additionally, plastic composites are finding their way into the split-rail fence market.
The traditional post rail type is often found near farms and rural properties, especially in horse country. Snake rail fences are good for a rustic look and for ease in construction.
The style of split rail fence you choose depends on the style of your property and its topographical features. A traditional rail fence is ideal for containing livestock or for fencing in a yard, especially if used in conjunction with wire mesh on the inside of the fence. A snake rail system is very good if you're unskilled in carpentry or if your property has many changes in elevation.
When using commercial pressure-treated wood, maintenance is simple: Monitor the fence and replace any pieces that are looking a little rickety. Rail fences made of hardwood might benefit from a protective coat of paint or a colorless exterior wood finish. Those rails made of plastic composites will need little maintenance other than a occasional dowsing with the hose.