Choosing fence picket material and thickness
March 18, 2015 9:14 AM   Subscribe

I can't believe I can't find this answer online... can anyone tell me, if I'm choosing standard 6' PT dogear fence pickets, what is the benefit of 3/4" thickness vs 5/8" or 1/2"? Is it structural, or are the thicker pickets less likely to cup/warp/bend over time? Also, is there any reason I should consider cedar at twice the price? I'm going to be putting on a mildly cedar-toned semitransparent sealer either way. Thanks!
posted by ftm to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Exactly, the thicker material will be more stable.

Unless you live in a very arid climate, I would spring for cedar. It's naturally rot resistant.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:18 AM on March 18, 2015 [7 favorites]

If the look of dogears isn't important to you, you can usually save money on fence pickets by buying 12' planks and cutting them in half (Lowe's or Home Depot will make a straight cut for free). This might make a small dent in the cost, but won't completely counterbalance the added cost of thicker planks and cedar.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 9:45 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you plan on moving in the next 2-3 years then get the cheap material. If you plan on being there a long while then spend the money.

Thicker=stronger. Nobody will be able to tell you the exact difference it will make because it depends on too many variables.
posted by Murray M at 10:02 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: it depends on how your build your fence. Do you need shear resistance in the pickets? if you are building it like most stockade style fences the pickets are not structural and their is no benefit to a thicker plank. BTW if you have a post in concrete every 6-8' and the fence is less than 6' tall the pickets are not structural.

On of the best ways to get the fence to last is to make sure there is a 1-2" air gap at the bottom so the wood isn't touching the dirt and then to put a top plate along the upper end to shed the water so that the end grain isn't exposed to rain, and some kind of post cap for the posts for the same reason.
posted by bartonlong at 10:05 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Benefits of Cedar over PT:

PT will likely be very wet with the chemical treatment if you're getting it straight from the yard (although they have kiln dried PT that is more expensive and dries faster) it has a tendency to check and bend as it starts drying out, so it's not recommended that you stick it up immediately after you get it. You'd want to keep it in a dry space for at least a month or two if you're getting it from the yard unless you know the yard has had it for a long time.

The other aspect is that PT that hasn't seasoned for a few months doesn't take stain and sealer very well. It also has a tendency to have a greenish tinge that you'll have to live with and may offset your stain color.

Cedar will generally not have these problems straight from the yard.
posted by Karaage at 10:21 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great info from everyone. The pickets will definitely not be structural - I'm stuck with a 10' spacing and I'm going to overbuild the crap out of it - I just want the thing to last and stay straight and wasn't sure if thicker pickets would help that goal. We will have a top cap and post caps, so it's good to hear that's going to help. Thanks, I'm off to Home Depot!
posted by ftm at 10:50 AM on March 18, 2015

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