Are you planning to build a residential wood fence on your property? Wood fencing is a versatile and affordable choice, but not all wood lumber is created equal. The following guide offers a brief introduction to common types of trees used in the construction of outdoor fencing so you'll have a better idea of what to look for in the lumber aisle.

Softwood Trees

While perusing the lumber aisle, you may notice that many types of lumber come from the softwood family of trees. Softwood trees keep their foliage all year-round, as opposed to hardwood trees which lose their leaves in the winter. Softwood lumber contains varying levels of resin that naturally protects against mold and boring insects.

Heartwood versus Sapwood

When selecting lumber, try to choose boards that contain as much heartwood, as possible. The heartwood is the darker-colored, inner core of the tree, whereas the sapwood is the lighter-colored, outer layers of the tree closest to the bark. Heartwood is less susceptible to warping in humid and wet weather conditions.


The color of redwood fencing varies, from light red to dark brown and every shade in-between. Redwood lumber is an easy material to work with when used in outdoor construction because of its sturdy, yet lightweight characteristics. Redwood lumber expands and contracts very little when subjected to climate and weather changes, making it a sensible choice for outdoor fencing.


For outdoor construction, there are two varieties of cedar most commonly used: red cedar and white cedar. Typically, white cedar is the type used in the manufacture of blanket chests and indoor closets because of its aromatic qualities, but either type can be used for outdoor construction. One of the main advantages of using cedar for outdoor fencing is its excellent resistance to wood rot.

Pressure Treated Pine

Southern pine trees are typically used in the manufacture of pressure treated lumber because this wood absorbs liquid preservatives so well. Many homeowners prefer pressure treated lumber for fencing and other outdoor construction because it is chemically treated to resist wood rot and decay. Varieties of southern pines used for pressure treated lumber include yellow pine, longleaf pine and shortleaf pine.

When choosing pressure treated lumber for your fence, look for the stamp on each board that identifies its recommended use. For example, an "above ground" stamp works well for decking, while lumber with a "ground contact" stamp can be safely used for fence posts.

Bald Cypress

Bald cypress is another popular type of wood harvested and milled for use as fencing and other outdoor construction. Bald cypress naturally protects against insects, decay and wood rot. However, younger cypress trees (known as second-growth cypress) may not provide the same level of protection as older cypress trees, or first-growth cypress.

Pros of Wood Fencing

Wood is still one of the most popular choices in residential fencing construction for a number of reasons, including:

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to install or disassemble
  • Affordable
  • Can be painted or stained any color
  • Versatile style options
  • Environmentally friendly

Cons of Wood Fencing

While wood is the best choice for many property owners, it does have a few disadvantages, such as:

  • May be vulnerable to wood rot and warping
  • Requires regular maintenance and painting
  • Limited lifespan when compared to some other fencing materials
  • Tendency to sag over time

No outdoor construction material will be perfect in every way, so you just need to weigh the pros and cons before selecting a material for your fencing project.

Whether you desire a decorative fence that adds curb appeal to your home, or you need a stockade fence that minimizes noise and provides privacy, wood fencing can be a great solution. Discuss your needs with a fencing company professional so you can make the best choice for your situation.