A neighbor has a stockade fence, with pickets about 3 inches wide.
It's been in 5 or 7 years and it's easily possible to see between the
pickets into his yard. It wast very difficult to see anything when
the fence was new.
Does that mean the fence was built with pickets that hadn't been aged
enough before construction???? Have the boards shrunk more than they
A friend likes the fence otherwise and wants to hire the same company,
but I think she may get an inferior job, if this fence is inferior.
Yes all boards may shrink; depends on the climate/weather, how the
fence was painted/treated, especially the edge and end grains of the
boards at and since installation etc.
Since climate change seems to be definitely occurring warmer climate
etc. will also dry, even boards that originally and completely met
moisture specification when purchased. The boards in some dry 100 year
old house, protected from the weather etc. will, for example, have
Pressure treated lumber is soaked in the anti-rot chemicals and expands.
When erected, it dries and shrinks.
One solution is to buy the pickets needed and stack them in a dry place -
with plenty of air circulation - for a month or two before installing.
The gaps are not the fault of the installers. It's what wood does. Some
What about not pressure treated? Does it shrink so that one can see
in? I'm pretty sure these pickets aren't PT, (and I know mine aren't,
but my 42" fence isn't stockade. It alternates between pickets and
I suspect that unless the wood is marked "kiln dried" it's gonna shrink.
That's what wood does - some woods more than others, of course.
Nevertheless, the drier the wood, the less it will shrink.
Of course when dry wood gets wet - like being rained on - it will swell. In
a fence, however, that won't matter since the picket is trapped between
But if they were kiln dried & stapled on tight together, they would
all pop off the first time it rained. I suspect they attach them
green so shrinkage only causes gaps and subsequent swelling will not
destroy the fence.
With using pressure treated on decks its common to butt boards tight,
after it dries you have nice gaps for drainage. PT is so wet new it
weighs near double of dry wood. To see no gaps some people fence both
sides of poles or use dried wood, the job was not inferior on that
part, how they sunk and secured posts and type of fasteners is more
important than gaps. To insure quality pull a permit and get the free
inspection you paid for, and dont fully pay until its fully approved,
your friend did pull a permit. The code office can if they want have
you remove it otherwise, but its usualy its just a fine.
I should have said that these pickets aren't PT. Would regular ones
also shrink enough that one coudl see through the fence?
It has also had two pickets crack and and slivers fall off. One sliver
was small but one was 5 foot long and two inches wide at one end.
They also used nails left rust stains on each picket. I forgot about
the slivers and rust and I will tell my friend about them.
But now I remember, they are what made me suspicious about the
And the other reason I was suspicious was that when I called them
looking for pickets for my fence, they were out of business already.
But you've convinced me that pickets shrink.
I'll admit, you can't stand 5 feet away and see in the fence, but you
can go up to it almost anywhere and look in. It seems to defeat the
idea of privacy. Although only natural wood fences are allowed here.
Its not the installers fault, or the woods fault, what you describe is
normal. The only way to make a wood fence you cant see through is to
use T&G (tongue and groove) boards or a design that laps the boards.
On Mon, 31 Aug 2009 07:36:35 -0700 (PDT), windcrest
Thanks. I guess full privacy was never possible, at least here, since
the people in the next house can look out their second floor window
and see what's going on.
But I would think the two designs you suggest woudl be more popular. I
don't remember seeing them advertised.
All wood shrinks or grows as it loses or gains moisture.....its the
nature of the material.
But shrinkage varies considerably from species to species. Denser
woods generally shrink more than lighter woods.
I use the following numbers for rough estimates.......
about 8% tangential shrinkage, 4% radial shrinkage, and 0.1%
longitudinal shrinkage from the green to oven dry condition.
Or if I'm working in framing construction with DF, I tell people to
use 1/28th (.036") of an inch per inch cross grain
So a 5.5" fence board will shirnk about .2" green to dry (well at
least in SoCal). Considering unevenness in the boards what were
butted, you can still get about 1/4" gap. :(
T&G or board & batten would eliminate gaps
But IMO a more important consideration is screw material......in my
area, fence permits yield not much oversight. I see a LOT of
permitted fences getting screws that are too short & rust in a year or
two badly streaking the fence boards.
SS screws are more expensive but make all the difference.
Nobody using galvanised nails these days?????????
Had to change some PT 2 by 8 deck-boards on our deck recently due to
water drips causing limited rot and used screws for the new boards.
But the 25+ year old 3 inch and 4 inch hot galvanised nails were
holding well and not rusted; even in this maritime climate.
So nail away. As my late father in law, who had worked building US
bases in Newfoundland, Labrador and Greenland used to
say .................. "I want to see at least two or three nails in
each match (T&G) board"!
The T&G felt and tarred roof on his own still standing house must be
over 100 years old now!
My fence was made, 30 years ago, with galvanized nails, and I still
use them when I replace pickets.
But this fence I'm disassembling was made with thinner nails, thinner
than the refill of a cheap ballpoint pen, but with spiral flutes (what
do you call that?) So the nail turns when nailed in, but is much
harder to get out. I removed quite a few nails without damaging
them, so I'm going to try them, and if I like them I'll try to buy
Have you ever seen such nails for sale. What are they called???
BTW, I can't find new pickets for sale -- I asked about that here once
and tried your suggestions, but no joy. I've tried the internet, and
shopped for pickets when visiting my brother in Dallas - but I found a
guy replacing his fence, and he's selling me all the used pickets I
want for 10 cents a piece. He has maybe 1000 but I only want 120 to
200 (plus the 80 new pickets I still have.) Actually, I've only seen
him once. He's replacing the fence himself and he puts 2 sections of
fence outside of his fence, facing the unsold home my good friend used
to live in, and I go there and take apart the sections and clean up,
so I'm saving him work. So far I owe him about $12.00 for 120
pickets. I think there are 33 to a section but 3 or 4 will be clearly
bad, probably break while I'm taking them off. Almost all the rest
look fine. I also have untreated pickets that are still fine after
30 years, if they get enough sun during the day.
(And if I trimmed the bottoms off so termites don't get in from the
bottom. An exterminator's wife explained this to me. I went to their
house to hire him, and while she held the baby, she said you don't
want to use these terrible poisons if you don't have to. Just cut off
the bottom of the pickets an inch or two above the grass, so that even
when the grass needs mowing, the termites won't get in, and you won't
neeed poison. Termites don't like to come out in the light, and they
have short legs so they can't jump. So if they can't step on the
picket from a blade of grass, they won't go.)
BTW, my 6x12 deck was also 30 years old and needed replacing for two
years or more. When I wwnt to do it earlier this summer, the first 4
feet + pulled off by hand, but the part under my 2 foot overhang were
still nailed in well, and the 2x6's weren't rotting that far back.
In other words, even though both parts of the deck were outside, the
part that got rained on more really aged a lot faster. Maybe that
shouldnt' surprise me but it did.
So I just put posts in closer to the house, cut off 4.5 feet, put on a
new fascia board and now I have a work bench instead of a deck. I
never used the deck anyhow, and now I have more lawn, in my little
townhouse lot. (6780 sq. ft. counting where the house is.)
Cool. Build it right and it lasts a long time (Sometimes build it
wrong and it lasts a long time, too. but longer if you do it right. )
I'm puzzled by the issue of "seeing between the pickets"...you can't
place unfinished pickets edge to edge without there eventually being
some gaps because they expand/contract with heat/moisture and will
If you want to do something in the yard with no chance of anyone
"seeing", consider a structure with solid sides or vegetation along the
fence. Sounds like the issue of "privacy" is more important than the
type of wood; more info might help.
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