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Farmhouse Backyard Update: Our Split Rail Fence Choice And Why It’s My Favorite (And Most Affordable)

Should I ever run for mayor/president I will likely run on the “More sidewalks and split rail fencing!” platform (amongst other things like no more calorie counts on menus and national “organize our life/house” holidays for parents in September and January). I don’t plan on winning any races (although the parent/org one would crush I know) which is fine because I’m busy sitting on, leaning against, and staring at my sweet little split rail fence that added instant charm to this property. But first, let’s back up. So much happened so fast when we were gone for two weeks on spring break (spoiler – Costa Rica for families is as wonderful as they say it is), and then it rained a lot and then it was like BOOM it all happened. It’s almost done! There are some major delayed updates for you and we are solving them asap. But today, we are talking split rail fencing and how much darn charm it added to our property. Sure it doesn’t really provide security, privacy, or keep people or animals at bay, but other than that it’s the best most affordable fencing out there:)

But this was a long journey to get here. First off, fencing is a real thing and we all need to get our kids in this business. As someone who was formerly in an industry where my clients would give me THE LOOK that said, “Wait, why does your *insert seemingly easy creative talent* cost so much??” I don’t want to ever cheapen or diminish someone else’s work or craft because usually, it’s due to my own ignorance. But my goodness really nice fencing can be shockingly expensive both in materials and labor. Lesson #1 learned. Lesson #2 is this: Once again, I have a real knack for designing things to be way more expensive than they often need to be. So initially we went big both in quantity and quality and the first quote we received for fencing was nearing $72k. That’s a house in North Dakota. Or two miniature highland cows (??!!!))) – more on that tomorrow. That quote (both the fence and the cows) really shocked us back into reality and made us reprioritize, scale back, and ask ourselves what we really wanted and needed. We decided that we just wanted to replace the visible chain link with something basic and cute. With that as our goal, then we didn’t need to design it fancy, use high-end wood, or hire one of the most sought-after companies in town to do it. Lesson #3: If you want cute Target curtains, you don’t need to hire Kelly Wearstler to hang them for you. There is definitely a more affordable solution. I’ve now learned this GD lesson 3 times and it’s sticking this time!!!!

Now, to be fair the original $72k quote was for SO MUCH FENCING, both perimeter and interior, as well as two motorized vehicular gates and two pedestrian gates. It was a huge scope of work and we had designed the gates really pretty, out of pretty wood with pretty black metal wire where it made sense, fancy motorized everything, etc. So of course that was going to be incredibly expensive. Once we reprioritized, we realized we wanted it to be classic, cute, and create zones to keep future livestock in their place and look appropriate for a farm. The vehicular gates were for security, privacy, and mostly so I can feel really great about letting the dogs out (and no, we didn’t do split rail for those as I take security very seriously :))

real estate photo

This wasn’t the first time we had this sticker shock and had to learn this fencing lesson. For our LA house in Los Feliz, we wanted a fence because our street could get really busy with L.A.-holes trying to speed around the usually backed-up intersection at Hyperion Blvd. I have a not-so-irrational fear of cars/kids. We had two toddlers and two cats and while we didn’t want any sort of tall visual-blocking wall we just wanted to worry less about our kids wandering onto the street if we weren’t helicoptering (which isn’t our parenting preference or method). For that property, the fence, including a large motorized driveway gate, was $18k. This felt pretty exorbitant to us, but it was LA and it was a big driveway gate that included adding electrical, etc. We had gotten multiple quotes and they were all around that price so I guess that’s just what it costs.

So as we were scratching our heads at the $72k quote we looked at the photos of the original property, how we bought it and we both had the same thought at the same time – we want that! Just the basic split rail that was already there! It’s so much less material, needs fewer posts, and doesn’t need to be painted. This. Just this.

So Brian took over the whole process, getting quotes and even dictating heights, location of gates, etc. I had zero to do with it as I was deep frying so many other fish. He found a small company with a dude he liked talking to, and over the course of the year, we piece-mealed out the work (which is much easier on the wallet, but still adds up).

The Before

The priorities were the extremely visible interior chain link fence and the driveway gates for privacy and security (which I’m not really going to go into here). Anything beyond that was taken off the table two years ago (some were recently put back on the table as you’ll see). I’m not getting too far into the driveway gates today because they are just now functioning (it took a while to trench electrical to them and they’ve had issues – maybe it’s a “you get what you pay for” situation – but the company has been super responsive to help problem solve so I feel optimistic). So today we’ll talk through interior fencing.

What you see in the photo above is the chain link that connects the barn and encloses the paddock (a fancy word for an enclosed pasture for livestock). It was lined with hawthorn trees which we saw nothing wrong with as SoCal-tree-starved folks. But then we were told from many sources that they are super invasive and when it comes to trees – straggly and kinda ugly when not in bloom. So Brian, keen to start our livestock journey far before we even lived there (haha), hired a team to get rid of the hawthorns, rip out the chain link fence that we see (only the front side), and then installed a split rail fence.

It’s hard to even understand the before/after because “the before” was the largest tennis court in the history of home tennis courts. We reduced it by more than 1/2 and at times we are still like “Geez, this is too big”. But that’s for another day. Essentially, all the fencing on the property was chain link, which is just not my favorite (it has its place for sure).

The First Split Rail Fence

This split rail (which is around 70′) came in at $2,425 installed, with an additional $350 to remove the chain link fence (it’s all blurry honestly, so I don’t know if that was included in that price or on top of that). It’s just one length of fence with one gate at $3k and took one day which isn’t cheap if you think about it, but knowing what we know about fencing, the price felt fair and doable. Split rail wood seems to be far cheaper than any nicely milled wood. I don’t know much, but from the looks of it, it’s just wood chopped into rough lengths, but not pressure treated (as far as I know). Of course, this means it likely won’t last 30 years which typically would go against my #1 consuming rule which is “buy once and for the long term,” but it’s all locally grown/sourced, totally free of anything bad, and zero processing. It’s just basic wood and should we ever need to replace it due to rotting it just goes back into the earth 🙂

Once this fence was in we loved it so much (note the hand on the heart) and with an affordable and speedy team, Brian and I were motivated to put it EVERYWHERE. It’s just so sweet/charming and bare-bones in the best of ways. This is when it was first installed so it has grayed out a lot (which we knew and love). You might be wondering how we are going to keep any future animals in the paddock and our plan is to add hogwire from the middle rail on down. We’ll likely do this ourselves (any tips are welcome in my livestock post coming up later this week).

We had always wanted a Peter Rabbit-style fence around the pool/garden area but it was nixed a year ago because of budget (before the split rail fence quotes came in). But once the pool was getting close to finished, we got another quote for the split rail from the same company and it was around $7k to enclose this area, including three gates – not nothing, but this felt reasonable to us and it was exactly what we wanted. This is also how it starts to add up…

We decided to do these lower (around 40″) whereas the pasture fence is higher to keep potential long-necked livestock in. I didn’t design or even have a second of input on the whole thing which would be terrifying but it’s so basic that it all worked out great. I love it.

The fence will get lined with climbing plants, too. And while of course, a kid can get over it or under it, since the pool cover is locked and needs a key to unlock the lock which is up high on the side of the pool house, we feel good about it (a grownup will be out there or nearby when kids are in the pool). The stacks of wood in the back are our garden boxes that I’m so excited to put together (we might miss the harvest this year but hoping to plant at least some flowers and lettuces).

Soake Pool

We shot this a couple of weeks ago and the Soake pool is done now 🙂 Update coming soon!!!! (SPOILER – IT’S ALREADY MAKING IT THE BEST SUMMER EVER EVEN THOUGH IT’S A TINY POOL. THE KIDS DON’T CARE AND I WANT TO WEEP WITH JOY).

The Gates

I thought that the gates turned out so cute and simple. Again, I had no say in the design, it’s just what they do and it was exactly what we wanted. Just goes to show you that sometimes scaling things back and doing the simplest, most basic option is the best. I can get really myopic on design elements and obsess too much about the details, but not everything has to be “a moment”. Once all the grasses and wildflowers grow in (including the creeping thyme and wild strawberry ground cover) it’s going to be exactly how we pictured it.

Mulch has now covered over all the irrigation, don’t worry. And we have yet to hook up the irrigation to the well, but hopefully, that is happening soon.

It’s already so much prettier because so much has grown in since Kaitlin shot this a couple of weeks ago.

I’m in the market for a couple of umbrellas (one that pivots and can cantilever over the pool to help shade my easy-to-burn children), picnic tables, and chaise lounges:) I also have some of Max’s Pindler/Sunbrella fabric that I might make cushions out of to add some pattern/fun on those Adirondack chairs.

The gate’s hardware is fairly intuitive and easy to use. And yes, we ended up going with pea gravel with steel edging for the garden box area – crossing fingers we don’t regret how loose pea gravel can be AND how much of a tripping hazard steel edging can be.

Adirondack Chairs

I bought those Adirondack chairs in April when we were going to have people over for Easter and I really like them. They were super affordable ($99) and they fold down for easy storage. I was unsure of the quality and tone of the wood but so far I’m really happy with them and as you can see the wood looks good. I bought them thinking they would be our extra seating around the sports court when we have people over, just great floating furniture since they are lightweight and easy to move. Since they are real wood I don’t want to leave them out all winter (which is why I bought folding ones that are easy to store). I’m not sure what type of furniture we want around the pool yet – we’ve only had it done for about a week so unsure if it’s more dining table/umbrella + chairs for me to work while the kids play or two chaise lounges or four lounge chairs in a circle. I also just spent three hours reading in a hanging cocoon chair at this forest resort I went to and now I have to have one of those so maybe two of those at the opposite end of the pool would be good? Or four Adirondack chairs made of Polywood which I hear will last years through winter. Stay tuned.

Garden Boxes

The future garden is going here 🙂 I bought these garden boxes (and so did my landscape designer so I felt great about my choices), but they are definitely more expensive than they need to be and wish I had shopped around for something cheaper. I just loved the joinery so much. Part of me wants to scramble to put them together this week and grow some veggies while we are in Arrowhead for two weeks while the other part of me just says, “Hey wanna-be-farming-lady, calm down and expand your timeline” and plant when we get back.

Dining Set | Spindle Chair (similar)

It’s coming together, folks. This is the shady spot that we eat most of our meals at right now (so we can hang out while the kids play). Dining table/benches and black metal spindle chair from Rejuvenation. While we aren’t done (and I have more to show you soon), we are just so grateful to have all of this and I want to invite the entire world over for a party. We’ve already volunteered our house for school fundraisers and I really want to have a neighborhood potluck this summer (which makes me nervous TBH in a million ways – will it be seen as sharing/welcoming or showing off/bragging? Will it induce neighborhood gossip? Or quell it? Or both??). A huge thanks to Cali from Studio Campo (most of the design), to Dan’l and his team from Northwest Native Landscapes (our landscape construction team), and if you are in Portland and want our split rail fence company email us and I’m happy to share (I want to wait til our full scope is done and we are really happy with the work to promote/recommend publicly).

There she is, just drinking an IPA in dirty overalls and Tevas. We’ve reached Peak PNW Mom. That was quick!

Come back SOOOON (possibly even tomorrow) for our lively livestock debate. For now, I hope you like our split-rail fence 🙂

*Design by Studio Campo
**Landscaping by Northwest Native Landscapes

***Unless Otherwise Noted, Pretty Progress Photos by Kaitlin Green


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56 thoughts on “Farmhouse Backyard Update: Our Split Rail Fence Choice And Why It’s My Favorite (And Most Affordable)

  1. Just perfect!
    Im curious if and how the poles are treated before going into the ground? Or does the tree itself have special qualities to be repellent against moist and rot (like high level of resin?).

    1. Posts are usually set in concrete. Generally the posts at least will be treated lumber so should get 10-15 years depending on site conditions. Untreated will vary. This type of fencing is great because it’s easy to replace in sections. E.g., if a post does start to rot, can just replace that post as rails are set in holes in post, so don’t even need to nail.

    2. If the posrs are installed correctly, they should have the concrete up to just above soil level and cambered away from the post so the water runs off and away.

  2. The backyard looks really good! I love all the exterior content lately. Also, I think you paid a reasonable price for the garden boxes unless I misread the website. We built our boxes and they were more expensive than the ones you linked.

  3. Love the split rail fence. It looks perfect on the property. A confident reassurance – pea gravel is wonderful. We had our entire backyard changed over to pea gravel. It is gorgeous and low maintenance. Our toddler and dog love it.

  4. Absolutely obsessed with the split rail fence! Instant charm. The backyard is looking magical and coming together more beautifully than I could have imagined. What a dream ❤️

  5. I just installed a new fence, and I agree it’s shocking how expensive they can be, especially if you have a lot of length to cover. My fence is cedar, and I’d guess this one is too given the prevalence of cedar trees in the PNW.

    Re: outdoor furniture materials, I think Acacia is the best wood option for outdoors if you don’t want to spend $1K per chair in teak. It will eventually rot, but it should last for a long time if you store them in the off season. I bought a poly wood bench a while back, because everyone raves about it, and I hate it. It looks and feels like plastic. Maybe that’s because it’s white (and SO white), but the brown looks worse (like fake wood) imho. Maybe black would be ok.

    1. I helped my mom get quotes for fences when she bought a new house. I was surprised by how expensive it was too, but also by how much variation there was between quotes (a good lesson to always get multiple quotes). My mom insisted on cedar, which was actually more expensive, because she hated the chemicals in (pressure treated) pine. We did learn however, that we had to use pine posts as they are much stronger than cedar (at least according to multiple fence companies in Maryland). We had to wait several weeks for an available installation date, but I was amazed at how fast it can be installed (a whole team installed a large fence in 1.5 days).

      1. We too have to get a new fence, which I’m not enthusiastic about. Our friends decided to do a wooden fence themselves, at the end it actually cost him more to do it himself and he also spent a significant amount of time on it, had to rent equipment, purchase tools. So at least we know, we are not doing that.

    2. Acacia is more sustainable than Teak, too (think Orangutan habitat). Both last well in the elements.

  6. Ah it’s looking beautiful Emily!
    Simple lovely solutions make me happy 🙂
    You are building a wonderful place for family life and for hospitality. About fear of neighbour gossip, my mentor always reminds me: “Just do the right thing and don’t worry what other people do/say/think. If they are unkind, poor them!”

      1. Along those lines one of my mantras is “other people’s opinions of me are none of my business”. It’s very freeing to let go.

    1. I think it would attract more gossip if you didn’t have a get together with neighbors. This way, you can be welcoming and get to know your neighbors while “controlling the narrative” about you – AKA you know your intentions and do the right thing! Also, if you’re worried about strangers in the house and privacy, you can always leave certain areas closed off to visitors.

  7. The KISS principle works with fencing.
    So pretty and shaker-y too.
    It really puts some farm into the farm yard. Sweet and cottage-y.
    It adds such warmth to the garden design, too.
    All round, charming!🤗🌻

    I’m constantly amazed at the relaxed rules for pools in the US.
    In Australia, ALL pools must have child-proof, climb-proof, self-closing child-proof gates, etc.
    It’s law and it’s enforced. You also need your pool registered.
    It got so expensive, the body corporate of an investment town house I used to own, chose to fill the pool in and make it a common bative garden with trees, BBQ area.
    Q: What are the standard laws/rules for private pools in the USA, generally??

    1. I think it varies from state to state and may even be more granular. We have a pool in Connecticut with a split-rail fence, but the fence is taller (like paddock) and we have rigid black metal netting that is secured on the outside (so you can’t climb in using the horizontal posts). The openings in the netting have to be smaller than a certain number so that a kid can’t climb using the netting either. I really don’t notice the netting as it’s black with the wooden fence behind it. Gates have to close automatically. It was permitted and inspected.

      Your fence is charmingly beautiful! Yet I’d be nervous of visiting kids trying to jump on cover (trampoline!). Also, if you are by pool and need to get something from inside, do you close the cover? Maybe adding the wire netting/mesh to this like you plan for the paddock might make it less risky and more convenient as it wouldn’t need so much attention? I think it’s an easy diy as it comes in a roll. You know your own kids and how good they are at not testing limits, but visitors can be wild cards! I hadn’t thought about any of this until we were responsible for a pool and toddlers who really want to play with the water.

    2. Where I live in California, you are required to have 5 ft fencing that is not climbable (so no spaced horizontal fencing), with self closing gates. But rules vary by state

    3. In most states like California, you just have to have the fence gated. I dont think there are specifics about it being un-climbable… It is less strict than what you describe, but i dont think it is under-thought.

    4. I think most require very safe fencing but with these new types of covers that are totally sealed, hard topped and locking that may override the rule as it may be just as safe.

      On their website they have a checklist and this is on it:

      Ask your town code administrator if you will need a fence around your plunge pool- in some cases an ASTM-F1346 lockable cover will eliminate the need for a fence.

    5. Thank you everyone, for your feedback.
      Sounds much less strict than here.
      I’d be worried about the pool cover being the only safety issue, because when you’re using it, you might have to go to the toilet or something…then what happens? You can’t be closing and opening it?
      3 minutes for a child to drown.

    6. In Los Angeles you have to have a 5’ locking fence BUT that just has to be around your property not around the pool. So most people with small children add a gate around the pool specifically and/or a walkable, locking cover.

    7. I was wondering about this too. In my county in Georgia we decided not to put in a pool because of the codes. Our HOA requires split rail fences around yards but that is not up to the new pool codes. We would have had to put up another fence inside the split rail fence around the pool. I think it had to be 5 feet tall and unclimbable. We decided that would just look too weird and I wouldn’t get the pool I wanted so we moved and bought a house that already had a pool in the same neighborhood but it had been built before the codes changed so was grandfathered in.

  8. I love LOVE LOVE how you take us along your decision process, pricing and worries and set backs and re-evaluations included. It’s so useful and informative, AND I think it makes the reveals much more dramatic. We just moved to a new house in Bend (as in, this past weekend “just moved”) and we’re so excited to tackle re-wilding all the landscaping to native, high desert habitat, along with various outdoor living infrastructure: a mini half-pipe for him, a sauna and saltwater plunge pool/hot tub for me, a treehouse for the littles, an outdoor dining and living area for everyone… it’s a lot, and exciting, and overwhelming, and a very long-term project. I haven’t even installed the mailbox yet. But posts (lol) like these are super helpful and inspiring.

  9. I love the split rail fence — delineates space without blocking visual flow. Just lovely.

  10. It looks beautiful, and you can already see how our vision of looking “natural” will come to live so fast!

  11. Where I’m from the hawthorn is called a ‘sceach’ (pronounced kinda like sshk’yock) and you can often see a lone sceach growing in the middle of a field because it’s considered bad luck to move them and farmers are superstitious of them. They’re know as fairy trees…and well, you don’t mess with the sidhe. As a kid, when we drove to my Grandparents house we used to stop at a fairy tree and knock a coin into the bark for luck!

    All that aside the fencing looks really good, Brian did a great job!

  12. I didn’t expect you’d go with split rail fencing but I am here for it!!! Just a great choice!

  13. Now that is my type of yard! There is a wood preservative treatment by Valhalla that you might be interested in. It is environmentally friendly and used by many state parks. I discovered it at our local hardware store but they were out once and I was able to get it on Amazon. I sprayed this product on our fence and adirondack chairs and it preserves and pretty much instantly “weathered” all my outdoor wood products – and you never have to repeat it.

  14. Years ago we had a home that set on a one acre lot. We decided to do a split rail fence around the area to the back, extending outside of our patio door. It was just right for a dog and we added wire at the bottom to keep the pup in and other critters out. It was perfect, looked really good, and kept the dog from running off. It was a wonderful solution. Our dog was small so it definitely worked for her.

    I think what you have done around your property looks amazing and fits in with what you are wanting to achieve. It just keeps getting better and better, fun to watch, plenty of charm!

  15. Fun yard for the whole family! If you don’t have it already, download the WeatherBug app because it includes the Spark Lightning detector. Our family rule is: everyone out of the pool if there is lightning within 10 miles. We have a LOT of lightning here.

  16. Looks lovely!

    John and Sherry love their polywood Adirondack chairs. Check out their insta.

  17. I live in Portland, OR and I was under the impression that in-ground pools nee to have higher gate that dogs and kids can’t crawl through and a locking gate-at least this has always been the understanding I had and my neighbor who has a pool has needs to maintain in order to have homeowners insurance?

  18. Looks lovely! Excited for your family to enjoy!

    In response to pea gravel at the garden. First, I will say after about 3 years, it’s compacted fairly decent at the main pathways we walk the most. Periphery paths are still “wobbly” so to speak. Now, when it comes to building and filling garden beds, I am an expert in how NOT to do it. Our pea gravel was delivered first and then our dirt (I ordered like 10 cubic yards of pea gravel and 20 cubic yards of dirt to be delivered the day before the world shut down while everyone was out purchasing groceries… I HAD to make sure I had a project and at that time, no one knew what would or would not be open… my husband thought I was insane but it timed out perfectly, I don’t know we would have been able to build our beds in a summer of weekends only). We didn’t even think of it and put our pea gravel down because that was closest to the garden and we had to clear it before we could get to the dirt. BIG mistake, HUGE. You then have to wheel barrow the dirt over the gravel that goes every which direction. Now, for the initial filling of dirt, we eventually threw down a large scrap of plywood (we tried a plank of wood but that was too much of a pain to keep the single wheel on) and that made the initial filling of the beds mostly manageable. All this to say, if any one else is building garden beds with pea gravel,-cover the entire area with landscape fabric (if using), build your beds, fill with dirt, lay down gravel-in that order.

    So 3 years later, its okay, absolutely functional and I only am mad about my choice when I’ve been outside gardening/doing yard work all day and I have to go in the garden one. more. time. and walk in the pea gravel where I expend my last bits of energy not slipping my feet this way and that. I wouldn’t pick pea gravel again, I might infill with some decomposed granite to see if it “locks” the peas in place better. We need the wheel barrow in the garden maybe 3 times a year now. I don’t find it to be a big deal because I can usually persuade my husband to do it-he hates weeding, so it’s a fair trade?

    And that’s my pea gravel review no one asked for, but hopefully is helpful to someone?

    1. A: I appreciate your “Pretty Woman” reference.
      B: this is super helpful to me because I’ve been mulling hard scape or gravel around raised beds. And these are some good issues to consider. Thanks!

  19. I’m generally in favor of taking things slowly and not rushing yourself, but if you want to grow veggies this season I would get them in as soon as possible. The PNW growing season is not long (or at least it isn’t up here in Seattle) and you should take advantage of as many of the daylight hours as you can. Good luck, can’t wait to see the garden!

  20. Love the split rail! Re neighborhood party: as a fellow Portlander and native, I want to reassure you that no one will think you’re being braggy and nearly universally we are always up for a party. We live in an “upscale” neighborhood in another part of town and (almost) everyone is super down to earth and chill. Our area lives for the summer block party, so maybe you could invite people over for something along those lines and keep it family-friendly, super casual and outside. I call our area “Mayberry” because it’s so wholesome (or at least, pre-pandemic, it used to be). 🤣

  21. Just a heads up, I own those same Adirondack chairs. They will last around 3yrs, even with keeping them inside in the winter. You can prolong lifespan a bit by re-tightening the bolts every year. They just get progressively more wobbly. The wood is prone to splitting. We bought an extra chair and used it for replacement parts and that helped. I have loved sitting around our outdoor fireplace in our Adirondack chairs! Next time I think I’m going to pay for the more long lasting set, though.

  22. It’s looking so beautiful outside but I was also very surprised at the pool fence. Where I live in Canada you must have at least a 5 foot fence around a pool and a locked gate. This was in response to a shocking number of residential pool drownings.

  23. Yes, would love your fence contractor contact info – we live in the area and need a pasture fence installed soon. Have been considering the split rail and yours turned out so lovely I think it is the way we want to go.

  24. Have you tried Gravel-loc for keeping the pea gravel in place? It looks interesting, but could be an environmental hazard? Wondering if anyone has had experience with that product…

  25. We live in Ohio and our Polywood pieces on the back patio look just as nice as they did when new – two years ago.

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