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All About Picket Fences

All About Picket Fences

Like so many old-house details, the picket fence has roots planted squarely in utility: Colonists built them to keep chickens in the yard and to protect the garden. Then, as they are wont to do, the carpenters came along and, armed with pattern books, started introducing new details to the wood parts.modern picket fence designs

What you and I know as the picket is actually a paling—a flat board with a decorative or squared top that gets face-nailed to horizontal rails between posts. So what's a picket? That would be a 1½-inch squared stake with a pointed or round top that became popular during the Greek Revival period. Both were, and still are, homeowner favorites, and for good reason: They come in enough different styles to suit any house, from formal to casual. Today, they're all called pickets.

When you start looking for a picket fence, you'll find that wood isn't the only choice. There are a growing number of low-maintenance options like vinyl, cellular PVC, metal, and composites. But if it's a custom look you're after, wood still offers the greatest number of picket shapes and styles, and it can be stained any color.

From shopping advice to design inspiration, here's what you need to land the perfect picket fence.

Shown: a row of white pickets marks the front yard's boundary while allowing views from the street and the porch.What do they cost? Depending on style and species, 3½-foot-tall panels of wood pickets run $3.40 to $50 per linear foot, not including installation. Vinyl or aluminum versions cost $5 to $12.60.

Are they DIY-friendly? A skilled homeowner can install a fence on a flat lawn, but hire a pro to handle the job on sloped turf.

How much maintenance? Two coats of a solid-color stain should last 5 to 10 years. Gates should be checked annually and adjusted to keep them plumb in the opening.

How tall should they be? A fence 3 to 4 feet tall makes for a nice barrier from the street. For fences enclosing a pool, code requires a minimum height of 4 feet.
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