Do Cedar Fence Boards Shrink or Expand?

Cedarwood is one of the most common fence materials. In fact, it is well-known for being one of the most robust and long-lasting timbers on the market. When it comes to fence, though, it is known to shrink a month after installation.

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Cedarwood swells somewhat as it absorbs moisture and then contracts when exposed to heat. As a result, cedar fence boards are renowned for shrinking as much as 1/4′′ per board in warmer temperatures, causing holes in the fencing over time.

What Causes Cedar Boards to Shrink and Expand?

Every 5 percent fluctuation in humidity causes wood to acquire or lose roughly 1 percent of its moisture content, according to scientific research.

Wood grows at its greatest in the winter months, and at its smallest and most shrunken in the summer months, when moisture is absorbed by the heat of the sun and shrinks even further.

Cedarwood, in particular, is made up of two layers that are distinct from one another. During the summer months, the outside of cedar might seem dry to the touch due to the rapid absorption of moisture by the outer layer and the rapid expulsion of moisture by the outer layer.

It is possible that this will be deceptive to someone who is unfamiliar with the absorption of water by wood.

According to some sources, the inner layer of Cedar may also collect moisture, but it is known to release it at a somewhat more moderate rate, resulting in more shrinkage of the inner layer of the wood over a greater length of time.

For this reason, cedar is commonly used in the construction of fences.

Because the rate of shrinking is slower, individuals may be led to believe that their wood would remain a certain size for an extended period of time. However, over time, it will undergo a significant transformation.

This is typically true in situations when cedar fence is installed above ground level and is exposed to weather conditions such as rain or snow.

Underground sections of a cedar fence are at danger of additional deterioration as a result of the soaking up of water from the surrounding ground environment.

As a result, it is important to take preventive precautions to protect the ends of your cedar board from damage. It isn’t too tough, in all honesty.

This may be accomplished by soaking the ends of your boards and posts in copper naphthenates, such as Nasco or Copper Green Wood Preservative, for a few minutes. This will assist in ensuring that the ends of the boards that are stuck in the ground endure as long as the sections of the boards that are above ground.

How to take Shrinkage into Consideration When Building a Cedar Fence

If you are considering using cedar to create a fence, it is vital to complete your homework before proceeding. Cedar is a high-quality wood that is a wonderful choice for fence construction.

A few measures should be taken before erecting a cedar fence since it is susceptible to shrinking, especially in warmer areas or during certain seasons or seasons.

It has to be fully dried out!
Prior to using it, determine its moisture content.
Boards should be placed as close together as feasible.
Make use of a stain

Cedar is not a wood of a particular species. Rather cedar includes many species of wood. More than 15 cedar species are available counted into the cedar families. They are very close to each other and they differ in properties of color, hardness, and rot resistance. They are used on the basis of their properties.

It Must Be Dried!

Prior to constructing a cedar fence, it is important to dry it out. Drying out cedar takes a varying period of time based on where you live and the moisture content of your unique region, specifically between 3 to 12 months, depending on how dry your climate is.

If you have access to a hot, dry environment, like as a kiln, this wait time can be significantly decreased to as little as ten hours.

Determine the moisture content

Whether you dry your boards beforehand or not, it’s a good idea to know the moisture level of the boards prior to installing them. Then you can forecast how much shrinkage will occur.

With the aid of a moisture gauge, you can easily determine the moisture level of your wood. The ideal quantity of moisture is less than 20%, or around 12-15%.

Arrange the boards as closely as possible together.

Arrange your cedar boards as closely together as possible. While cedar expands in the presence of moisture, your boards will shrink more than they will expand.

While shrinkage may occur over time, to minimise gaps and guarantee that your fence’s gaps are equal, space your boards as closely together as feasible.

Keeping these points in mind while you build will ensure that fence posts remain as close together as possible, resulting in a robust, well-built fence that appears professionally cut and constructed.

Make Use of a Stain

Utilizing a protective stain to keep moisture and heat out may be beneficial.

Given the softwood nature of cedar, it is preferable to use a deeply penetrating oil-based stain with a low viscosity.

Is It Possible to Repair Cedar Fence Shrinkage?

While cedar shrinkage cannot be completely eliminated, certain preventative actions can help minimise shrinkage. Wood is fickle, and without appropriate upkeep, it will do anything it wants.

Depending on the moisture level of the air in your location, wood can expand and contract at an alarming pace.

Why It’s Critical to Arrange Cedar Boards Neatly

Wooden fence posts are designed to be stacked together with as little physical space between them as feasible.

This is especially critical when constructing a fence with the planks stacked on top of one another rather than side by side. The ultimate aim of fences constructed in the manner in which Cedar is employed is total seclusion and protection, which is difficult to achieve with gaps.

To learn more about spacing, visit our page on the subject.

It’s also worth noting that, while cedar is visually appealing and smells wonderful, it is prone to damage. Checking occurs when the outer layer shrinks more rapidly than the internal layer, resulting in fractures in the wood’s exterior part.

Constructing a fence from dried out wood and spacing the boards as closely as possible is the best way to ensure that checking does not occur.

Why is Cedar Used Despite Its Shrinkage Propensity?

Cedar is an uncommon softwood that is suitable for almost any visually attractive use. As well as being used for fence, it is also utilised for porches, decking, siding, and trim for the same reasons.

Another frequent application of cedar is in the interior of the home. 

It is frequently used in indoor décor since it naturally smells great and repels insects such as termites, which is critical when choosing wood for use inside a house.

To learn more about the fundamentals of Cedar and how to avoid unwelcome shrinking, see the YouTube video linked below:

Do you need to leave a gap between fence boards

Yes. Wood swells – if there is no gap – then the boards can become warped. Also , if you want fresh air for whatever is behind the fence – then you need a small gap – especially in the summer.While it’s true the boards will eventually shrink as they dry out, I recommend that you leave a gap during construction.

This allows for a bleed-off of wind gusts, yes, but unless the gaps are wide, that really won’t stop a strong, straight-line wind.

You can reduce the wind stress by alternating the verticals from inside and outside a nailer board, which gives you the privacy you want, but provides a substantial bleed for wind to pass thru the fence.

Another alternative is to attach the verticals to a slanted-slot nailer board, which will leave a relief opening that you can aim (during construction) so outsiders can’t see anything substantial in the direction you’ve left open.

If the wood is fresh and/or somewhat moist, it will shrink quite a bit, so putting the slats right next to each other will result in small gaps.

The driver the wood, the less shrinkage. Plan accordingly for the look you want. You should also account for wind – it may be wise to leave some gaps for airflow.

Along with moisture, chemicals are also found in cedar. Which is used as oil. This oil prevents insects and fungus. Due to chemicals, cedar lasts for 30-40 years. If maintained properly, it remains durable for more years.
The durability of any wood depends on many things. Such as contact with weather, maintenance, and moisture.

Final Thought

As they dry, cedar pickets will shrink. A typical amount of shrinkage of 1/4″ is to be expected. IMPROVING YOUR FENCE: The posts are the most crucial element of any fence.

Is it necessary to allow a space between fence pickets?

When constructing a solid privacy fence, the fence planks are either butted firmly together or spaced 3/8 to 1/4 inch apart to allow for expansion and contraction of the wood in wet and dry conditions. Because the actual width of a 6-inch board is 5 1/2 inches, 6-inch fence boards would be placed roughly 3 1/2 inches apart.

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