Do Fence Pickets Shrink?Facts You should know

When erecting a picket fence, a typical concern is that the wood fence pickets will shrink after installation.

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Unless the wood has been damaged, aged, or utilised, it will shrink. Cedar, the most frequently used wood for fences, is susceptible to shrinkage of up to 1/2 inch following installation.

Wood naturally responds to weather. It expands during wet seasons, shrinks during dry spells, and when water freezes in the winter it can crack and splinter. This is the main reason why boards warp and lose their original beauty.

There are a few ways to circumvent this shrinking, and other ways to avoid it entirely!

What Causes Fence Pickets to Shrink?

The nature of cedarwood means that it is always fresh and “wet,” which is especially true at the time of purchase. It is true that the wood looks gorgeous at this point, but the elements haven’t yet had a chance to weather it.

This could result in problems following the installation.

The qualities of cedar wood are affected by the weather; for example, during hot, dry months, the cedar will shrink as it dries out from exposure to the sun. Because of the moisture absorbed by the wood during the wet months, the wood swells.

Advice on how to avoid the gaps that can be caused by shrinking

Installing a wood fence can be difficult since there are so many considerations to make and so many aspects to pay attention to, even before you begin the installation process!

The reduction in size of fence pickets is an important aspect that should not be disregarded.

You’ll want to instal the boards as close together as possible in order to minimise the gaps between the pickets to the greatest extent possible. The gaps will be tiny enough that they will not be a concern in the future if shrinking does occur as planned.

You may also apply a coat of lacquer or a finish to your cedar pickets to help keep the elements away from your deck or patio. If you want to go this route, you should plan on reapplying the coating at least once a year to keep it looking new.

 Another method of preventing the gaps from narrowing is to instal the fence pickets in a horizontal pattern rather than a vertical design. Gravity will assist you in closing the gaps in this manner, which will be very useful throughout the installation procedure.

With horizontal pickets, shrinkage will still occur, but it will be less evident after the pickets have been installed.

The Best Types of Wood to Avoid Shrinkage

The Best Types of Wood to Avoid Shrinkage :

Cypress Wood is the best wood to avoid shrinkage.

Cypress is a lovely alternative to cedar wood that is just as attractive, if not more so, than the original. This sort of wood is resistant to decay and water damage.

Shrinkage and expansion do not occur as dramatically as they do with cedar as a result of this excellent property of this type of wood. You should still expect it, but the space created by the decreasing leaves will not be as obvious as it would be if the pickets were made of cedar, so be prepared.

Barn Wood:

When it comes to picking materials for your fence installation, barn wood is an excellent choice. Because of the antiquity of the wood, the elements have already weathered it.

As a result, you should not anticipate any shrinking or growing as a result of weather patterns.

Barn wood is more difficult to find and more expensive, but it helps reduce the amount of planning and measurement required before installation.

Wood That Has Been Pre-Weathered

This sort of wood is comparable to barn wood in that it has worn and aged features.

This wood is still relatively new, but it has been aged in a shop or factory rather than being utilised. This alternative is simpler to find, although it may have a less “weathered” appearance.

Fence Options That Will Not Shrink

Aside from the wood alternatives described above, there are other fence materials that you may use to avoid shrinking in any circumstance.

Fence made of aluminium and steel

This sort of material is fantastic since, unlike the ever-popular wood choice, the elements don’t matter as much because it’s metal. There will be no shrinking or growing.

However, because it is metal, rust can build on the fence during the rainy months when it rains or snows. So you don’t have to worry about shrinking, but you might have to deal with some rust on your fence.

Log Wooden Fencing

Although this alternative has a much more rustic appearance, it is also an excellent solution for avoiding shrinkage.

Wood logs are often treated with a lacquer or finish to prevent weather and factors from affecting them in the same manner as cedar is.

If you locate natural wood logs, expect shrinkage, but because the surface areas in contact between the logs are bigger than the surface areas in contact between the cedar pickets, the gaps that form as a result of the shrinking will be less significant and apparent.

Vinyl Fencing

A vinyl fence is an excellent alternative to a classic wood picket fence.

Because of the properties of the materials, the weather and elements have no effect (unless there is something out of the ordinary, such as a natural disaster).

Vinyl is quite simple to instal and requires less planning and measuring because it does not have to account for the inevitable shrinking and expanding that occurs when using cedar pickets.

Stone or rock wall Fencing

You may build a rock or stone wall instead of a standard wood, vinyl, or metal fence.

This kind does need a little more preparation owing to the amount of rock you’ll need to buy, as well as the installation supplies, but it’s an alternative to any standard fence alternatives.

The elements do impact rock and stone, but not in the same manner as they effect wood; for example, in places with high winds and a lot of rain, the rock may break down. Some rocks may chip or even tumble off the wall, which is undesirable.

Having said that, you won’t have to worry about rock and stone shrinking and expanding.

What to Expect If Shrinking Occurs

You may need to conduct some additional installation after the initial operation, depending on how much the fence pickets shrink.

Typically, you may expect a 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch shrinkage at first. Of course, the pickets may shrink by more than half an inch. There are a few things you can do to “repair” it if this is the case.

The first step is to remove the original pickets and re-arrange them closer together. This may be difficult since you must remove all of the nails and reinstall the pickets.

If you don’t want to reinstall the boards, you may construct a shadow box fence instead.

A shadowbox fence is created by laying another row of fence pickets on top of the previous row. These pickets may shrink as well, but if they are arranged in an overlapping manner, the shrinking is irrelevant.

This kind also provides additional seclusion, which is an added benefit.

Do Wood Fences Expand?


PTP wood fences will expand with moisture and exposure to the sun.

We place our 2×4 runners in perfect locations to help prevent warping of the boards.

Also, we use 6 galvanized nails for each board to keep the boards in place for any years to come! We also use cedar boards to frame ALL our custom build gates to prevent gate warping!

Wood fences expand in the summertime and shrinks in the winter .Wood fences shrink as the moisture comes out of the wood. If you paint or stain the wood soon after it is installed. It will cause the wood to warp and twist.

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.

Final Thought

The weather causes the fence planks to shrink and expand. I wouldn’t bring them closer together unless the gaps are insanely huge, because they may inflate later and run out of room.

Also, will cedar fence pickets shrink? 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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