The ins and outs of fencing decisions

Wood prices are predicted to reach record highs by the end of 2014. This is due to timber-supply shortages related to environmental factors such as heavy rainfall. The increasing demand for wood products as the economy and housing markets begin to recover also plays a large part in rising prices. With low supply and increasing demand, the wood product industry and its consumers are facing price hikes on wood everywhere.

Due to this shortage “You get what you pay for,” will take on a whole new meaning for farm fence customers this year, making research and purchasing long-lasting products even more crucial to avoid spending double, or even triple the amount of your initial investment. When making an investment to fence your farm, consider the “4 W’s” (Who, What, When and Warranty) before locking in a purchase.


Who set the pressure-treating standards for the posts?

The AWPA (American Wood Protection Association) has written a book of standards to ensure customers receive the highest-quality and longest lasting wood products available. AWPA pressure-treating standards are based on scientific research, experimentation with wood preservatives and input from a diverse mix of engineers, scientists and individuals with years of experience in the wood industry. Manufacturers of fence posts should always follow AWPA guidelines to meet or exceed their treatment standards, if a company does not adhere to these standards it cannot produce high-quality, lasting fence posts.


What species of wood is the post made of?

It is common for farm fence posts to be made from pines. The longest-lasting wood used to make fence posts is Southern Yellow Pine, but you have to investigate further; is the Yellow Pine high-density (strong) or low-density (weak and soft)? High-density Southern Yellow pines are thick and sturdy, making cracking the post, even with the pressure from a post-driver pounding posts into hard earth difficult. Low-density Southern Yellow Pines are slightly thinner and weaker thus more prone to cracking, but are still more desirable over other pines. Less desirable Pines used in fence posts include Lodge Pole and Red Pines. High-density Southern Yellows are imperative to ensure longevity of a post and are the choice of seasoned professionals in the farm and fence industry.

All timbers need to be harvested live to ensure that wood has not began rotting. Pressure-treating protects wood from rot, it does not cure it.


When were the posts tested for moisture levels prior to pressure-treatment, and how were they dried?

Posts must be tested for moisture levels before treatment, or like a soaked sponge the posts will not be able to absorb more liquid, preventing preservatives from penetrating the wood of the post. Posts are tested for moisture using a special device commonly known as a “Moisture Meter,” and must not contain over 30 percent moisture in order to fully absorb preservatives.

The wood-heart, the naturally untreatable center of a post, is surrounded by sapwood that protects the wood heart just like a ribcage. The sapwood is the part of a post that preservative chemicals must penetrate. AWPA standards dictate if two-inches of sapwood is available, two-inches must be penetrated with preservatives. If two-inches is not present then 85% of the available sapwood must be penetrated with preservatives. This is another reason assuring the post you purchase is high-density, there is a larger area of sapwood to further protect the heart.


Why is having a warranty on a fence post important?

Just like any other large investment it is important to ensure you are receiving what you paid for, and a company can take responsibility if their product falls short. Buy a post with a warranty detailing its projected longevity and replacement process.

Remember the “4 W’s” when shopping for farm fence posts to make a good investment in the future of your farm. For more information on AWPA guidelines, and specifics, visit

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