How Much Do Pine Fence Pickets Shrink?

Pickets made from pine, a type of softwood, are known to exhibit some degree of shrinkage.

Do Treated Fence Pickets Shrink?

When it comes to treated fence pickets, the issue of shrinkage is one that often arises. Many homeowners worry that their newly installed picket fence will shrink after some time. However, it’s important to note that unless the wood has been damaged, aged, or previously used, shrinkage is a natural occurrence.

Cedar is one of the most commonly used types of wood for fences, and it’s particularly susceptible to shrinkage. After installation, cedar pickets can shrink by as much as 1/2 inch. This contraction in size is due to the natural drying process of the wood, as moisture evaporates from the cells.

By applying a protective coating, such as a wood sealer or stain, you can help reduce the likelihood of excessive shrinkage. Additionally, ensuring that the wood pickets are properly installed and maintained can also help mitigate the impact of shrinkage.

How to Properly Install and Maintain Wood Pickets to Reduce Shrinkage

Proper installation and maintenance of wood pickets can significantly reduce shrinkage. Here are a few tips to help you achieve this:

1. Use dry, seasoned pickets: Opt for pickets that have been properly dried and seasoned to reduce the chances of shrinkage. Moisture content below 12% is recommended.

2. Seal the wood: Apply a high-quality sealant or wood preservative to all surfaces of the pickets before installation. This helps to minimize moisture absorption and subsequent shrinkage.

3. Pre-drill before nailing: Before attaching the pickets to the fence, pre-drill pilot holes slightly wider than the nail or screw. This allows for natural wood expansion and contraction, reducing the risk of splitting or warping.

4. Leave adequate gaps: Leave small gaps between pickets during installation. This allows for natural movement and prevents crowding, which can lead to increased shrinkage and potential damage.

5. Regular maintenance: Properly maintaining your picket fence is vital to minimize shrinkage. Regularly inspect the fence for any signs of damage or moisture retention. Make necessary repairs promptly and reapply sealant as needed.

By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that your wood pickets shrink less over time, improving the longevity and overall appearance of your fence.

Cedar fence boards undergo natural changes when exposed to varying weather conditions. Due to the wood’s tendency to swell and contract in response to moisture and heat, it isn’t uncommon for cedar fence boards to shrink around 1/4” per board in warmer temperatures. This can result in the formation of small gaps or holes in the fencing over an extended period.

Does Cedar Fence Boards Shrink?

Cedar fence boards are known for their natural moisture absorption and contraction properties. When cedarwood is exposed to moisture, it’s the tendency to swell and expand. However, when it’s subjected to heat, it contracts and shrinks. This phenomenon is the reason why cedar fence boards often experience significant shrinking, sometimes up to 1/4 inch per board, especially in warmer temperatures.

The process of shrinking can lead to small gaps or holes in the fencing over time. These gaps may compromise the privacy and security provided by the fence. It’s important to be aware of this potential issue when considering cedar fence boards for your fencing project.

Despite the shrinking characteristic, cedar fence boards are still widely preferred for their natural beauty, durability, and resistance to decay. The unique properties of cedar make it an excellent choice for outdoor projects, including fencing.

Factors such as the specific type of cedarwood, environmental conditions, and the quality of the wood can all influence the degree of shrinkage.


However, it’s important to note that the shrinkage can potentially exceed half an inch.

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