One of the main concerns of anyone interested in the installation of slat fencing, especially when the planks will be timber, is whether it will swell or shrink as a result of age or exposure. Swelling or shrinkage can have a detrimental affect on the appearance of the fencing, as well as cause problems with it not performing as it was designed to. It can also lead to damage if the slats are placed closely together, as they will rub and butt against each other.
It is important to keep in mind that some timber species are more responsive to weather conditions than others. Redwood and cedar, for example, are two of the best choices for slat fencing – but even they will be subjected to some swelling and shrinkage. In this article, we have taken a closer look at moisture-proof timber species and shrink-proof designs in a bid to help you determine whether this fencing will be appropriate for your needs or not.
Moisture-Proof Timber Species
Did you know that the individual cells in wood are naturally responsive to moisture? They swell when they absorb it and shrink when they lose it. A plank, depending on the cell structure of the timber in question, will undergo the same movement. Redwood and cedar, for example, both have small cells with thin walls that don’t change noticeably as a result of moisture. This means that they aren’t very responsive to weather conditions.
Pressure-treated pine, on the other hand, can shrink significantly and has been known to develop cracks in the process. The shrinking can also lead to curling and warping (which don’t occur with either cedar or redwood) that can lead to other problems with the fencing.
Even if you have used a stable timber that is suitable for outdoor use (such as cedar or redwood), you might also be interested in designing the slat fencing to minimize the effects of shrinkage and get the most privacy. Overlapping the planks on alternate sides of the fence rails (in a board-over-board configuration) is often seen as the most effective way to do this. This will prevent anyone from seeing through the fencing, even in the driest conditions.
This type of design will also allow plenty of room for the timber to expand in wet weather without causing issues to the other planks. At the end of the day, you are looking for a design that will allow the timber to expand and shrink as the weather dictates without compromising the fence’s integrity.
So, to answer the question posed at the very beginning of this article, timber slat fencing will swell or shrink in time with the weather. The level of swelling or shrinkage experienced, however, will depend on the type of timber you have selected and the design of the fence. We recommend choosing a species that isn’t overly responsive to the weather (such as redwood or cedar) and that you build the fencing in such a way that damage is minimized.