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View Full Version : Plank fence - Oak vs. Poplar?



dudders
Jun. 11, 2012, 07:39 PM
Anybody have experience with treated poplar for horse fence? Of the five fencing guys (Central Ky., all experienced with horse fence), I have three telling me oak and two saying treated poplar are the way to go. Price is about the same, with poplar a bit less expensive (not enough to make the decision).

Oak pro: Hardness/durability - Oak con: Warping
Poplar pro: No warping - Poplar con: Not as durable over the long run

Cribbing is a deal breaker for me, and I'm not shy about putting a wire up if they're chewing, so treated poplar sounds like a winner. Or is oak the better choice?

dotneko
Jun. 11, 2012, 07:42 PM
We use hemlock

Alagirl
Jun. 11, 2012, 07:44 PM
Pine?

airhorse
Jun. 11, 2012, 07:53 PM
Poplar will be chewed through in about 1 week. We have oak boards pushing 12 years with hardly a scratch.

LauraKY
Jun. 11, 2012, 07:55 PM
Oak. Not pine and not poplar, unless you don't care if it lasts for only a couple of years.

ReSomething
Jun. 11, 2012, 08:11 PM
Oak. Not pine and not poplar, unless you don't care if it lasts for only a couple of years.

Same.

spacytracy
Jun. 11, 2012, 08:15 PM
Ours is hemlock. It's only a year old but my trainers is going on 9 years and still looks great.

My suggestion is to put up coated wire along the top and also string it halfway down on the inside. Horses don't go near our fence. Well worth the minor investment when you consider how expensive fencing is.

TrotTrotPumpkn
Jun. 12, 2012, 03:28 PM
Oak. Not pine and not poplar, unless you don't care if it lasts for only a couple of years.

Why wouldn't treated pine last longer than untreated oak? It warps less too. I know horses will eat it, but if you are running a hot wire anyway...

Just wondering.

I don't know anything about poplar fencing, sorry.

ReSomething
Jun. 12, 2012, 06:47 PM
Why wouldn't treated pine last longer than untreated oak? It warps less too. I know horses will eat it, but if you are running a hot wire anyway...

Just wondering.

I don't know anything about poplar fencing, sorry.

Oak is like the gold standard in KY. I don't know if the formulation for the compound to pressure treat pine has changed over the years but it used to to be poisonous to humans and livestock. We were always advised NOT to burn any pressure treated scrap.
I also don't know if you can buy 1x pressure treated material, or what it costs, or even where to get it, but I can go down to a local farm store and buy 16' long 1x6 oak by the palletload (big pallets, LOL) for a very reasonable price here.
So the short answer is, oak is cheap and easy to get here. So's poplar, but oak is usually denser and tougher. And pine is classed as a softwood, vs oak as a hardwood but that really depends on the species and how it's cut. Lumber prices vary wildly around the country depending on what's around.

TrotTrotPumpkn
Jun. 13, 2012, 11:01 AM
Oak is like the gold standard in KY. I don't know if the formulation for the compound to pressure treat pine has changed over the years but it used to to be poisonous to humans and livestock. We were always advised NOT to burn any pressure treated scrap.
I also don't know if you can buy 1x pressure treated material, or what it costs, or even where to get it, but I can go down to a local farm store and buy 16' long 1x6 oak by the palletload (big pallets, LOL) for a very reasonable price here.
So the short answer is, oak is cheap and easy to get here. So's poplar, but oak is usually denser and tougher. And pine is classed as a softwood, vs oak as a hardwood but that really depends on the species and how it's cut. Lumber prices vary wildly around the country depending on what's around.

Thanks! That is interesting. You can buy 1x16 boards (CCA pressure treated pine) at Tractor Supply here and all the posts you see around are pressure treated pine. I think you would have to special order oak from a lumber mill? I have never seen oak ready-cut anywhere, except as interior finishing trim for houses or for oak floors. The box stores all carry pine, treated pine, or cedar (which is intended for decks or privacy fences). Not saying you buy your fence from a box store, but using them for an example of what is available.

RacetrackReject
Jun. 13, 2012, 11:17 AM
Thanks! That is interesting. You can buy 1x16 boards (CCA pressure treated pine) at Tractor Supply here and all the posts you see around are pressure treated pine. I think you would have to special order oak from a lumber mill? I have never seen oak ready-cut anywhere, except as interior finishing trim for houses or for oak floors. The box stores all carry pine, treated pine, or cedar (which is intended for decks or privacy fences). Not saying you buy your fence from a box store, but using them for an example of what is available.

Same here. Oak is not readily available in any sizes used for fencing and if you can find it, it is very expensive. Pine can be found anywhere in any size. Depending on where you look, some articles say that SYP (southern yellow pine) is harder than poplar, some say poplar is more dent-resistant but less stable than pine, some say poplar is harder, etc. I think they are really about the same to be honest. We rarely use poplar in the homes we build unless it's in an area of Texas where that is more common than pine.

All wood used to be treated with an arsonic-related solution (IIRC) to make it weatherproof, but that process was changed years ago and most treated wood bought in big box type stores has a tag stating the method it was treated with and that it is free of the old solution. Now ground treated and regular treated wood are different as is lumber that will be used in saltwater areas.

ReSomething
Jun. 13, 2012, 02:34 PM
Totally regional.
Where I lived last I could go down the road a bit to the mill and buy redwood any size I wanted for a fairly good price. Untreated redwood was what you used in decks, pine was getting harder and harder to find and you didn't use it outside, fir was what you used for studs in houses. I have no idea what they used for board fencing - it wasn't common and in SoCal and some other parts of the Southwest pipe is the common fence type.

Bacardi1
Jun. 13, 2012, 03:06 PM
Oak here. Fifteen years & still going strong.

jacksmom
Jun. 13, 2012, 03:13 PM
If you have cribbers, go with the oak.

IME both the pine and the oak can and do warp. The poplar stays true, but I wouldn't trust it with cribbers. Fence boards all have a limited lifespan, the posts (which are much more difficult to replace) are also key. I went with PT Pine half rounds and I'm pleased with both the look and durability, but if I could have gotten it in the sizing & quantity I wanted, locust would be ideal, and probably would have outlived us all in usefulness :)

LauraKY
Jun. 13, 2012, 03:53 PM
Horses love pine and I've found that pine is not nearly as strong as oak. One really persistent butt rubber and the board is broken. I'm lucky, I pick up oak at the mill which is only 30 minutes away.

cai
Jun. 13, 2012, 05:25 PM
I'm in south-central KY--and have oak boards that are being replaced with treated poplar as needed.

I'm shocked at how aged the oak boards are--12 years and SO many in bad shape! Rotting, warped, breaking, brittle, bleh! Fence was originally installed by a Lexington fence co.

I had always heard/believed oak was the hardest & longest-lived, but my current fence guy has convinced me treated poplar is the way to go. It seems to make sense to me--treated wood vs. untreated wood?

Replaced treated boards are only 3 years old but show absolutely no sign of wear.

Treated poplar gets my vote!

ETA: I have one light cribber who shows no taste preference poplar vs. oak.

Equibrit
Jun. 13, 2012, 07:28 PM
I have un untreated poplar run-in shed (local sawmill). Not even teeth marks and coming up for 15 years old. The 8 year old painted oak fence is splitting and warping.

Zu Zu
Jun. 13, 2012, 07:29 PM
OAK !

Hilary
Jun. 14, 2012, 12:15 PM
Pine is a much softer wood than oak (don't know about poplar) so it will be more easily chewed and just won't hold up to the elements as well. You can drive your fingernail into a pine board, but not oak - one is just denser and harder.

I think "southern yellow pine" may be the excpetion but pine is cheap because it grows fast, and the fast growth = less dense wood. That goes for any fast growing tree, actually.

Spooks
Jun. 14, 2012, 01:41 PM
Tamarack (Larch) is pretty commonly used in these parts, but I don't know if that is a wood that is available to you - it's a northern species.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larix_laricina

JB
Jun. 14, 2012, 01:49 PM
Pine = soft wood, Oak = hard wood. It really is that simple :)

various environmental conditions, including how the wood was cured and the integrity of the tree from which it was cut, affect how long boards last and how straight they stay.

SYP is indeed better than white pine - there's a good reason SYP logs are used for houses over white pine :)

Fast growing trees, including poplar, are also indeed less dense, making them less structurally sound than slower growing soft woods and hard woods.

Daatje
Jun. 14, 2012, 01:49 PM
I have a paddock that was fenced in 1991 with rough pine boards and PT pine 4x4's. They're still doing the job some 21 years later with only one coat of stain and electric fence to keep the horses from chewing it.

Pine is cheaper so that's what I use.

BeeHoney
Jun. 14, 2012, 03:17 PM
OAK

TrotTrotPumpkn
Jun. 14, 2012, 04:00 PM
Just to clarify, when I was talking about pine I was referring to Southern Yellow Pine as well.

This has been very interesting. I wonder what the OP went with?

Valentina_32926
Jun. 14, 2012, 04:01 PM
Definately a regional decision - we use cyprus here - bug resistant and OK for wet spots too. Posts are 24 years and still going (for the most part), and that is thinner posts.

Renaissance Lady
Jun. 14, 2012, 06:48 PM
Oak--they far outlasted (by many years) the few poplar that got mixed in with the truckload we ordered and much less prone to being chewed up.