Tapered vs Non-Tapered Wood Fence Posts

posts1We get plenty of questions about tapered posts and non-tapered posts. What is the difference? Which type is stronger? Which should I use?

Tapered posts are peeled by a high-speed machine that follows the contour of the log.  The finished post has the characteristics of each piece of wood.  Because the tree is tapered, the post is tapered.  These posts are measured by the small end.  The advantage of a tapered post is that you get more wood for the money.  A tapered post diameter should have a 1” taper from small to large end.  For example a 4-5” x 7’ post can range in diameter from 4 to 5” from the small to large end of a 7’ long post.  This is more of the traditional farm and ranch post.

A non-tapered post is a log pushed through a spinning ring which gives a smooth, consistent post.  The lack of taper makes this post about 15% lighter than the comparable traditional post, making them less expensive to ship and more uniform in size. A 4” x 7’ non-tapered post is exactly 4 ¼” from the top to bottom of a 7’ long post.  A non-tapered post is also known in the industry as a perfect post.

What about strength?  Some fence installers prefer the tapered post over the non-tapered as they feel there is more post surface, making the post stronger for hydraulic driving.  While there are no definitive tests to prove this, it does offer food for thought. Perfect posts are aesthetically pleasing.  However, the milling process can create a weaker post because the heartwood is often off center. If the heartwood is off center, a non-tapered post used as the horizontal brace may weaken over time.

lengthNon-tapered posts make for an appealing fence line, but remember to use tapered posts for added strength in bracing units and hydraulic driving. Regardless of dimensions, always use a post that has been CCA treated to 0.4 per-cubic-foot for ultimate life expectancy.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted May 2, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Lacy.

    What are your thoughts on hydraulically driven corner and brace posts (i.e. a shaver post driver) vs. concreted corner and brace posts? I’m struggling to determine which is the better choice! Thank you in advance.

    Jeremy Hudson

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      A driven post (i.e, shaver post driver)is 10 times stronger than a hand set post. The way the earth displaces when the post is driven makes the post tighter in the ground. A concrete set post can be as strong as a driven post provided it is set properly and allowed to cure. A concreted post means a cure time of 3 to 4 days, thus a delay in building until the post is secure with the hardened concrete. A driven post means immediate fence construction.

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