Should I Leave A Gap Between Fence Boards?

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People usually install a privacy fence with the idea that it will create a privacy screen. However, a gap is often left and even larger gaps develop over time. This is usually due to the wood drying out and shrinkage of the fence boards occurring. In this case, one might wonder if a gap is necessary in the first place? Should fence boards be installed as close to each other as possible without any gap?

New fence planks often contain moisture content that will dry out over time. This will cause the planks to shrink and a gap can become more prevalent. Because of this, fence boards should be installed with a small gap of no more than 1/4″ or no gap at all between boards.

Close up of privacy fence gaps

While you may prefer no gap at all, a small gap may be a good idea for multiple reasons:

  1. It allows for expansion and contraction. Wood changes with the weather and humidity levels. Because of this, wood may shrink or expand at various times so leaving a small gap is a good idea to allow for this.
  2. It allows wind to pass through. Having a small gap between fence boards will allow wind to pass through which will reduce the amount of wind pressure on the fence. This may be important if you live in an area that often sees high winds.

The problem occurs when the small gap turns into a larger gap over time. In this case, you may want to consider some approaches to remedy this extra, unwanted space.

How Do You Fix a Gap Between Fence Boards?

If you have installed a privacy fence or other type of plank fence, one of the best ways to fix gaps that are too large is to remove the planks and reposition them. My neighbors used this approach and were purposeful about it. They installed their wood plank privacy fence in the Spring with almost no gaps and let it sit for the summer. At the end of summer, gaps had shown up due to the shrinkage of the wood.

In the autumn, they removed every board on their fence one by one and butted them back up against each other. This was smart and they ended up with a fence that has less spacing in between boards than it normally would. Now after a couple of years, the gaps haven’t gotten much bigger. They stained and sealed the fence and now have a nice privacy fence with very small gaps.

Unfortunately, I didn’t do the same thing and am now left with larger gaps than my neighbor. I had a company install my fence at the time and they installed the boards with almost no spacing in-between them but over time, space has increased between the boards.

What Can I Use to Cover Gaps in Fence?

If you have gaps in your fence and aren’t able to reposition the planks, there are other ways to create more privacy in the gap areas.

Shrubs and Trees

Perhaps the best way to cover up spacing in between fence boards is to position shrubs, trees, and other plants in strategic places. There probably won’t be a need to cover up each gap in the entire fence. Rather, you can place these plants in areas that are of most concern.

You can plant shrubs in areas where others are likely to see through your fence the most. This will most likely be areas facing neighbors, streets, or walkways in which people often stroll by. This technique won’t give you a perfectly private backyard but it can help to shield your backyard from nosey neighbors and cover up the gaps in the fence where it matters.

Fence Screen

Screening is a simple solution that will allow you to cover up the gaps without too much hassle. You can simply purchase screening designed for this specific purpose and install it on the fence. Although these are usually designed for chain link fences, they can also work on wooden fences.

A screen like this won’t be a complete blackout for the gaps but it can certainly be effective in adding more privacy.

Shadow Box Fence

Another way to cover up gaps in your fence is to use the shadowbox fence method. With this style of fence, planks are placed on both sides of the fence so that each side is staggered. When looking straight on at the fence, you don’t see any gaps.

However, although this works great when looking straight on at the fence, you will still be able to see through gaps by looking at it from an angle. I have lived in houses with shadow boxed fences and while they are great for blocking out straight-on lookers, they are not very private when driving or walking by.

Let It Be

You can also just let it be and accept that a wooden fence is going to have some gaps. You will never be able to have a perfect fence using wood once nature takes over. You can just decide that having a fence with gaps is better than no fence at all.

If you want a fence with no spacing in between boards, a vinyl fence may be your best option. Of course, since you are reading an article about gaps between fence boards, you probably already have a wooden fence. Installing a vinyl fence may be out of the question but you may want to consider it when it comes time to replace your current fence.

Wood Fence vs Vinyl Fence

Gaps in the fence are only an issue when a wood fence is in question. If you want to avoid gaps altogether, a vinyl fence will be the better choice. Choosing a vinyl option from the get-go will save you a lot of hassle from dealing with the gaps that are sure to happen with the alternative.

A vinyl privacy fence is designed in solid piece sections so gaps are not possible. If you are seeking complete privacy, it will be the best choice. Besides that, it will be less maintenance and last longer. It may cost more for parts and installation but it will be worth it long-term. You won’t have to spend money on regular sealing that wood fences will require.

With a wood fence, you will have more maintenance and there will be no way to completely rid the fence of gaps. You’ll need to enlist other methods to help cover the gaps if you want to maintain privacy in your yard.


Leaving a gap between new fence boards is usually not necessary since the boards will shrink over time and gaps will happen naturally. If you do choose to leave a gap, only a small one is necessary. If you are installing seasoned planks that have been dried and do not contain as much moisture, a small amount of spacing may be more acceptable.

Personally, if I were to install a new privacy fence again, I would butt the planks as close to each other as possible. I have watched the gap between my fence boards increase over the years so making sure the gap is as small as possible would be a top priority for me.

No matter what, a wooden fence is going to have gaps and the spacing will likely increase over the years. Installing the boards more closely together will give you more years before gaps become a problem.