How to Build a Fence on a Slope
By: Julie Day
Building a fence on a slope can be challenging, since the posts and pickets remain plumb regardless of the slope of the ground below it. How you solve the problem depends on whether you’re building a fence from scratch or using preassembled fence panels.
Building a Fence with Individual Pickets
When constructing a fence from individual pickets, each picket can be staggered or “racked” to follow the contour of the land. This strategy only works when you’re building a fence from scratch and are attaching each picket separately – it won’t work with preassembled fence panels.
One advantage of a racked fence is that the length of the posts and pickets remains the same throughout, regardless of the slope. Since you’re building the fence from scratch, it can hug the ground in a close curve without gaps under it.
Start by setting the posts plumb and at the same height from the ground. The horizontal rails are then attached between the posts parallel to the ground, rather than level. Finally, the pickets are individually secured to the rails so each one follows the contour of the slope.
Building a Fence with Preassembled Panels
When building a fence on a slope using preassembled panels, the entire panel is stepped up or down so it remains level. The posts are installed plumb, and each panel steps lower or higher as the grade changes. This allows the overall line of the fence to follow the slope in a stair-step fashion.
When building a stepped fence, the posts on the slope need to be longer to accommodate the extra height of the fence panel. Each post is installed and cut to length individually, depending on the slope at that particular spot.
Filling Gaps in a Stepped Fence
Since the panels on a stepped fence are level, there are gaps at the lower end of each panel. If you have children or pets that need to be contained in the yard, these gaps will need to be filled.
One way to fill the gaps at the bottom of a stepped fence is by constructing raised planters next to the fence. This allows the fence to double as valuable gardening space.
If your yard has a short rise or dip, it may be possible to scribe the bottom of each preassembled panel and cut it to follow the contour of the ground.