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If you’re installing a fence on a hill, you’ll need to take the slope into account. You have two choices: you can follow the contour or you can build a stepped fence. This page covers contoured fencing; stepped fences are discussed on the next page.
To lay out a contoured fence, first drive 2×2 stakes at the top and the bottom of the slope. Run a level mason’s line between the stakes, measure along it, and mark locations for line posts with tape. Transfer the taped marks to the ground with a plumb bob, and mark each spot with powdered chalk.
Dig holes for the posts and install them before trimming them to the uniform height.
The rails on a contour fence follow the slope of the ground. Lay out the posts as described below. Once they’re in place, measure up from the ground to lay out the bottom rails. Measure up from the bottom rails to lay out the top rails. Cut the rails so the ends fall at the middle of the posts and fasten them with #8 2 ½" deck screws.
Drive a stake at the top and bottom of the slope. Tie a line to each stake and level it with a line level. Measure along the line to lay out the locations of the posts, and mark the locations with tape.
Drop a plumb bob from the tape to transfer the marks to the ground. Mark the spot with powdered chalk, then with stakes. Dig holes and install the stakes so that each is a little more than finished height above the ground.
Some fences, such as alternate-board fences, work best when they step down a hillside. To lay out a stepped hillside fence, drive a 2×2 stake into the ground at the top and bottom of the slope. Run a level mason’s line from the base of the top stake to the bottom stake. The distance between the ground and the line at the bottom post is the drop in elevation between stakes. Divide the drop by the number of fencing sections (not posts) to find the drop per section. In the example below, the overall drop is 24 inches over three sections of fence. Divide 24 inches by the three sections to come up with the drop per section: 8 inches.
When installing the posts, set each one slightly higher than the desired height. Measure to find the top of the upper post, and transfer the drop per section to the other posts with the help of a line level. Once the posts are laid out, trim the posts to height.
As its name implies, stepped hillside fencing goes down the hill in a series of steps. First lay out the top of the upper post. Measure down by the amount of drop, and transfer this height to the next post with the help of a line level. Continue measuring and transferring until you reach the bottom of the hill.
Drive a stake at the top and bottom of the fence run. String a mason’s line from the base of the top stake to the bottom stake, then level the line with a line level. Measure the distance between the line and the ground at the bottom stake to find out how much the fence drops along the run. Measure along the line and mark the location of the posts with masking tape. Count the sections of fence you’ll need, then divide the overall drop of the fence by the number of sections to find the drop per section
Dig holes and install the posts so each one is slightly taller than the finished height of the fence. Measure to find where the top of the upper post will be and draw a line to mark where you’ll cut it. Measure down by the drop per section—which you figured out in Step 1—and tie a line at that point. Tie the other end to the next post, and level the line. The point at which it crosses the second post will be the top of that post. Mark the top, move the line down by the drop per section, then stretch it to the third post and level it. Mark as before. Continue down the hill, marking the top, measuring down, and stretching a level line until you reach the bottom of the hill. Cut off the tops of the posts at the layout lines.
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