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Building a fence on a hill can be tricky, but it can be done. You’ll need to spend some time planning the fence before installation. Experience installing a fence on level ground would also be helpful.
When it comes to building a fence on sloped ground, there are two choices. You can follow the natural contour of the land or you can create a stepped fence. This guide will review how to build a fence on a hill in both these ways.
The fence-building method you choose will depend on how you want the fence to look. The rails on a contour fence follow the slope of the ground. This fence type works best when the ground has only a slight incline.
As you figure out how to build a fence on a slope, use stakes to help you plan where the fence should go.
- Drive a 2-foot stake into the ground at the top of the slope. Put a second stake at the bottom of the slope.
- Run a level mason’s line between the two stakes. Measure equally spaced locations for the fence posts along the line. Mark those locations with tape.
- Drop a plumb bob from the tape marks on the line to transfer the marks to the ground.
- Mark the spot with powdered chalk.
Install a Contour Fence
As you plan to dig the post holes, check the frost line where you live. The frost line is how deep the ground will freeze during cold weather. Knowing the frost line in your area will help you figure out how deep the holes need to be. The posts should extend below the frost line so they won't move around as the ground expands and contracts due to temperature changes.
- Dig holes at the marked spots and install the posts. If the posts aren’t the exact height that you want your fence to be, you can trim them.
- If you need a fence that’s more stable, you can pour concrete into the hole and allow it to harden around the post. To save time, get a post-setting concrete mix. It doesn't have to be mixed before use. You can pour it into the hole when it's dry and then add water.
- Once posts are in place, measure up from the ground to lay out the bottom rails. The bottom rails of the fence should be 3 or 4 inches off the ground. Mark the posts so you know where to place the bottom rails. Measure up from the bottom rails to figure out where lay out the top rails.
- Cut the rails so the ends fall at the middle of the posts and fasten them with #8 2-1/2-inch deck screws.
Plan a Stepped Hillside Fence
As its name implies, stepped hillside fencing goes down the hill in a series of steps. The top of the finished fence will resemble a staircase as seen from the side.
To plan the layout of a stepped fence:
- Drive a stake at the top and bottom of the slope where you’d like the fence to end.
- String a mason’s line from the base of the top stake to the bottom stake. Level it 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 on the line with masking tape.
- Count the sections of fence you will need and then divide the overall drop of the fence by the number of sections to find the drop per section.
Install a Stepped Hillside Fence
For a stepped fence on a hill, premade fence panels and coordinating posts will work best. Panels come in pre-measured heights and widths in a wide range of materials. Choose the posts and panels that will best suit your project.
- Dig holes and install the posts in the places you marked earlier. Each post should be slightly taller than the finished height of the fence.
- Measure to find where the top of the upper post will be. Draw a line to mark where you will cut it.
- Measure down by the drop per section, which you figured out in the previous step. 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.
- The way you attach the fence panels to the posts will depend on the type you have selected. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for details.
Planning is key as you figure out how to build a fence on a hill. You’ll need to decide if a contour fence or a stepped fence works best. Previous fence building experience will be very useful when you tackle this DIY project.
Don't worry if you don't own all of the tools needed to build a fence on a hill. The Home Depot offers tool rental for building a fence or any of your other projects.
If you want to leave building a fence on a hill to the professionals, The Home Depot offers fence installation.