Building a Fence on a Hill


Install a fence that follows natural slope of your yard, or build a stepped fence

Building a Fence on a Hill

Installing a fence on a hill seems like a daunting project, but with the proper planning, you can tackle it just as easily as a fence on level land. You have two building choices: You can follow the natural contour of the land or you can build a stepped fence. This guide will walk you through the process of building both types of fences.


Contoured Fencing

Building Fence Hill - Contoured Fencing

The rails on a contour fence follow the slope of the ground.

Run a Mason’s Line between Stakes
Building Fence Hill - Run Mason’s Line between Stakes

• Drive 2 × 2-foot stakes at the top and the bottom of the slope.
• Run a level mason’s line between the stakes, measuring and evenly marking locations for posts along the line with tape.

Mark the ground and install posts
Building Fence Hill - Mark ground and install posts

• Drop a plumb bob from the tape marks on the line to transfer the marks to the ground.
• Mark the spot with powdered chalk.
• Dig holes at the marked spots and install the posts.
• Once posts are 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-inch deck screws.

Hillside Fencing

Building Fence Hill -
Hillside Fencing

As its name implies, stepped hillside fencing goes down the hill in a series of steps.

Measure for the posts
Building Fence Hill - Measure for the posts

• 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 and then level 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 and mark levels
Building Fence Hill - Install and mark levels

• Dig holes and install the posts where you marked earlier 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 will 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.