A handrail with balusters and a composite material railing frames a set of stairs leading up to a building, surrounded by a fence and plants outdoors.

How to Build a Fence on a Slope

A good fence has the potential to improve any property. It makes your home more secure, improves the property’s curb appeal, and adds privacy so that you can enjoy your yard in peace.

There are many different styles of fencing to pick, from dogeared to scalloped, based on what your needs are–a short picket fence as a complement for the landscaping or a tall slatted fence for privacy. There are just as many materials from which to build a fence. Stone is natural and very durable, but probably more suitable for shorter fences. Wood is also natural and classic looking, but obviously different kinds of woods require different kinds of staining and maintenance–vinyl fencing is good for looking like wood and requiring little maintenance.

So, you’ve decided that you want to build a fence, and you’ve picked out the material and fencing style–one problem: Your yard is on a hill! Building a fence is hard enough on its own, let alone having to build one going up a hill. This can be a daunting problem, depending on the hill, intended style, and installer. The following methods work well to build a sloped fence, but they require some know-how and practice.

Don’t worry. We have over 3 decades of experience in building fences on slopes, and we are here to help.

Contoured, where the fence rails will run parallel to the slope:

  • Drive in posts at the beginning and end of the fence on the slope.
  • Run mason’s line, or some other kind of rope, between them, marking where fence posts should be on the rope. Then you can use chalk or mark the ground where the post holes should be dug.
  • Measure up from the bottom to mark how high the rails should be. The ends of the rails should fall right in the middle of the posts.

Stepped or hillside fencing, where the rails will look like a staircase:

  • Repeat steps 1&2, with posts at the start and end of the fence, mason’s between them, and the posts marked out.
  • Measure from the line to the base of the lower stake to see the overall drop of the slope. Once you know how many sections of fence you need, you can divide the overall drop by the number of sections to calculate drop per section.
  • Dig holes and insert poles so that every pole is several inches higher than the finished fence.
    Measure and cut the highest post so that it is the same as the intended finished height. From that point, measure down by the drop per section calculated in step 2. Tie a line straight across to the next post, ensuring that it’s level.
  • Where the line meets the next post is the top, and should be cut there. Then measure down by the drop per section again and run the line over to the next post, continuing to the last post.

So that’s how the pros do it. With a hill, you can either build the fence so that it is parallel to the ground or stepped over the slope. Each has their merits: Stepped construction works better for more extreme inclines, while the contoured method looks better for traditional spaced out picket fences. It’s usually the best option to consult a professional for their experience and expertise.

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