How to put a wood fence on sloped ground

Written by jeff casto
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A wood fence can add beauty to your property and provide a measure of privacy, as well. Building it yourself can save hundreds of dollars and offer a sense of pride in a job well done. But if your yard slopes, you have to know how to account for that in your construction plans.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Fence posts
  • Fence rails
  • Pickets
  • Shovel
  • Post hole digger
  • Galvanised nails or exterior wood screws
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Hand saw or circular saw
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Chalk line
  • Stakes
  • Gravel
  • Concrete mix

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  1. 1

    Mark the fence line by driving stakes into the ground just past where the corner posts will be and tie a string between them. Determine where the gate will be.

  2. 2

    Mark the position of the corner posts, then measure and mark the position of the line posts 8 feet on centre. Mark the gate posts between 3 and 4 feet on centre.

  3. 3

    Dig holes at least 2 feet deep for each post. Adjust the depth of each hole to line the top of the post up with the corner posts. You'll need longer posts for the lowest part of the yard. For example, if you want the fence a minimum of 6 feet high and your yard slopes down 2 feet at the lowest point, you’ll need 8-foot posts at the highest part of the yard and 10-foot posts at the lowest. Add 2 inches of gravel in the bottom of each hole.

  4. 4

    Place the corner and gate posts in their holes. Mix the concrete and pour it around the post until it is about 8 to 12 inches deep. Adjust the post with a level so that it is straight. Use the string you placed earlier as a guide to set the line posts. Let the concrete harden for at least 24 hours. Backfill with dirt.

  5. 5

    Install fence rails about 12 inches from the top and bottom of the posts, using galvanised nails or exterior wood screws. Position the middle rail halfway between the top and bottom rails.

  6. 6

    Tack one section of pickets temporarily to the top fence rail upside-down with the dog-eared end touching the ground. Mark the pickets at the height you want the fence to be. Cut the pickets with a circular saw while still tacked up, or remove and cut each one, using a hand saw. The pickets are the correct length. Turn the pickets right-side up and nail or screw in place.

Tips and warnings

  • Because of warping, pickets may not fit tightly together. Small gaps are normal.
  • Stagger nails or screws to prevent the wood from splitting.
  • Be careful when handling a circular saw.
  • Build the fence entirely on your own property. If you have doubts about where the property line is, have the property surveyed.
  • Contact the utility companies before digging.
  • Check with your city government to see if a permit is required.

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