How to install a privacy fence on a slope

Written by edwin thomas
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How to install a privacy fence on a slope
Privacy fences are walls made from panels. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

A privacy fence presents the outside world with a continuous wall, but that very feature poses problems for erecting the fence on a slope. Wire and rail fences can easily follow the contours of a hill, but a privacy fence is based on panels, and panels erected on a diagonal course tend to look sloppy. Stepping the panels of the fence up or down the hill in equal increments avoids this problem and achieves a neat appearance.

Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Pine or plastic stakes
  • Hammer
  • Ball of string
  • Measuring wheel
  • Post hole digger
  • Shovel
  • Gravel
  • Quick-setting concrete
  • Nails
  • Marker

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  1. 1

    Measure the panel width and post width of a typical example of those components with a tape measure. Alternately, you could look up these measurements on the documentation that came with your fence materials, as component dimensions are frequently listed there.

  2. 2

    Mark the fence line and where the fence posts go by walking down the hill slope with a measuring wheel and driving stakes at intervals, using a hammer. The interval is equal to the panel width minus the post width, as the panels are nailed on to the middle of the posts.

  3. 3

    Drive an extra pair of stakes at the top and bottom of the slope. These stakes are for taking measurements, and not for marking post installation.

  4. 4

    Tie a line of string to the bottom stake and then to the top stake at ground level. Place a carpenter's level on the top of the string, and slide it up and down the bottom stake until it gives a horizontally level reading. Determine the drop of the slope by measuring the space between the string and the ground at the bottom stake.

  5. 5

    Measure the distance down the slope with the measuring wheel. Divide the length of the hill slope by the panel width to determine how many fence panels are needed to cover that space.

  6. 6

    Divide the slope drop by the number of panels to determine the stepping distance. If the slope drops 1 m (40 inches) and you need six panels on the hill, each panel must step down by 16.66 cm (6.66 inches) to achieve a uniform appearance.


  1. 1

    Divide the length of the typical post by three to establish the standard post hole depth, and then adjust this measurement for use on the hill slope. These holes are shallower to compensate for stepping, but shallow holes make for weaker posts. To compensate for that, these posts are set in concrete. Take 1/3 of the post length, subtract the stepping distance, and add 10 cm (4 inches) back to the total to provide for a gravel foundation for the concrete plug. If the posts are 2.4 m (8 feet) tall, that is 80 cm (32 inches) minus 16.66 cm (6.66 inches) plus 10 cm (4 inches) for 73.34 cm (29.33 inches). Round that up to 75 cm (30 inches).

  2. 2

    Excavate the post holes to the depth determined in Step 1, utilising a shovel and post hole digger. The hole width is twice the standard post width.

  3. 3

    Shovel 10 cm (4 inches) of gravel into the bottom of the hole, to serve as a foundation for the concrete.

  4. 4

    Set the post into the hole. Put a carpenter's level on the side of the post and nudge it around until it is plumb, or vertically level. While an assistant holds the post in place, mix water and quick-setting concrete and fill the hole with it to roughly 7.5 cm (3 inches) from the top. Wait for the concrete to set as directed by the manufacturer.

  5. 5

    Fill in the remaining few inches of the post holes with dirt, once all the posts are set in concrete and that concrete has hardened.

  6. 6

    Nail the privacy panels to the posts. With the aid of an assistant, set the panels against the posts so the panel is straight (check with the carpenter's level) and the top and bottom rails are aligned with the middle line running from the top to the bottom of the fence post. Fasten the end of each rail with two nails, utilising eight nails for each panel.

  7. 7

    Lower each panel in succession, to compensate for the slope drop. In this example, each fence panel on the slope should be nailed into place in a position 16.66 cm (6.66 inches) lower than the one before it. Measure off the preceding panel's rails and mark the proper position on the posts before nailing up the panel.

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