Building a fence on level ground can be difficult on its own. And installing one on a hill presents even a little more of a challenge. So can you install vinyl fencing on a slope?
Installing a vinyl fence on a slope is possible. There are some extra factors that you will need to take into account as you build it (such as the steepness of the slope and the method of installation), but with the proper tools and work, your vinyl fence can be installed on a slope or hill. Below is a step by step guide for installing your vinyl fence.
1. Preparation Before Digging
There are always some basic requirements to take care of before you begin digging for your fence and even before you get the materials you need.
The first is to communicate with your neighbors. Let them know about your plans for the project and be sure they know your intentions for carrying it out. This will help put them at ease and possibly prevent any problems you might run into later with them.
The next thing to do is to make sure to talk with someone from your county or city offices, or maybe even a fencing contractor, about what you plan to do. This will guarantee that you are even allowed to build the fence, as regulations and guidelines may vary depending on where you live.
Once you know what regulations your area has on fences, make sure to look up and get the necessary permits for building your vinyl fence. Taking care of this step will make sure there are no legal problems with you and the city or your neighbors during your project and once it’s finished.
Now it’s time to begin mapping out where your fence will go. Using stakes, flags, and/or string will be the most effective way to do so. Once you’ve marked where you want your fence will be you’ll also get a good look at the difference in elevation in your yard. This will give you an idea of what to expect as you build and a general guess at what the fence will look like once completed.
2. Pick Your Type Of Fence
There are a few different types of vinyl fences to choose from before you fully commit to completing this project. There are three types you can choose from including private, picket, and shadowbox.
Private fences have no space whatsoever to see through and the panels act as a solid barrier to keep out unwanted eyes. These are commonly used in suburban neighborhoods and around swimming pools. They are generally 4 to 6 feet tall.
Picket fences do have spaces in between the main and vertical posts. They have a very aesthetic look, are good for containing children and pets, and are generally around 4 feet tall or less.
Shadowbox fences use an alternating pattern of panels across the front and back. They look like a privacy fence but have spaces in between the front and back panels. They are generally about 6 feet tall.
3. Dig The Holes
Once you know what type of fence you want to use and have all the proper materials and permits necessary, you’re ready to start digging!
Because you are digging on a slope, you will need to make your holes a little deeper in the ground for increased stability. For fences, typically 1/3 of the post goes in the ground, or even 1/2 if needed. Your holes should be about 10 inches in diameter. Source
You will have to check often throughout the installation process that your posts are straight as you put them in. If they are not, it will impact the integrity of your fence and won’t be that easy to fix, especially if they are being set in concrete.
Add a little bit of gravel to the bottom of your holes (between 1 to 2 inches) for extra stability and a level base. If you are adding a concrete mix to your holes once the posts are in, allow it to sit for about a day before you proceed with finishing the rest of the fence.
4. Installing The Fence
Sloping (otherwise known as racking or raking) is when a fence follows the shape of your yard and leaves no gaps in between the bottom rail and the ground. It gives the fence a more smooth appearance and overall it looks well put together. It’s the more popular option for installing a fence on a slope or hill.
This is the better option for gently sloped yards as well as for people who have children and/or pets.
Installing a fence using the sloping method will require a lot of time and cutting, because you will need to angle cut material off the posts, rails, and probably your fence boards/ panels as well.
5. Follow Requirements For A Sloped Fence
The degree of the slope will greatly impact your ability to build your vinyl fence, so it’s important to measure as best you can before you start building. This will help give you the information you need about how much of the fence you need to cut and at what angle.
A slope that is less than 10 degrees presents little problems. A slope that is between 10 and 15 degrees is where it starts to get more difficult. If your slope is greater than 15 degrees, talk to a fence contractor or consultant to see if they can provide you with a helpful solution; or just have them install it. A 35-degree slope is the suggested maximum slope for a sloped vinyl fence.
Typically you will not need to trim your rails if the angle is under 10 degrees. But if it is steeper than that, it would be best to plan on cutting them.
Gates on a vinyl fence can get a little tricky to install as they will not rake. Try and install them with the attached part on the higher side of the slope so that gate can hang from that side.
6. Installing A Stepped Fence
Just like it sounds, a stepped fence is when the sections of the fence step down every so often (typically after each panel) with an uneven rail that causes the outline of the fence to resemble stairs. The panels don’t follow parallel to the slope of the ground but stay perfectly horizontal. Because of the shape of this fence, it leaves a triangular-shaped open space between the bottom rail and the ground.
This type of fence installation is more labor-intensive and typically used for yards with steeper grades. It is not suggested for families who are trying to contain children or pets because the gaps under the fence will provide space for them to escape.
Either you will need to trim down the length of the posts as you install the fence (since they will be going down a little bit at a time as they go down the slope), or leave them as-is while you put them in and just cut them afterward.
7. Follow Requirements For A Stepped Fence
At the higher ground, keep the bottom rail as close to the ground as possible or even bury it a few inches in the ground. This will help keep the gap as small as possible between the fence and the ground. Depending on your preference, you can even choose to fill in the gaps with soil or put something against the fence (i.e. garden boxes) to make sure the gaps are blocked.
Similar to a sloped fence, consider talking to a fence contractor or consultant if your slope is greater than 15 degrees. For steeper slopes, you will have to space the posts closer to each other so you don’t have posts that are too long or spaces that are too wide underneath.
8. Cutting A Vinyl Fence
Know that many vinyl fence parts come pre-measured and pre-drilled so that’s why they’re easier to install on level ground. If you are planning to install a vinyl fence on the sloped ground then you will most likely need to cut it, so here’s how.
Be sure to first measure and mark where you want to cut before you actually cut anything. And keep in mind that vinyl fence posts usually go deeper into the ground than other fences. It would be much easier to cut your posts and rails before they are in the ground. Panels, however, aren’t too difficult to cut even once they’re attached to the posts.
Cut the vinyl with a circular saw, one with a sharp, fine-tooth blade (preferably made with carbide tips). If the blade you have is meant for cutting wood and is rather dull, it can shatter your vinyl. If your vinyl is cold it can also have a bad effect on the fence and saw if you try to cut it.
To prevent this, hold the vinyl steady, and be sure to keep your hands away from the blade of the saw. Take your time cutting it. And sand the cut edges once you’re done so they aren’t too sharp.
Putting up a vinyl fence on a slope is not meant to be a one-person project so please consider getting at least one other person to help you.