Just because your lawn has an incline doesn't mean you can't have the outdoor spaces that you've always wanted. The slope does create some extra preparation and steps, and depending on your skill level, might be too big of a job to do without professional help.
But if you’re up for a challenge and want to know how to install a vinyl fence on a slope, we've put all of our years of practice into this blog so you can feel prepared for your DIY project.
Before we get into the details of how to do the install, we'll mention a few things that can go wrong when installing a fence on an incline.
One of the most common problems people face is the changing height. When you're working with a level surface, it's much easier to take measurements and know that your fence will be level. With an incline, the measurements have to be constantly checked and rechecked to make sure you’ll end up with a level fence.
If the slope you're installing the fence on is particularly steep, water can pool at the bottom and cause serious damage over time. The spots where the posts are set will also be more susceptible to erosion if they're not taken care of properly.
When you install a fence on a slope, you have to cut the panels or pickets yourself, because a pre-made kit won't account for the changes in height. This can be a difficult and time-consuming process, especially if you're not used to working with power tools.
Full disclosure: for this tricky job, we do suggest getting the help of a fence installation professional. They'll have all the right tools and know-how to get the job done right. But if you feel comfortable doing it on your own, we have some steps for you to follow to install a beautiful fence.
When you're building on a slope that moves from left to right or vice versa, there are a couple of different design options: stair-stepped, or racked (or sloped).
Stair-Stepped: The stair-step fence style looks how it sounds. Each panel is the same height and width, but it is placed a few inches below the one before it to account for the slope. Each panel is level, instead of angled at the slope of the ground.
With this style, you will have some gaps at the bottom of your fence, but it's the simplest and most cost-effective.
Racked (Sloped): If you’d rather your fence match the curvature of your yard, you can do a racked style fence. This means that each picket follows the slope of the ground and is set at an angle. This is a more complex and time-consuming style of fencing, but it does eliminate large gaps underneath the fence.
The second step is to lay out all of your materials so you know what you have to work with. This is also a good time to make any adjustments or cuts that need to be made before you begin the install.
For the stair-step method, you'll need to cut the posts to different heights, depending on how curved your yard is. The pickets should be cut to the same height and do not require mitering.
For the racked method, you’ll need to elongate the routing on each post using a sawzall, jigsaw, or hand saw. If the rack is very steep, you may need to cut each picket at an angle or install larger pickets.
Also, keep in mind that there are many different vinyl post types: blank posts, line posts, end posts, corner posts, and even three-way posts. The post you use matters because they each have different pre-cut holes to attach the rails.
Next, it's time to set the posts in concrete. This is a crucial step, because if the posts aren't set deep enough or in the right mixture, they won't be able to support the weight of the fence.
Dig: First, you'll need to dig a hole that's about 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide for each post. Make sure that the holes are straight by using a level when you're digging.
Mix Concrete: Once the holes are dug, you can mix the concrete and pour it in. It's important to use quick-dry concrete so that you can move on to the next step quickly, but don’t let it dry before you have set your posts.
Set Posts: While the concrete is drying, put your posts in place and make sure they're level with each other. Use a post leveler or a plumb line to check that they're straight and not leaning to the left or right.
Now it's time to attach the panels or pickets to your posts. If you're doing a stair-step installation, this is a relatively easy process. You can simply level each panel and nail or screw the panels into place. With vinyl pickets, you can insert your bottom rail into the posts and insert each picket one at a time.
For the racked style, you’ll also need to insert each picket one at a time. Then, use a power drill to make pilot holes for each picket. Finally, screw the pickets into place. For vinyl, connect the bottom rail into the posts. Then insert each picket into the rail.
The final step is to add trim. This will give your fence a polished look and make sure that the pickets or panels are secure.
You may not need a trim for a wood fence, but vinyl fences have top and bottom rails to keep each panel attached to the posts. Your bottom rail should already be attached, so now you can add the top rail to each panel of vinyl pickets.
Installing a fence on a level surface is a big job, let alone doing it on a slope. If you decide to try and install one yourself, hats off to you! But if it feels like that project might be a little out of reach, let us know at Best Vinyl Fence and Deck and we'll be there to help. We have experience installing all types of fences, including stair-stepped, racked, and more on both level and sloped surfaces. We have the expertise you need to get the job done right for a fence that will last!