Should A Fence Be Level Or Follow The Ground?

Installing a fence on a slope can lead to a lot of questions if you've never done it before. One of the most common inquiries is whether or not the fence should follow the slope or be level. We researched information from multiple experts, so you'll know for sure how it's done.

The fence should be level so that the top of the fence is level. This can mean that you'll need to fill in gaps with earth or rock so that the bottom of the fence doesn't have large gaps between it and the ground. If you're installing a fence on a slope, you can try the stair-stepping method of fence installation.

Now that we know that the fence should be level, we'll closely examine why. You might also be wondering how far off the ground a wood fence should be or what the fence-stepping method is. For the answers to these questions and more, read ahead in this post to see what our research has uncovered.

A wooden fence with a lattice pattern on top, Should A Fence Be Level Or Follow The Ground?

Why Your Fence Should Be Level

Picture in your mind what a fence looks like at the top. It uniformly stretches across a yard or lawn, right? That's because the top of the fence has been leveled.

If the fence isn't level at the top, the pickets will be noticeably uneven. This is why the fence should be leveled from post to post. Otherwise, the fence may look unsightly after it has been installed.

There are a couple of important things to consider before you install your fence, however. They will require some work on your end, but when all is said and done, your yard will look better for it.

Consider leveling the land first

Depending on the lay of your property, you might need to consider leveling the area where the fence will be installed. This can be a time-consuming project. How much effort it will take depends on the area the fence will cover and how uneven the ground is. 

If you level the ground before the fence is installed, it will prevent large gaps from appearing between the fence's bottom and the ground. The most important thing is that the fence's top is level, making it appear uniform. But you will not want sizable gaps at the bottom, either.

You may need to fill in some gaps from the ground

After the fence has been installed, you might notice some gapping between the fence's bottom and the ground. If that's the case, it will be important for you to level the ground with rock or dirt. This process can take a bit of time, but it will make your new fence look even better when it's finished.

How Far From The Ground Should You Build A Fence?

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Placing a wooden column to the wall for a fence support

You might not have considered it before, but certain fencing materials need to have a minimum gap between them and the ground. When it comes to chain-link fence, this doesn't matter, but wood fences are another story.

If you are installing a wood fence, you need to make sure that the fence is at least two inches from the ground. Two inches isn't that much room, but not leaving this critical gap can lead to a big problems.

The gap allows for drainage

When it rains, the water that isn't immediately absorbed into the ground has to run somewhere. As you're probably aware, water will run to the lowest point. And if your fence is in the way, the water will flow right under it.

But if the fence touches the ground, it blocks the water from flowing. The mud and small bits of rock can quickly accumulate and seal off small gaps, leaving your yard filled with giant puddles. 

A two-inch gap protects the wood from rot

The wood slats you installed should be treated so that they have a good amount of protection. But treated wood isn't impervious to the elements. Maintaining the minimum gap for the fence will still be critical in getting the most useful life out of your fence.

Less damage from vermin

You might not have thought of it before, but there are a few types of bugs out there that can damage your wood fence. Having just a two-inch gap between the fence bottom and the ground helps considerably when it comes to staving off vermin attacks on your fence.

Termites and certain species of ants can be especially rough on wood fences. But if you allow for some space (and use treated wood), you can ward off these dangers.

Inspection and maintenance 

From time to time, it's important that you inspect the fence for damage. This isn't just limited to harm from invasive insects or running water. Wood is strong but will not last forever. 

Check the fence for signs of dry rot, mildew, and other red flags. While it's true that paint and treatments can keep these at bay, you will still have boards that will need to be replaced from time to time.

Make it a habit to walk the inside and outside of your fence line once a year. Replace what needs to be replaced and fix what needs to be fixed so that the problems don't worsen.

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A tall wooden fence with a support on top for strong wind conditions

Fence Installation Methods

Fence stepping is the process of installing fence panels to look like stair steps. This way of installing a fence is one of two ways to install a fence on a slope. It is most commonly used when you are installing pre-built fence panels.

Fence stepping will require you to measure and level the fence from the top of the posts, not the ground. 

The second method that is used on a slope is called the parallel method. This type of installation has the fence follow the slope so that the top of the fence increases or decreases at an even rate along with the slope. This cannot be accomplished with pre-built fence panels.

A tall orange wooden fence on the backyard

How Do I Keep My Posts From Leaning?

If your fence post is leaning, it can create a lot of issues for large sections of the fence. Over time, the pressure from the leaning posts will work on the other posts and lead to more work for you. It's important to take action as soon as you notice that your fence post is askew.

A fence post will lean because it has become loose in the ground. You will need to detach it from the fencing to fix it. The post hole may need to be dug again so that the fence post can be firmly set in place. 

By re-anchoring the post, you will make it able to take the pressure from the fence panel.

A tall wooden fence with concrete post and wall footing

Should Fence Posts Wiggle?

It's a great idea to periodically test the fence posts to see if they are still solidly in the ground. If you notice that any one of them has some give to them, know that this is a problem. A fence post should not wiggle.

Over time, a fence post can lose a bit of its grip in the post hole. Erosion, pressure from the fencing, and other factors will loosen the fence post from its home. It's your job to identify that it's happened and how to fix it.

Fence posts will wiggle before they begin to lean. If you have a loose fence post, you will probably need to have it re-anchored in the post hole. This will solve the problem and keep it from getting any worse.

In Conclusion

A wooden fence with a lattice pattern on top

A good fence installation will have the fence be level at the top and not follow the ground. A fence that is installed on a slope might require you to level the ground or fill in the gaps with rock or dirt.

Ff the slope is significant, you'll find that fence-stepping or the parallel method is a great way to install a fence that flows with the hill in your yard.

We hope we were able to answer all of your questions. For more helpful information, we recommend reading the following posts:

How To Fill The Gap At The Bottom Of A Fence [Inc. Vinyl, Wood, And More]?

Will Gel Stain Eventually Dry? [What To Do When It Remains Tacky Or Sticky]

Shadow Box Fence Vs. Board On Board: Pros, Cons, And Differences

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