How to Build a Step Method Wooden Fence


A wooden fence can be aesthetically pleasing and serve as a barrier for privacy from neighbors and animals. The step method is used to build a fence on hilly terrain. It involves sections of fence that are stepped up or down the hill. It’s called the step method due to the fact that when it is finished, it somewhat resembles steps.

Things You'll Need

  • Stakes
  • Measuring tape
  • Stick
  • Fence posts
  • String
  • Post hole digger
  • Gravel
  • Level
  • Concrete or dirt
  • Weather sealant
  • Fence sections
  • Screws or nails
  • Screwdriver or hammer
  • Chicken wire, mesh or rocks (if desired)

Building a Step Method Wooden Fence

  • Select a location for the fence. Mark off the area with stakes, starting at the corners and then spacing them so each fence section fits between them.

  • Determine the grade of your hill. There are a couple of methods for this. One is to measure the height difference from the fence post at the top of the hill to the fence post at the bottom of the hill and divide by the number of sections. This is the distance each section will be raised as you work your way up the hill. The second is to measure the grade between each fence post by placing a stick where each fence post will go and tying a string between the two. Measure the distance from the ground to the string on the lower stick and that is your pitch. The pitch is the distance that the next section needs to be lowered as you work your way down the hill.

  • Soak the fence posts in weather sealant if treated boards aren’t being used. Let them soak overnight.

  • Dig the fence post holes with the post hole digger deep enough so that about one-third of the post is underground. This will vary slightly depending on the grade. If the pitch is 4 inches, then the downhill post will have 4 inches less underground than the post on the other side of the fence section. Put 2 to 3 shovels of gravel at the bottom of the hole. Insert the post and pack with concrete or dirt. Use a level to ensure the post is straight and then brace the post to keep it in place. Pile a small mound of dirt around the base of the post to prevent puddling. Let these set for four to five days.

  • Attach each fence section to the posts using the hardware provided. Cut the sections to make them smaller if the grade is severe and you want to minimize the gaps between the ground and the fence post. If not using pre-built sections, then build your fence section based on the fence type that you chose.

  • Attach chicken wire or other mesh, or place rocks to fill the gaps between the fence and the ground, if desired.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure you know where your property line starts and ends before installing a fence.
  • Call your local government to make sure there aren’t any required permits and to learn the local codes, if applicable.
  • To ensure the gaps under the fence are not too large, you can do a trial run with string tied between sticks.
  • The post will be more secure if you make the post hole wider at the bottom than at the top.
  • The bottom rail should be at least 2 inches off the ground to help prevent moisture issues and to make trimming the grass easier.

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