There is no easy, carefully measured, mathematically accurate way to make a fence look good on uneven terrain (which is what most of us have). The point is to trust your eye and make adjustments.

You have two main choices:

Straight stop

For a straight fence, you set up the corner posts, stretch a line, and set the height of the remaining posts a fixed distance above that line.

  • Advantage: The fence looks good.
  • Disadvantage: there may be large gaps and irregularities under it.

Ground Fence

For the fence to follow the ground, each post is set to a fixed height above the ground.

  • Advantage: there is a constant. An even gap at the bottom of the fence.
  • Drawback: The following small bumps and potholes can make your fence look uneven, which you may not like.

Best Solution: Compromise

Beautiful fencing is usually a compromise between driving straight ahead and following the terrain. It follows a smooth curve or has only a few slope changes.

This can be achieved by adjusting the height of the intermediate posts where there is a change in slope.

Insert a nail into these posts at the bottom height of the stringer and wrap it around your string so you can use it as a guide. You can mitigate sudden slope changes by adjusting the height of the pair of posts on either side of the slope break. Remember that as long as the posts are just set in the packed ground, you can adjust them so that the fence line is correct.

You can cut or fill soil for small hills and holes, cut some of the fence boards to size, or use a few longer boards.

If you have difficult slopes, it will be easier to install a guardrail that will allow you to trim the top of the posts after they are installed.

Gate construction

The trick to building a gate is to fasten it to the ground using only two nails for each plank.

Assemble the gate on the ground using only one nail at each end of the board to keep the gate flexible.

You can then insert it into the opening, turn it so that the stringers match up on both sides, and then finish nailing it. Then lay a 2×4 cross-section across the stringers for the diagonal brace, trace the ends, and cut it to size.

Rotate the bolt to line up with the stringers on both sides. Then finish nailing the boards and add a 2×4 diagonal brace.

Bend the diagonal brace back in place with your fingernail, making sure it is pointing from the side of the latch down to the side of the hinge. and not vice versa. (This is the cause of many sagging gates.) Cut off the serrated top of the gate, then install the hardware.

Finishing touches

If left to natural weather, cedar will turn grey. At the same time, this is acceptable to many people and does not greatly affect the durability of the wood; for this project, the fence was treated with a clear, water-repellent sealant to maintain its golden brown color.

A clear finish brings out the warm tones of cedar but needs to be reapplied every few years. Without it, the cedar weathers to light silver.

Any sealant designed for cedar decking will work. Be careful; however, you will need to reapply every few years to keep it looking fresh. It costs $2 afoot to complete the fence.

After your fence has been built for a year, it’s a good idea to seal the concrete base and post to keep water out.

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