Installing a Fence on a Sloped Site

Bob talks with a fencing expert about installing a white-cedar fence in sloped areas at the Melrose house.

Clip Summary

Bob talks with Jay Triandafilou from Architectural Fence Plus about the fencing installed on the side and backyard of the home in Melrose. The fencing was built using white cedar, a strong and long-lasting wood. The fence posts were installed using a concrete mix, which can promote rot if done incorrectly. Triandafilou explains that the base of the posts were placed into a 36- inch hole. Six inches of dirt were put into the hole and concrete was then added. This method does not create a total seal and allows water to pass through the dirt, between the wood and the concrete. The concrete provides stiffness and stability for the fence posts. The post should not be totally encased in the concrete. The fence on the side of the home has three stalls, which will provide space for a shed, a planting area, and a place to keep trash. In the backyard, there was an existing chain-link fence that needed to be taken down. The land was rocky, which made digging the 36-inch holes for the fence posts difficult. When placing fence posts, a good rule is one third of the post should be placed below ground and two thirds above. Triandafilou explains that the area where the fence was installed is a sloped site, which posed some challenges. Triandafilou and his team made the fence sections off site, but in some cases the board sections were created on site to accomodate the slope. A finished cap was added to the top of the fence to keep out rain. The top of the fence was cut to allow this cap to be installed. Triandafilou explains the "clean side" of the fence (the face without the horizontal rails ) was put in place facing the neighbors. In the back of the house, the clean side was installed facing the home.

Hi, I'm Bob Vila. Welcome to the show. We're remodeling a little 85 year old house here, and we've been working in the basement, creating a family room today.

We're putting in a half bathroom with a very unusual toilet and a laundry room in that area. On the outside of the house, we're building a white cedar fence that incorporates some very unusual storage features. And we're cutting down a door to install in the new basement entry. Stick around, it's good to have you with us.
Alright, the major landscape improvement that we're doing to the side and the back of the house involves fencing, and Jay Tarantifino is with us from Architectural Fence.
This is all white heater they use, right?

Yes, sir.

So, why is that the best choice for this kind of fencing?

It's a wood that's a northern species, it's local and it's impervious to rot.

Yeah, it's long lasting.

It's long lasting, yes.

Yeah. And now one thing that I want to ask is, I've always thought that mixing concrete in a hole and putting it in a hole surrounding a wood post of any sort is a bad idea. Doesn't it promote rot?

It does, if it's done improperly. There is a correct way of doing it. What we do is, we set a post to approximately a 36 inch depth. We'll through approximately 6 inches of material dirt back on the hole.

Of dirt.

And then we'll add the concrete. That way it doesn't create a total seal. It allows the water to pass through the wood, between the wood and the concrete.

And the concrete is there for stiffness.

Stiffness, stability and it remains the elevation of the post.

So the key, is not to totally encase that post in concrete.


Because if you That you would be trapping moisture in the wood.

Yes, sir.

And that accelerates the rotting process?


I gotcha.
All right. Well, what are we creating right here? This almost looks like shower stalls at the beach club here.

Yeah, it is in a sense.
Yeah, basically Sarah came to us and...

Our homeowner.

Yeah, homeowner. She's said that very tight sight and she wished could have a shed, a planting area and a trash bin. So I says oh, we can give that to you. We have a spot on the side and this is basically what this creates.

So essentially, you got the fence going along the property line and you're putting up these little wing walls.

These are wing walls, yeah.

They're wing fences, and we'll have an enclosure for trash.

Let's talk about what you've already done though, because when you got here you had to deal with kind of a rough site. What's the first thing you had to work on?

When we came here, first Bob, we had, there was an existing chain link fence that was up in the back line with some heavy growth. So we had to come in, cut the growth and also remove the chain-link fence.

What about the digging on the site? Is it very rocky?

Isn't there some ledge around here?

There's quite a bit of rock here, as a matter of fact. We've struck quite a bit of rock in the holes as we're digging. Loose material and also some solid material.

These posts have to be dug to a 36-inch depth, so we find it quite frequently. That's why the cement also helps.

Is the depth because of the frost heaves that we encounter in cold climates?

It's for the frost as well as stability of the fence. A six foot high fence needs a certain amount in the ground.

It's generally, two-thirds of the height must be set in the ground.

Two-thirds above and one-third below?


Gotcha. OK, and what about the actual panels?

These were made back in your shop and then you install them on-site?

Yes sir.

You've got a sloped site. How do you deal with that?

Well that's an interesting question. We have to do what they call racking receptions , which basically takes a section that's built square Yeah.

And actually slopes the boards to make up for the difference in the elevation and the height of the ground.

And you can do that even though you've got double nailing on all of these boards and so forth?

Yeah, they go to a certain extent. Sometimes they reach a point where they won't rack any further, and in that case we have to build the panels on site.


Which you've seen here.

What about the caps?

The caps.
The fence caps on the top of the fence is a finish piece as well as it helps with the rain . Basically we have to sometimes, when you get into a position where the board's on a extremely racked situation your boards stagger.


So you have to cut the top of the boards in order for this cap to fit over, because there is only about a half inch that fits on the top of the board.

Now putting up fencing on a slope side has got to be the hardest job.

Yeah, it's not easy.

Yeah. Alright, so most fencing has a Well they're both nice size but one side is clear like this and other side has the rails exposed and so how do you choose which side faces in what direction?

That's up to the home owner.

There's really, unless there's some town ordinances that specify who gets which side basically this is what we call the good side.

The beauty side.

The beauty side.

And then the back side of course has the three horizontal rails.

And what have you done here?

We've done it both ways here Bob, as a matter of fact.

The rear fence actually, we turned the good side in to the homeowner.


And then the side line, we turn the rails inside the homeowner.

So, we've given the beauty side to the neighbor.


And the neighbor's very close to the fence.

Yes, it's a beautiful fence.