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Stepping a Fence to a Terraced Landscape
 
     

Scaling and Descaling Heights within a Single Joined Fence Panel

When a site grade experiences sloping rises and even holidays, a perimeter fence has few options but to react and follow suit. Bobbing and weaving like a roller coaster to all the given undulations of your lot. When that lot has been terraced to make practical use of a hillside, the adjoining fence can employ any of several solutions:
1) Step as square panels from one elevation to another, with a vertical disparity from one terraced height to another equal to the terracing itself.
2) Stepping each panel to equal dimensions of the terraced height and repeating that same configuration with each terraced level. Unless for some idiotic reason your landscape contractor or architect has decided the terraces should not be uniform. In which case we must address each terrace as a distinctive entity.
3) Stepping within each individual panel as a series of uniform elevation changes that mimic the terrace itself. This is an aesthetic result that more closely approaches poetry than carpentry.

 
 
 

 

Typical Stepped Panel, dropping from 70" net height to 62".

How far each step drops is entirely optional.

1438-Holmes
 

1438-Holmes
 

The three common solutions listed above to fenceing a terraced hillside.

Note that on Option #2 we show how the equal steps are determined with the use of a string-line. Once the string-line is set, each of the intervening panels simply sets to that line with the result of equal steps. No calculator. No math. Just a string-line.

Click here for the printable PDF of the below sketch

1438-Holmes
 

Gate style #5-8, flanked by a pair of narrow panels and a pair of stepped panels to create an entry folyer.
1998-Morrel
Gate style #5-8

 

An older project from the 90's in Marin County, CA illustrating a single terraced drop with two standard panels abutting for a rather dramatic transition. Nothing wrong with this, but for a more pleasing arrangement we might have stepped the upper panel down, and the lower panel up.
1998-Morrel
Fence Style #1

A repeating radius step.
0735-Schiff
Fence Style #29

 

In Boise, Idaho accomplishing the same result. We move from the front fenceline along the sidewalk with the standard 36"-42" height restrictions, to the 72" height allowed at what is normally 15' back from the sidewalk. A common scenario. And here we've come up with a variation that in itself is a focal detail.
0731-Grantham
Fence Style #15

 
A look at what existed on a preliminary site visit. A solution, or lack of, seen a thousand times on a thousand sites.

Working off a hillside landscape leveled with the all-too-common California deck. But even decks are often stepped, and the resulting panels.
1139-Russell
Fence Style #38

A more elaborate example of stepping your fenceline with each stepped panel as part of a continuous laminated raduis.
0218-Marx
Fence Style #1-5

 

 
Shown on site in Boulder, CO, stepping from the house on the far left to follow the radius of the driveway as it reaches it's final height of 26" along the front.

None of the above examples of terraced landscapes, by clarification, are to be confused with a normal stepped fenceline adhering to the continuously sloped grade. In the below illustrations, all the panels are of equal height and stepping at equal denominations.
Fence Style #1-5 (Boulder, CO)

Fence #1-9 (Sonoma County, CA)
Graduating down the slope on the left to the final featured height with the gate access. Again, each panel along the slope is the same height and stepped at equal distances.
Fence #1-15 (Sonoma County, CA)

A steeper slope to the grade below, with a subsequent step per panel of 11".

Stepped fenceline's such as these are often accompanied by the dilemna of how to accomodate the tapered void at the bottom of each panel, clearly seen below.
1) It can be ignored if within the 4" range
2) It can be feathered by hand so the grade is built up at the lower end of the each step.
3) Or in the more dramatic slopes, the bottom horizontal rail of the fence panel is sloped to the same angle as the grade, thus creating a parallel line with the grade and the bottom of the panel.

More Information and examples of the various applications to sloping grades should be viewed at Regarding Sloped Grades

 





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