Thursday, April 29, 2010

Installing a Fence on a Slope - Option 1: Rackable Panels

A common question that homeowners and do it yourselfers have when planning a fence is "How do I install my fence on a slope". We talk briefly about this in our DIY Fence 101 Guide, but the number of inquiries that we receive on this subject means that we need to explore it a little deeper.

Rackable Pre-Assembled Fence Panels

Fencing a sloped yard can be one of the most challenging fence projects that a Do It Yourselfer, or a professional installer for that matter, can undertake. Luckily, many pre-fabricated fence panels, like ornamental aluminum, steel, and vinyl are designed to be Rackable, which makes the task much easier.

What is a rackable fence panel?

A rackable fence panel is a panel that can adjust to follow the slope of your yard. Whereas standard fence panels have a profile that is rectangular, with rails that run perpedicular to the pickets and posts, a rackable panel's profile looks more like a diamond.
The drawing below illustrates the difference between a standard ornamental fence panel and a panel that has been racked.  When installed on  a slope, the rails will still run parallel to the ground, but the pickets will no longer be perpendicular to the rails.


There is a limit to how far a rackable panel can adjust; which depends on the material, grade, manufacturer, and style.  For example, rackable ornamental aluminum and steel fence panels will typically rack between 20 and 30 degrees for residential grade
Signet Fence sells rackable, pre-fabricated vinyl and aluminum fencing online.  Below are the links to the product pages in our online store, as well as the amount of rack that you can expect from each fence type.
Rackable White Vinyl Privacy Fence - racks up to 7 inches per 8 foot section.  Can be installed on a slope of about 7 degrees.  Vinyl Panels can also be cut to enable further racking.
Rackable Residential Aluminum Fence - rack up to 20 inches per 6 foot section.  Can be installed on a slope of up to about 28 degrees.
Rackable Commercial Aluminum Fence - rack up to 8 inches per 8 foot section.  They can follow a slope of about 8 degrees.
Whatever fence material you choose, it should be a system that is pre-assembled from components as opposed to one that is cast or welded. Solid, one piece fence panels have no moving parts and cannot adjust to the angle of your hill without stairstepping, which we will cover in the next post.

Consult the fence manufacturer's documentation to see if a particular system racks enough to fit your needs before purchasing.


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