What Is the Difference Between Raked and Stepped Fence?

What Is the Difference Between Raked and Stepped Fence?

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There are plenty of challenges you might face when you start thinking about installing a fence, and one of them is the gradient of your site and fence line.

If you have steep slopes anywhere on your fence line, your fence will have to be adjusted to suit, and that usually means raking or stepping your fence. What is the difference between raked and stepped fences? Let’s take a closer look.

What Kinds of Fences Are Raked or Stepped?

The first thing you need to know about raking and stepping fences to accommodate sloped fence lines is that this usually applies to panel fences.

Mesh fences like chain link fence or barbed or smooth wire fences only don’t usually need to be raked or stepped because the mesh itself can adjust to the slope. However, you do still need to add tension posts at the top and bottom of steep slopes when you’re installing mesh fences, so that you can angle the mesh or wire appropriately.

So, there are still some changes required, and that will affect the price and installation time of the fence.

What Is Raked Fencing?

Raked fencing is fencing where some or all of the fence panels are angled to follow the gradient of a slope, as pictured below.

raked panels

How Do You Rake Fence Panels?

When it comes to how to rake fence panels, a lot depends on the type of fencing you are installing.

Some fence systems, like bolted or riveted palisade fence panels, are designed to be angled to follow slopes, so this type of fence simply needs to be adjusted to suit the slope before the bolts are tightened or the rivets installed.

Other fence systems, like ornamental fence panels that are designed to be raked by bending an internal tab to the right angle, are raked on site, carefully angling the panel until the desired slope for each panel is achieved.

Finally, if fence companies manufacture their own fence panels, like some companies in some parts of the world do, they might first survey the fence lines and then manufacture panels to match the slopes on the site.

Each of these methods has its pros and cons. For instance, there’s a little more work to attach individual bolted or riveted palisade pales on site, while fence panels that have to be bent to be raked might not be usable anywhere else if you get this wrong.

The Pros and Cons of Raked Fence Panels

The next thing you need to know about the difference between raked and stepped fence systems, and raked fence systems in particular, is the pros and cons of this type of panel fence installation.

First, the benefits of installing a sloped fence by raking:

  • There is less chance of large gaps under your fence, so it’s better for maintaining security
  • As long as your fence installer knows how to follow a slope, you should have a nice, even line along the top of your fence
  • You won’t need too many additional posts if you choose to use this method

Then, there are the drawbacks to this kind of sloped fence installation:

  • Depending on how you rake your fence panels, there might be more labor involved to install a fence this way
  • If your raked fence panels have tabs that have to be bent to rake the panel, you might only be able to do this once – so you can’t make any mistakes!

Which Types of Panel Fences Can Be Raked?

Finally, when you’re considering how to deal with slopes on your site, you need to remember that only some panel fence types can be installed this way.

These fence systems include:

  • Palisade fences
  • Ornamental and bar fences (some)
  • Wood fence
  • Vinyl fence
  • Composite fence

You cannot install any welded mesh panel fence systems using the raking method.

What Is Stair Stepped Fencing?

Next up, we need to look at what stair-stepped fencing is. As you can see from the picture below, stair-stepped fencing, or just stepped fencing, is a fence where the top and bottom of panels are dropped down incrementally along the course of a sloped fence line.

stair stepped panels

How Do You Step Fence Panels?

In order to step fence panels successfully, you need to know what the gradient of the slope is, and plan how much you plan to step each panel, and if you plan to put your posts closer together, how close together they will be.

You might have more than one slope on your site that is a different gradient, so often, it’s best to divide your site plan by fence line and plan one fence line at a time.

Once you know what your step will be and how much closer your fence posts will be, you can start setting out your fence as you normally would.

Sometimes, you might need to have longer fence posts to accommodate the fence panel at the top of the slope as well as the next stepped panel.

If your steps are significant, you might even need to extend the length of some of the other fence posts on your stepped fence line.

If you are installing your fence posts closer together to limit the size of the openings under the fence, you will probably need to cut your panels to fit on-site. In that case, make sure you treat every cut according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to prevent premature corrosion.

You will also need to allow for extra concrete, brackets, and fittings if your stair-stepped fence lines will have posts closer together.

The Pros and Cons of Stair Stepped Panels

Like every fence and every fence installation choice, there are pros and cons to stair-stepped fence panels or stepped fence panels as they are also known.

On the plus side, this type of installation can be used on any type of panel fence, including welded mesh panel fences.

As for the negative effects of stepping your panel fence, these include:

  • Potential for larger openings under fences, which is a security risk and may require additional panels, buried mesh or some other kind of mitigation measure
  • If you are stepping your fence and installing fence posts closer, you will need more concrete, and there will be more labor to install extra posts and to cut and modify your panels
  • You will need extra materials for this type of fence installation, including longer posts, extra fittings, and possibly more panels; if your offcuts aren’t usable panels

In general, stepped or stair-stepped panel fence systems are more difficult and usually more expensive than raked options. But there are some fence types – like welded mesh – that can only be installed on slopes this way.

So, if you have a sloped site and fence line, be sure to consider that when you’re choosing a fence product.

Can You Step and Rake Fences on Slopes?

The next question you might have is whether you can step and rake fences on slopes.

As strange as it sounds, this is possible. In fact, some fence companies will step the top of a fence to follow a gradient neatly and then rake the bottom of the same panel to follow the ground. This does require a high level of precision and usually taller panels that you can modify in this way, so if this is what you want for your fence,  be sure to discuss it with your fence installer before they give you a quote!

You could also choose to rake panels on some areas of your site, where the slopes are gentler and it’s possible, and then to stair-step fence panels on other areas.

Can You Rake or Step A DIY Panel Fence?

As you can see from this article, raking and stair-stepping fence panels is a fairly complex process. There’s a fair amount of planning and geometry that goes into it too. So, while it is possible that experienced and handy DIYers could handle this kind of fence install, if you’re not skilled and experienced and don’t have all the necessary tools, it might be something that’s best left to the professionals.

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