Daylight savings time is only a few days away. With Spring on the horizon, I find myself thinking about outdoor projects! When you live in a suburban neighbourhood, where the houses are packed in like sardines, it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of privacy.
If you build a trellis this spring, you could have a lush green look – and more privacy – by summer!
When we decided to landscape our front and back yards we searched high and low for perfectly sized privacy screens and trellises – to no avail. The solution? Build our own!
Like I always advise when doing something you’ve never attempted, start small first! Get all your frustration – I mean trial and error of course – out on something that’s manageable in terms of time, effort, money and scale. THEN, you can reach for the sky and go BIG!
The original trellis that came with the house was skimpy and undersized.
The new trellis is taller and wider; our clematis is much happier to have space to spread!
Doing it yourself has many advantages: you can design whatever your heart desires, build it to the size you want, in the wood you want and pick your own finishes!
For our projects, we went with straight up cedar for its beauty and durability in the great outdoors. We had several areas we felt could use a screen or trellis.
As you can see below, our first trellis projects was by the little pond near our front door. When we finished building our new trellis, this is what the entry to our house looked like when the clematis was just starting to grow:
The clematis took it it’s new support system right away and has flourished ever since! We still have to ‘train’ it in the spring once it starts to sprout up, but other than that, it’s on its own. Here’s what it looks like in late spring:
And here it is when the clematis is in full bloom in the summer:
Another problem area was right by our front door; we had a less than pleasant view of our neighbour’s garbage bins – ugh.
That view went from this…
To this once the trellis was in place:
This is how it looks when the vines start to take hold in early summer:
My husband built a planter box that we placed on the porch in back of the trellis so the vines can grow through the lattice and also be viewed from the street (to see more creative planter ideas, click this link).
Before long, the trellis is covered.
In the winter, we store our ‘summer’ trellis in the garage on hooks…..
… so we can swap it out for another screen that’s fitted out with outdoor fabric in the centre so it completely blocks our view – and acts as a wind screen too!
We used L-brackets to support the screen by our front door; we purchased galvanized metal and then spray painted it a dark grey to protect it even more from the elements (metal will eventually rust and have to be replaced, but painting it will slow down the damage from the harsh elements of the weather!). Here’s a better look at the L-bracket supporting the screen at the bottom:
Once we got our feet wet with a few smaller projects, we were ready for the big time – the big Kahuna of all trellises.
After we finished landscaping our backyard, we wanted a HUGE trellis on which to grow vines that would provide us with a sense of privacy and coziness in the back. As you can see from this overview of the lot, we back on to many yards and privacy is at a premium!
Our requirements? The trellis had to be extremely large to give us privacy and be able to support a fast-growing vine.
Our trellis was built to about 10 feet wide and 8 feet long and perfectly supports and frames our Silver Lace Vine. Not only does it look gorgeous when the vines are fully grown in the summer (when you can’t even see the trellis), but it gives us something interesting to look at in the spring too.
How did we plan and build something like this, you may be wondering? You might be surprised to learn that the design was drawn in powerpoint:
I started off by turning on the ruler view. Since I knew I wanted an approximate 10 foot by 8 foot size, I decided that every 1” on the ruler was going to be equal to a foot. I drew dotted lines at one inch intervals – both vertically and horizontally – for my ‘graph paper’ grid.
I used to love playing with TinkerToys when I was a kid, so playing with a bunch of ‘sticks’ – albeit in powerpoint – was right up my alley.
I created long rectangular shapes and first put a ‘frame’ in place for the perimeter of the trellis. From there, I continued to draw rectangular shapes, duplicate them where needed and put them into place.
You might find it easier to sketch something out on paper first, but I just went for it right in powerpoint. I played around with cleaning up some of the lines. For instance, where the four crosses sit in the squares, I sent the crosses to the back to so each cross looked like it was cut to fit into the corners.
Once we had our plan, we developed a cutting plan and we went shopping for cedar. We bought thicker planks and ripped them all down the width of the ‘sticks’ so we could start cutting to size and building.
Since the screen was so big and we needed a flat surface to arrange and build on, we put a sheet of plastic down in the garage so we could build away from the elements.
We kept the construction simple. We used a pin nailer with dabs of PL construction adhesive (which we had on-hand) to secure everything together. For the X’s, we mitred the ends so they would fit nicely into the square shapes and then glued and pinned them in on all sides. You’ll need to decide which pieces you want to lay ‘in front’ and which pieces can fall to the back because it’s just a matter of deciding how you want it to look. By laying it all out on the floor first you can finalize the order of how you want to put it all together. Some sections we built like ladders, and longer pieces ended up bridging the width of the whole screen to make it more secure. My best advice would be to continue to learn through trial and error (building on what you learned on your smaller practice piece).
Securing it to the fence
We could have gone two routes with a trellis this size – attach the whole thing to large posts by digging out holes and securing it in the ground with concrete (like a fence post) or have it ‘floating’ on the fence and propped up on top of a few rectangular stones. We went with the latter choice.
We placed the three large stones in the garden bed. Then we attached some u-shaped struts to the back of the trellis in several places. The struts we used were deep enough that we could easily get a screw into the middle of the bracket and permanently fasten it to the fence.
We attached it this manner so we could remove it at some point in the future if we ever wanted to. Now that the garden below the trellis is all grown in with various ground cover, you can’t even see the stone it’s sitting on. And you don’t notice the brackets either – especially when the vines have matured in the summer.
Here are some pictures of how our Silver Lace has evolved over time. It makes a fantastic lush green privacy screen.
Our next project was building a privacy screen for my husband so he wouldn’t be staring into our neighbour’s yard between the gaps in the fence every time he barbecued. We used the same principles to build the privacy screen as we did for the winter screen by our front door, except we used bamboo instead of fabric on the majority of it. We built our frame, then staple gunned a roll of bamboo onto the middle section of the frame and used fabric in the top section. This particular screen slips in between the fence and the retaining wall and is supported by ‘L’ brackets at the top of the fence.
Because the BBQ screen is smaller than the trellis (and our Canadian winters can be brutal!), we remove it every winter and store it on hooks on a wall in our garage. It keeps the fabric, bamboo and wood from aging faster than they normally would outside.
Another fabric screen we built was one for my mother-in-law to cover up the fencing around her deck. As you can see in the shot below, the fence is quite open. She has a corner lot and the screen provides a barrier from the traffic and passersby:
We built it years ago and I always forget to take an ‘after’ shot; one day I’ll remember! In this particular instance, we used magnets to secure the screen to the structure; it’s easy for my MIL to remove since there’s no screws to deal with!
I hope I’ve given you a few ideas to inspire you to think about trellises and privacy screens as your next DIY project … now go build one for yourself and let me know how you get on by leaving me a comment!
If you’re interested in more garden ideas and inspiration, check out some of our other posts:
- Build a zen water feature
- Build a rock garden
- Build a dry creek bed
- Train clematis on a trellis
- Landscape a backyard into an oasis
- Add curb appeal with a front pond
- Build trellises and privacy screens
- Make a soda bottle vertical garden
- Creative planter ideas for the garden; and
- DIY mirror and shelf to expand a small outdoor space.
And don’t forget to spring forward for daylight saving time on Sunday, March 13th!
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At Birdz of a Feather, we’re feathering the nest… one room at a time. Follow our blog here (link in the footer) or on Bloglovin’ (link below) to see other DIY projects, in and around the home.
UPDATE Jan 2017: There’s now a new blog under the Birdz of a Feather family: Birdz of a Feather ~ Craft Rehab where you’ll find creative and sustainable craft ideas. Be sure to check it out and follow us there too!