How to Build a Wood Lattice Screen for Privacy

Lattice screen with medallion and vines growing over it
David Beaulieu

Lattice screens can hide many imperfections in your yard. You may have an unsightly HVAC unit sitting on the ground next to your foundation. Or perhaps you would like to fence in a garbage storage area or the block the underside of a wood deck. Latticework does a great job of hiding such structures, and it can also increase privacy on a patio or deck.

This easy DIY project made of wood lattice will be much more attractive than fabricated vinyl latticework, and you can tailor the size to meet any need. Climbing vines can later be trained on the latticework to further hide the eyesore in question or gain added privacy. A planting bed or some low shrubs at the base of the screen completes the picture. 

If using this screen to block an air conditioning unit, make sure to set it back far enough to provide plenty of ventilation and to ensure easy access if repair work is needed.

Tools and Supplies You Will Need

  • Tape measure
  • Post-hole digger
  • Carpenter's level
  • String level
  • Circular saw
  • Power miter saw (optional)
  • 4 bar clamps
  • Framing square
  • Hammer
  • Garden hose
  • Jigsaw
  • Screw gun
  • Wooden stakes
  • Crushed stone or gravel
  • Scrap lumber
  • (2) 4 x 4 pressure-treated posts, 8 feet long
  • 4 x 8-foot panel of pressure-treated lattice
  • 1 x 8-inch x 8-foot pressure-treated board
  • Quick-setting concrete mix
  • 2-inch, 1-inch corrosion-resistant deck screws
  • Galvanized nails
  • 2 decorative post caps (optional)
  • Decorative medallion (optional)


This project shows how to make a simple lattice screen from a 4 x 8 panel of lattice, installed horizontally so the screen is 4 feet and 8 feet long. It is also possible to alter these dimensions by cutting the panel down to a smaller size. In some instances, you might even install the screen vertically, so that it is 8 feet tall and only 4 feet wide. These changes, though, will require different post lengths and spacing.

Measure and Dig the Post Holes

Since the lattice panel is 4 feet tall x 8 feet wide, you'll need to space the two post-holes about 7 feet 8 inches apart, on center, so that the edges of the panel will be flush with the outside edges of the posts. (It's best to err on the side of spacing the posts slightly too close, since it will be easy to trim the lattice flush with the edges of the posts.) Measure out this 7-foot 8-inch span on the ground, marking the two endpoints by driving stakes into the ground.

Dig the post holes using a post-hole digger. These tools come in several types, but the easiest to use is an auger-type that removes soil by rotating the handles to bore the cutting head down into the soil. An older-style clam-shell digger will also work, but it can be difficult to remove soil as the hole gets deeper. The post foundation holes should be at least 2 feet deep, but in cold climates, it is better to dig them at least 3 feet deep, since this will minimize heaving caused by freeze-thaw cycles. In any climate, the deeper you can dig the post holes, the most stable your screen will be.

Prepare the Posts

Apply 2 inches of crushed stone to the bottom of each post holes for drainage. Set the posts into the holes and adjust them so they are roughly plumb, and so the front faces are aligned with one another. Nail temporary braces made from scrap lumber to hold the posts upright.

Next, clamp the lattice panel against the posts, making adjustments so that the panel is level across the top and so that the edges of the panel are flush to the outside edges of the posts. Adjust the braces to ensure the posts are plumb.

Now, mark the tops of the posts for cutting. If you will be installing decorative post caps, you'll likely want the posts to extend somewhat above the ends of the lattice panel—the distance is up to you, but it can be as much as 1 foot. Using a carpenter's square, mark cutting lines on the posts at the desired height. Extend the cutting lines around all four faces of the posts.

Now, disassemble the temporary construction and cut the posts off at the marked lines. This can be done with a circular saw, but you will need to cut from both sides, since most circular saws do not have sufficient blade depth to cut through a 4 x 4 post. A better tool is a power miter saw, since it can make the cut in one motion.

Variation for Slopes

If your lattice screen is installed on sloped ground, be aware that the posts will need to be cut at different heights so that the screen remains level. This means that there will be a gap on the downhill side between the bottom of the lattice and the ground.

A good way to mark the posts is with a line level. With the lattice panel temporarily clamped in place, make the cutting line on the uphill post, then extend a line level across to the downhlll post. Adjust the line level so the bubble shows level, then mark the downhill post at this point. When you cut the posts, the downhill post will be longer, but this will ensure that the lattice panel is level when installed.

Position the Posts

Reposition the posts in the foundation holes, then realign them so they are plumb and set at the proper distance. You may want to clamp the lattice panel in place once more to ensure the spacing is correct. Carefully brace the posts against the ground once you've assured they are in the proper position.

Double-check one more time to make sure each post is plumb in both planes—left-to-right and forward-to-back. Secure the braces once more to ensure the posts are held firmly.

Pour the Footings

Quick-setting concrete can be mixed with water in a mortar box, but most people simply pour the dry mix into the footing holes, then soak from above with a garden hose. For 3-foot-deep post-holes you'll need about five bags of concrete per hole to fill it all the way to the top. After pouring the dry concrete, check again to make sure the posts are plumb.

Soak the footing gradually to let water penetrate down through the entire footing. Shape the wet concrete at the top of the footing so that it angles slightly downward from the wooden post to the ground.

Let the concrete cure overnight with the braces still in place.

Attach the Lattice

After the concrete has set for 12 to 24 hours, position the lattice panel against the face of the posts at the desired height, and clamp it in place. Check to make sure the panel is level, then drill pilot holes and attach the panel to the posts, using 2-inch corrosion-proof decking screws (ordinary screws are easily corroded by the chemicals in pressure-treated lumber). Space the screws about 1 foot apart, making sure to anchor it near the top and bottom.

Finish the Screen

Trim any excess lattice hanging over the edges of the posts using a jigsaw. Affix decorative post caps to the tops of the posts, according to the manufacturer's directions. This is most easily done with a pair of galvanized finish nails driven down through the top of the cap and into the end of the post.

Finish the top of the lattice with a 1 x 8 board attached over the top edge of the lattice from post to post, hiding the top edge of the lattice Drill pilot holes and attach the trim board to the posts and to the lattice with corrosion-resistant screws. Use 2-inch screws to attach the trim board at the ends, and 1-inch screws to attach the board to the lattice along the top edge.

  • Note: if you wish, you can also box in the outside edges of the post with small trim boards to hide the ends of the lattice panel.

Pressure-treated lumber will naturally weather to attractive gray color over time, or you can stain and seal it as you do would a wooden deck. Most experts recommend allowing pressure-treated lumber to age and dry out for several months before staining it. If you wish, you can also decorate the front of the latticework with a medallion or other ornamental items.