How To Build Wood Lattice Screens

A Simple Way to Hide Eyesores in the Yard

Image: Lattice screens can be attractive as well as functional.
Lattice screens can be attractive as well as functional. David Beaulieu

Lattice screens can hide many an imperfection in your yard. You may have an unsightly HVAC unit lying on the ground next to your home, where you would rather have plants. Or perhaps you would like to fence in a garbage storage area or the underpinnings of a wooden deck, so that they are not so visible. Latticework serves well for these and other screening needs. Climbing vines can later be trained up this fencing to further hide the eyesore in question.

To be sure, you could buy a pre-made vinyl unit at a home improvement center to achieve the same goal, but that will cost you. Why not save money and build a wood lattice screen for yourself? Here's how:

Build a Lattice Screen in 13 Easy Steps

  1. If the wood lattice screen is to be freestanding, install posts to support the lattice. In turn, the posts will be sunk into the ground and supported by concrete (learn how to mix up a batch properly here). In this project I'm referring to wooden posts and a wood lattice (not vinyl). If the lattice fencing is 4 feet x 8 feet, you'll need to space the 2 post-holes about 8 feet apart. Err on the side of spacing them a bit closer (you can always trim excess lattice).
  2. Dig the 2 post-holes. In cold climates you must dig 3 feet down, so that you'll get below the frost line. This will prevent heaving during freeze-and-thaw cycles. Even in warmer climates, consider digging to this depth to provide tall posts (7 feet or more) with more stability.
  1. Apply 2 inches of crushed stone to the bottoms of the post-holes for improved drainage.
  2. Here comes the tough part. You'll be setting 8-foot-long 4x4 pressure-treated posts into the post-holes now. However, the success of your project hinges on getting them properly aligned and plumbed, and on getting their tops to end up level with each other.
  1. Begin by setting them in the holes and bracing them temporarily. Temporary braces (using scrap lumber) can be nailed to the posts to hold them up. Adjust the braces so as to get the posts roughly plumb. Place the wood lattice up against the posts.
  2. If you're on level ground, use the top of the lattice fence now as a guide to determine how high you want your posts to be (but if you're working on a slope, see Tip #1 below). For instance, if you're using decorative post caps, you may wish to have the posts extend 1 foot above the lattice. Mark the places to cut with a pencil, then disassemble your temporary work, make the cuts, and reassemble.
  3. Now that you've taken care of the height of the posts, turn your attention to alignment. Again adjust the braces so as to get the posts roughly plumb, and place the lattice fence temporarily up against the posts again, to see how well the posts line up with each other.
  4. Since wood lattice is flexible, alignment does not have to be exact, but get it as close as possible by adjusting the placement of the posts in their holes. If you measured carefully before digging the post-holes, the adjustment should be minimal.
  5. Satisfied with the way the posts align with one another, you can now tackle the chore of getting each post exactly plumb, all the way around, using a carpenter's level. When you've achieved this, tighten the braces, so as to hold the posts of the lattice fencing firmly in position.
  1. You're finally ready for the concrete. When shopping for concrete, ask your home improvement store salesperson for the type that you just pour into the hole, dry, then soak with water.
  2. Such "quick-setting" concrete doesn't have to be mixed before pouring, saving you the effort of first mixing concrete, then shoveling that heavy mix into the holes. With quick-setting concrete, you just empty the contents of the bag into the hole, then soak the concrete using a garden hose. For 3-foot-deep post-holes you'll need about five bags per hole. Let the concrete cure overnight. End of Day 1.
  3. Don't worry: Day 2 will be much easier. Prop the pressure-treated wood lattice up against the posts. Mark where you want to screw the lattice fencing to the posts. Still propping the wood lattice up in place, pre-drill through these marks, right into the posts. Now screw the lattice fence onto the posts, using the holes that you pre-drilled. Trim any excess lattice hanging over the ends with a jigsaw.
  1. Affix decorative post caps (if any) according to manufacturer's directions.

You can now plant any vine plants that you wish to train up the wood lattice screen. Flowering vines, in particular, will dress up your lattice fence considerably. Prepare your planting bed in front of the lattice screen, at its base.

Tips That May Come in Handy for This DIY Project

  1. If you are working on a slope, it'll be more trouble to determine post heights. Brace the posts temporarily. Run a string with a string level from the top of the downhill post to the top of the uphill post, securing temporarily with tape. Then start bringing the uphill end down, checking to see at what point you reach level. At that point mark the uphill post, disassemble bracing, and make the cut.
  2. Do not install your lattice screen right smack up against an HVAC unit. Make sure there's plenty of "breathing room." This spacing will also ensure easy access should repair work need to be done on the HVAC unit.
  3. You have some options with pressure-treated wood, in terms of a finish. The maintenance-free option is to let it weather to a natural finish. If "natural" is not your thing, you could stain it or paint it. You may find it easier to do the initial staining or painting prior to installation. Of course, when it comes time to re-stain or re-paint, you won't have this option.

Supplies That You Will Need

  1. Tape measure
  2. Carpenter's level
  3. String level
  4. Post-hole digger or shovel
  5. Circular saw, jigsaw
  6. Drill, screws
  7. Hammer, nails
  8. Quick-setting concrete
  9. Two 4x4 treated posts
  10. 4x8 treated wood lattice

What Tutorials Do You Have for Bigger Screening Projects?

Sometimes, the screening needs of homeowners go beyond just covering up an eyesore in the yard. Do you want to increase the overall privacy of your landscape by screening out the prying eyes of passersby? Then a living privacy fence may be just the thing to satisfy your needs.