How To Build Wood Lattice Screens

Simple Way to Hide Eyesores, Gain Privacy

Lattice screen with medallion and vines growing over it.
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. Or perhaps you would like to fence in a garbage storage area or the underpinnings of a wood deck so that they are not so visible. Latticework does a great job of hiding such structures, and it can also increase privacy by screening out the prying eyes of passersby.

You could buy a prefabricated vinyl unit at a home improvement center to achieve the same goal, but that would cost more. Save money by undertaking this easy DIY project. Climbing vines can later be trained up this fencing to further hide the eyesore in question or gain added privacy. Vines that flower will add the most beauty to your yard. Prepare your planting bed in front of the lattice screen, at its base.

Don't 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.

Supplies to Build a Lattice Screen

  • Tape measure
  • Two stakes
  • Carpenter's level
  • String level
  • Post-hole digger or shovel
  • Circular saw, jigsaw
  • Drill, screws
  • Hammer, nails
  • Quick-setting concrete
  • Garden hose
  • Scrap lumber
  • Decorative post caps, medallion (optional)
  • Two 4 x 4 pressure-treated posts, 8 feet long
  • 4 x 8 pressure-treated wood lattice
  • 1 inch x 8 inch x 8 foot pressure-treated board

When shopping for concrete, ask for the type you just pour into the hole in a dry state, then soak with water. This is the easiest kind to work with: You don't have to mix the concrete before pouring it.

Measuring and Digging for the Posts

Since the latticework 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 to get the lattice edges flush with the outer edges of the posts.

Err on the side of spacing them a bit closer (you can always trim excess lattice). Measure out this 7-foot-8-inch span on the ground, marking each of the two end points by driving a stake into the ground.

Dig the two post-holes. In cold climates you must dig 3 feet down to 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 more stability. Apply 2 inches of crushed stone to the bottoms of the post-holes for improved drainage.

Erecting the Posts and Ensuring Correct Height

Set the 8-foot-long 4 x 4 pressure-treated posts into the post-holes. The success of your project hinges on getting them properly aligned and plumbed, as well as on getting their tops to end up level with each other.

This initial placement of the posts into their holes is not meant to be permanent. Rather, the idea at this point is to make sure everything lines up properly. Nail temporary braces (using scrap lumber) 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; if you're on level ground, use the top of the lattice as a guide to determine how high you want your posts to be.

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 on your posts, and reassemble.

But if you are working on a slope, it'll be more trouble to determine post heights. While the posts are braced, 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. Start bringing the uphill end down, checking to see at what point you reach level. At that point, mark the uphill post, disassemble the bracing, and make the cut.

Aligning the Posts

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.

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.

Ensure each post is 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 firmly in position.

Setting the Posts Permanently and Attaching the Lattice

Open up the bags of the quick-setting concrete and shovel the concrete into the holes. Soak the concrete using a garden hose. For 3-foot-deep post-holes you'll need about five bags of concrete per hole. Let the concrete cure overnight. 

Next day, prop the lattice up against the posts, with the bottom of the lattice touching the ground. Mark where you want to screw the lattice to the posts. Still propping the wood lattice up in place, pre-drill through these marks, right into the posts. Screw the lattice onto the posts, using the holes that you pre-drilled.

Putting on the Finishing Touches

Trim any excess lattice hanging over the ends with a jigsaw. Affix decorative post caps and/or medallion (if any) according to manufacturer's directions. Pre-drill and screw the 1 inch x 8 inch x 8 foot board across the top of the structure (flat against the sides of the posts, right over the lattice) to give it more stability and a more finished appearance.

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 paint it, stain it, or seal it as you would for a deck.