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How To Build Wood Lattice Screens

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Wood Lattice Screens, wood lattice fences

Wood lattice screen or lattice "fence."

David Beaulieu
Lattice screens hide many an imperfection in yards. You may have an unsightly HVAC unit lying on the ground next to your home, where you'd rather have plants. Or perhaps you'd like to fence in a garbage storage area or the underpinnings of a deck, so that they're not so visible. Wood lattice screens work well for these and other screening needs. Vines can later be trained up the wood lattice fencing to provide further screening.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 2 days

Here's How:

  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. In this project I'm referring to wooden posts and a wood lattice (not vinyl). If the lattice fencing is 4' x 8', you'll need to space the 2 postholes about 8' apart. Err on the side of spacing them a bit closer (you can always trim excess lattice).
  2. Dig the 2 postholes. In cold climates you must dig 3' 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' or more) with more stability.
  3. Apply 2" of crushed stone to the bottoms of the postholes for improved drainage for your lattice fence.
  4. Here comes the tough part! You'll be setting 8' long 4x4 pressure-treated posts into the postholes 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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' above the lattice. Mark the places to cut with a pencil, then disassemble your temporary work, make the cuts, and reassemble.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 postholes, the adjustment should be minimal.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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'-deep postholes you'll need about 5 bags per hole. Let the concrete cure overnight. End of Day 1.
  12. 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 fenc onto the posts, using the holes that you pre-drilled. Trim any excess lattice hanging over the ends with a jigsaw.
  13. Affix decorative post caps (if any) according to manufacturer's directions.
  14. You can now plant any vine plants that you wish to train up the wood lattice screen. Flowering vines, particular, will dress up your lattice fence considerably. Just create your flower bed in front of the lattice screen, at its base.

Tips:

  1. If you're 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 cut.
  2. 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.
  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" isn't 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.

What You Need

  • tape measure
  • carpenter's level
  • string level
  • posthole digger or shovel
  • circular saw, jigsaw
  • drill, screws
  • hammer, nails
  • quick-setting concrete
  • two 4x4 treated posts
  • 4x8 treated wood lattice
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