Build a Trellis and Privacy Screen

2 Materials
2 Hours

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!

Start small and work your way up!

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 by the pictures below, one of our 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:

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 early 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 unsightly to pretty...

.... once the trellis was in place and the vines took hold.

Hubs 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. In the winter, we swap it out for another screen that's fitted out with outdoor fabric in the centre instead so it completely blocks our view - and acts as a wind screen too!

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. This is the vision we had in mind:

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 too look at in the spring too.

The plan was drawn up in powerepoint (visit my link at Birdz of a Feather to see the plan). 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. Referring to the plan, it was just a matter of cutting all the pieces to size on a chop saw.

Working on the big Kahuna of all trellises

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).

Assembly of 'sticks' and ladders

Securing it to the fence

We could have gone two routes with a trellis this size - attach the whole thing to large posts, dig out for the posts and secure 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. Head to our blog to see the details on how we secured it (link at the end of this post).

Here's a picture of how our Silver Lace has evolved on the trellis 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 is supported by 'L' brackets.

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. There are so many uses for these trellises and screens and dozens of opportunities to switch them up.

There are a few more examples to see (and a drawing of the plan to build the large trellis) if you visit our blog (link at the end of this post). You'll also see the amazing transformation of our backyard on the blog if you search for 'How Does Your Garden Grow' - posted in March 2016). For more ideas on how to decorate a small garden while you're there, try searching 'mirror mirror' and 'creative planter ideas' in the search bar on our site :)

Here's a final before and after of the large scale trellis.

I hope we've given you a few ideas to inspire you to think about trellises and privacy screens as your next DIY project this Spring ... now go build one for yourself and let us know how you get on by leaving us a comment below!

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Crochet for a Cure

If you haven’t heard, we’ve just launched a pattern shop, where we’re donating 100% of our proceeds to Alzheimer’s. You’ll find patterns, like our Air Planter Pods and tooth fairy pillow (shown below), available to purchase as a donation to our Alzheimer’s fundraiser. Come  visit us to purchase a pattern; with 100% going to charity, it's a win-win!

Suggested materials:

  • Cedar   (Big box store)
  • Silverlace Vine   (Nursery)

Birdz of a Feather
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

Frequently asked questions

Have a question about this project?

  11 questions
  • Hb Hb on Mar 12, 2016
    May I ask what fabric you used for the front trellis for the winter and where it can be purchased please . Thanks so much for your time
    • Pat whitmus Pat whitmus on Mar 13, 2016
      When I am in Arizona I can find it easily in fabric stores etc. Up in Washington it can sometimes be found already as a roll down shade in Lowes, Home Depot etc. Or it can be ordered on line, altho I have yet to do that. Just look for Weather resistant privacy fabric...I think that will help on the net search.
    • Birdz of a Feather Birdz of a Feather on Mar 13, 2016
      Hi - I don't know what part of Canada you're from, but if you have a local Fabricland, you'll find it there. It's just an outdoor fabric - they had many different rolls of them when we were looking in late Spring, so give them a call to see when they'll have it in stock :)
  • Candy Candy on Mar 14, 2016
    The trellis you attach to the porch and swap out for fabric screen in winter: How is it attached? I would think doing this multiple times into the brick would ruin the brick? Do you have another method instead?
    • Birdz of a Feather Birdz of a Feather on Mar 14, 2016
      Hi Candy - we attached L-brackets into the brick permanently so there's no damage to the brick. The screen just sits on top of the L-brackets and then the screws are attached to the screen through the brackets (only the screws get removed and replaced when each one is swapped out). If you follow my link above, my blog has better pictures of the fasteners and will give you an idea of what the L-brackets look like for that particular screen.
  • Laura Laura on Jun 14, 2016
    I would love to do this in place of a fence. Anyone have ideas about how to secure it to the ground?
    • Jean Oden Jean Oden on Jul 09, 2016
      couldn't you use regular fence posts at intervals to attach the trellis to?
    • Birdz of a Feather Birdz of a Feather on Jul 10, 2016
      You could use fence post spikes like in the pictures I've attached if frost isn't a concern. If you're in a cold climate, you could also build it just like a traditional fence with cement footings and posts/wooden uprights spaced every 2 - 6 ft (depending on how wide you want your trellises) and then secure each trellis section to the posts.
  • Silvia Kaercher Silvia Kaercher on May 20, 2017
    What type of vines were used?
  • Dorene Valerio Dorene Valerio on May 20, 2017
    Did you need permission from your area to build something like this? Sometimes neighbors can be not so nice about putting it up because they think it would ruin their view. Just asking, cause I live in a complex and I don't think it would be allowed. 😊
    • Coloredflames1 Coloredflames1 on May 20, 2017
      All states & towns each have different rules, but in most areas, it would be allowed because it's not a permenant structure.
    • Birdz of a Feather Birdz of a Feather on May 20, 2017
      We're not in a complex - it's a stand alone house - so no permission is needed :)
    • Sue Sanders Sue Sanders on May 20, 2017
      It looks great and gives you the privacy that is needed. I noticed you have some type of legs on the bottom to insert in the ground..assuming it must be metal legs which is great idea to protect the wood structure. I would not like being under the watchful eyes of neighbors while trying to have time in my yard. Since I live on an acreage I have plenty of privacy but thinking of downsizing and this would be great to have the privacy in a smaller place.
    • Birdz of a Feather Birdz of a Feather on May 20, 2017
      The largest structure is actually supported by stone block which can't rot and gets completely hidden by both the ground cover and vines (plus it's mounted to the fence with metal brackets too). The smaller ones use only metal brackets to mount them either to brick or fencing. It's nice to have acreage; enjoy it while you can :)
    • Arlene S. King Arlene S. King on May 20, 2017
      I envy your artistic ability and your creative mind in the design of your screening and your garden. I've been thinking of doing something similar to one side of my fence as that neighbour won't share in the cost to replace our fence, and I'm not about to give him a free fence! He also lives in a two storey house and mine is a rancher. (HI from a fellow Canadian-from the mild West Coast)
    • Birdz of a Feather Birdz of a Feather on May 26, 2017
      Hi Arlene - I love hearing from fellow Canadians :) I can totally sympathize about the neighbour problem given that the reason we built the privacy screen for the front porch was to hide the view of our neighbour's garbage. Best of luck with your project!
  • Rick Boyd Rick Boyd on May 20, 2017
    Can I get one of these vines at my local home depot or lowes? also, are they hardy? I live in Central Florida and Im having a hard time trying to grow the one that i put in front of my satellite dish...
    thanks for your time!!! Good job by the way!!! Your yard looks GREAT!!!!
    • Birdz of a Feather Birdz of a Feather on May 21, 2017
      Thanks Rick - I haven't seen these in big box stores but I'm in Canada and you never know; the selection in the U.S. is always much better than here! I would think they are hardy as they survive our harsh winters, but again Florida is a much different climate and it's best to check your local nursery for advice in your particular growing zone :)
    • Janet Barry Janet Barry on May 25, 2017
      Rick we live in new port richey.everything including ivy.s grow really well for the trellis.s also go to any nursery they can help the best.good luck hon.
    • Rick Boyd Rick Boyd on May 25, 2017
      thank you janet! I'll try a local nursery.... sometimes it's hard to find good help at the big box stores!
      thanks again!

  • C Crow C Crow on May 21, 2017
    May I ask how you created the "0" on the X and 0 trellis? Couldn't find that info on your blog. Love all your trellises and your yardd!
  • Jamie Jamie on May 24, 2017
    Gm, I painted my bathroom floor of course with help from hardware store, ummmm I accidentally did it backwards with paint n primer lol but we basically just went back over it, question it really eats dirty fast , I didn't glaze it or anything any suggestions please. Jamie D Woodstock, n.y
  • BabyFe Cacdac BabyFe Cacdac on Feb 15, 2019

    Actually, the house that I am renting is sandwiched by two houses that have Chain Link Fences. Therefore, these fences are theirs. I get annoyed every weekend because they clean their rugs, carpets, vehicle carpets, towels, etc, etc, and hang them on the fences. Sometimes they forget to remove them and they stay there for days, even weeks. I want to put privacy fence on both sides or whatever I can put to save my sanity looking at their rugs every time.... but since this is not my house, I don't want to spend too much for it. What is your suggestion?

    • Susan Susan on May 19, 2020

      Get something like a bifold door that will stand on its own which you could put on your side of the chain link. If you can’t find one you could get cheap light weight doors from Habitat (when it reopens) and binge them together. Three would stand up well without falling over because you can zigzag them. 😀

    • Susan Susan on May 19, 2020

      Hinge not binge!! Darn this spellcheck!

    • Trudy Trudy on May 19, 2020

      Have you thought about bamboo fencing? It is reasonably inexpensive for a renter.

    • Gene Gene on May 21, 2020

      You could try asking them to take them down, but people who live like that probably just won’t “get it.” After thier rugs have dried and have obviously been there too long, take a broom handle and knock them back into thier yard. They will eventually get the message unless they are complete idiots.

    • Suellen Hintz Suellen Hintz on May 21, 2020

      Check the fencing laws. Where we live the fence side facing you is yours. Ownership of fences usually has a time factor. I have in the past fastened bamboo fencing to chain link to hide the backyard neighbors garage building/ storage area. Worked beautifully. This was in a house built in 1939...

    • Jeanne Martin Jeanne Martin on May 20, 2021

      I painted and stenciled some free pallets and used rebar pounded into the ground to stand them up with. I also rent but live on a very active blueberry & mushroom farm so my landlords (who I really do like!!) are around alot. When I sit on my patio it's not unusual for them to walk by (at a little distance) or sometimes people tour the farm. Anyways, I just wanted a bit more privacy on my patio and put two of these pallets up. Works great and can be easily removed. My landlords love them too!

  • Sono Arima Sono Arima on May 20, 2020

    Where is the Big Gold Star button that I need to hit 5 times?

  • Theres I one photo of an umbrella flanked by 2 trellises, what are the circles made from?


Join the conversation

3 of 168 comments
  • Sharon Harrison Sharon Harrison on May 20, 2021

    Your trellises look very nice but many of the pictures indicate a fence already in place. So it seems to me that the privacy was there but it didn't look as nice as the vines make it look. You did a great job!

    • Birdz of a Feather Birdz of a Feather on May 23, 2021

      Thanks Sharon! The fences are actually not built very well because the gaps between the boards are substantial. When viewed on an angle the fence doesn't really provide much privacy at all. The greenery on the largest trellis hides the view of our neighbours completely, so is just as functional as it is beautiful :).

  • Ellie Ellie on May 23, 2021

    You did such a fantastic job!!

    it absolutely beautiful!!

    Great job!! 🌻