How to Build a Privacy Screen for Your Deck

Turn your yard into a tranquil retreat with a DIY privacy lattice screen.

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Any good backyard design includes plans for privacy, and the easiest privacy structure to build is a lattice screen. Lattice blocks the view but is open enough to keep you from feeling closed in. You can grow vines on it and it fits into almost every landscape. You can construct a lattice screen as a deck railing or as a fence in the yard.

As a deck railing, attach posts to the deck either with through posts at the corners and taller rail posts in between, or tall rail posts throughout. You'll need to dig postholes and set posts for a detached lattice fence. Just make sure the fence line is square to the landscape feature of your choice. If its function is to provide privacy to the deck, it should be square to the deck, no matter how far away it is.

Lattice is prone to warping, so buy the thicker 3/4-inch stock and support sections 6 feet long and longer with vertical battens fastened at half the width of the bay (the space between posts). Lattice frames look better in smaller 4- to 6-foot bays.

Expect to spend about 3 hours installing each 6-foot bay. Before you begin, lay out and set footings for a fence. Also make sure you're comfortable with the needed skills for this project: measuring, cutting, fastening, and digging.

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What You Need

  • Tape measure
  • Framing square
  • Speed square
  • Cordless drill
  • Circular saw
  • 4-foot level
  • Concrete tools for fence
  • Posts
  • Lattice
  • Nailers
  • Fasteners
  • Concrete and forms for fence footings

Step 1: Measure and Fasten

Square the bottom of the posts and fasten them to the rim joist or header, making sure they are secure and plumb. Measure the width of the bay at the bottom (it might be different from the top) and toenail the bottom rail in place between the posts. Make sure it's level. Install the remaining bottom rails. On bays 6 feet and wider, fasten 4x4 braces to the rim joist to support the bottom rail and keep it from sagging. Measure the length of the top rail, scarf-cutting it so joints are centered on the posts. Fasten the top rail to the top of the posts and a cap rail to the top rail.

Step 2: Mark and Nail

Mark the posts 5/8 inch from each edge at the top and bottom inside the bays and snap a chalk line between each set of marks. Also mark the top and bottom rails on the insides at the same points and snap chalk lines. Finish-nail 1x stops with their outside edges on the lines on one side of the posts and rails. These stops will leave a 5/8-inch reveal on both sides when a 3/4-inch lattice panel is installed.

Step 3: Install Lattice

Brush sealer on the edges of the lattice and paint or stain the panels before you hang them. Cut the panels to fit the bays and set them against the nailers. Hold the lattice in place and install 1x stops with finish nails. Do not drive fasteners into the lattice—only into the posts and rails.

How to Dress up the Railing

A few details will make your lattice installation look snappier. Use 3/4-inch quarter round for the stops instead of square stock. For a smaller reveal use 5/4 stock for the stops; it will leave a 3/8-inch reveal on a 4x4 with 3/4-inch-thick lattice. No matter what you use, miter-cut the stop corners and put construction adhesive on the miters before you nail them. Add a 2x6 cap rail and post cap. Or install the top rail between the posts (the same as the bottom rail) and a little below the tops, then top the posts with post caps.

Other Privacy Option: Louvered Screen

Louvered screens offer the same benefits as lattice screens, but they fit better in some landscape styles. Louvers partially block the view and let in cooling breezes. They are an effective design element where strong vertical lines are needed; they are an excellent contrast to the predominately horizontal lines of a deck. This holds true whether you fasten the louvered frame to the deck or set a louvered fence in the yard.

The privacy created by a louvered design, however, is somewhat limited; the perpendicular view is completely blocked, but the angular view is not. If a viewer is moving the fence is less effective at blocking the view.

If you build a frame of 4x4 posts and 2x4 rails, the corners of 1x6 louvers angled at 45 degrees will extend slightly past the edges of the rails. If you don't like the appearance, you can place the louvers at a greater angle or rip-cut them to 4-7/8 inches.

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