Build a Screen for Your Compost

A compost pile can be unsightly, but you can keep it hidden with this attractive screen made from cellular PVC lumber and vinyl lattice.

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    A compost pile screen made from AZEK cellular PVC lumber and vinyl lattice panels will remain attractive for decades. This screen is 18 feet long and 6 feet deep. You can adjust the dimensions to fit the scale of your garden and the size of your compost heap.

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    Dig Postholes

    After you decide on a location for your compost screen, dig 8-inch-diameter holes to accommodate treated 4x4 posts, which will support the facing boards. Make the holes at least 6 inches deeper than the frost line in your area. Check and follow local building codes for property line set back requirements and standards for setting fence posts.

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    Trim Posts to Size

    Unless the 4x4 posts that you purchase are the correct length, saw off one end to the correct size to hide your compost pile. Place the cut end of the post in the hole. In the project described here, the goal was to create a screen with a level top. Because the property slopes, each post was trimmed to a different length to maintain a level top on the screen. If you prefer, you can step down the height of the screen by the width of a board as the ground slopes.

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    Check Post Alignment

    Make certain that all posts align with one another. Run a string line from one end to the other, or butt posts against a board that runs the length of the screen. Also double-check that the posts rise to the desired height.

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    Anchor Posts with Concrete

    Making certain that each post is plumb in all directions, anchor posts with concrete. Check local building codes for specific requirements. In frost-free areas, tamped earth and gravel may be sufficient. Premixed bags of concrete, available from home improvement centers, make the job easier.

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    Backfill Postholes

    After the concrete has hardened for at least 24 hours, fill in the rest of the hole with soil. Firmly tamp the soil to remove air pockets.

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    Attach Boards to Posts

    Attach the cellular PVC boards to the 4x4 posts, working from the bottom up. In this project, the boards were placed directly against one another. However, if you prefer, you can leave a slight gap between boards to enhance airflow into the compost pile.

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    Drill Pilot Holes

    To make attaching the boards easier and to prevent splitting, drill pilot holes for the screws. Use galvanized or coated decking screws to hold boards in place. Nongalvanized hardware will rust if exposed to the elements or if it comes into contact with treated wood.

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    Cover Hardware

    For a finished look and to create space between the boards and lattice covering, add vertical 1x4 spacers where boards attach to the 4x4 posts. The vertical spacers cover the sunken screw heads. Measure to determine the correct length of board to use at each post.

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    Cut Spacer Board

    Use a circular saw to cut the 1x4 spacer boards to the correct length. Prior to cutting, mark the cutting line on the board with a square to ensure a straight cut.

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    Apply Adhesive

    To ensure tight bonding of the vertical spacer to the horizontal boards, apply AZEK adhesive to the back of the spacer. Clamp the spacer to the horizontal boards with a C-clamp until the adhesive dries.

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    Check for Plumb

    While clamping the spacer into place, and before the adhesive dries, use a level to make certain that the spacer is plumb. Loosen the C-clamps and adjust the angle of the board if necessary. An old towel or rag cushions the C-clamp and prevents marks on the spacer.

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    Attach Lattice

    Cut lattice to fit. Attach lattice panels to the vertical spacers. Use pilot holes and decking hardware, similar to the process used for attaching horizontal boards to the 4x4 posts. Vinyl lattice panels complement the cellular PVC nicely and have a similar life expectancy.

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    Plant Vines

    Plant vines at the base of the screen to clamber through the lattice and soften the effect. Here, red-stemmed Malabar spinach (Basella rubra) grows on the finished compost screen. This tropical hot-weather spinach substitute is ornamental as well as edible.

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