Flowering vines on a trellis give the house a country-cottage image. If you purchase a ready-made plastic or painted trellis, it will take only a couple of hours to install. Making and painting lattice panels using premade lattice sheets will take about half a day. If you start from scratch and build your own lattice panels, you will probably need a whole day.
The front door is a focal point, so take time to decide on the type of lattice that will look best. If the door is formal, smooth, well-painted wood that runs vertically and horizontally is often the best choice. Or plan to make a geometric pattern that mimics some aspect of the exterior. For an informal look, consider selecting rough-sawn wood and possibly running the lattice boards diagonally.
Choose the climbing plant at the same time you plan the design. A bushy plant with thick branches, such as a rose bush, needs wide-spaced lattice. More delicate plants that shoot out tendrils almost overnight, such as clematis, are easy to maintain if the lattice pieces are close together.
Decide on the finish, as well. White paint provides a classic look. The frame, if any, can be painted the color of the house siding, and the trellis can be painted the color of the house trim. If you are using redwood or another good-looking rot-resistant wood, consider staining it and then coating it with a water-repelling sealer. If you like the look of redwood that has turned gray with age, coat it only with clear water-repelling sealer. Once the trellis is covered with plants, it will be difficult to paint or treat, so do a thorough job.
If the panels are not already the correct length, cut them -- they probably will look best if they are as high as the top of the trim molding over the door. The lattice need not extend all the way to the ground. Put the cut end at the bottom so the top of the panel looks finished.
Unless you are attaching a plastic lattice panel to vinyl or aluminum siding, do not attach the panel directly to the house. Water will collect and sit wherever the lattice is tight to the house, possibly causing both the lattice and the siding to rot. Instead, use spacers to hold the lattice away from the house by 1/2 inch or so wherever a nail or screw is driven.
Make spacers by cutting pieces of copper or plastic pipe with a hacksaw. Or use four zinc washers for each spacer. Install by drilling pilot holes and driving screws through the lattice and the spacers and into the house. If you have a masonry wall, drill holes with a masonry bit, tap in plastic anchors, and drive in screws.
Set the sheet on several long pieces of lumber, mark with a chalk line, and cut with a circular saw. Cut pieces of 1x2 to form a frame that is 2-3 inches shorter than the lattice in both directions. Set the 1x2s on a flat surface, lay the lattice on top, and fasten the lattice to the 1x2s with 1-1/4-inch decking screws. Attach the reinforced panels to the wall with spacers and screws.
Buy 1x2s or have a lumberyard make 1x1s. Cut the verticals and lay them on a flat surface. Use a tape measure to mark the outside pieces for evenly spaced horizontal strips. Cut the horizontals, set them in place, and attach by drilling a pilot hole and driving a 1-1/4-inch decking screw at each joint. Attach to the house with spacers.