An outdoor privacy screen is sometimes all it takes to keep the peace. You know the proverb: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence! Well, our house in the burbs has a wooden fence that surrounds it. It’s great that it defines the boundaries, but it’s not so great for privacy. As you can see by the picture below, we have a distracting view of our neighbour’s pool in the back yard. No grass – just a cool, refreshing, inviting pool that we don’t have access to 🙂 As if the sightline isn’t bad enough, noise transference is an issue too.
This post is about a project for the garden that we started years ago but just never got around to finishing. When our neighbours plunked down a sofa right up against the fence, it was finally time to take some DIY action and finish what we started. We needed to block that view forever by putting up a solid screen (which would not only improve the look of that corner, but hopefully also help with sound).
Outdoor Privacy Screen Materials
We started with cedar boards similar to this one; leftovers from a friend plus a few from our local big box store.
Hubs measured out the width of the area we wanted to cover on the fence. Then he ran 12 pieces of 1x6x6 cedar through a table saw to cut off the rounded edges so he had flat edges to work with.
He glued the boards together using carpenter’s glue made for outdoor use (it’s brown in colour), and clamped them until dry to form this panel.
Because we dry stacked the structure, our little rock garden has suffered erosion over the years and both the soil level and supporting rocks have settled. Hubs loves the time worn look, but I’m on the fence (pun always intended)! Perhaps one day we’ll get around to rebuilding it. For now we were determined to get on with our band-aid fix.
Outdoor Privacy Screen Installation
In order to make the panel level at the top of the fence and close the gap, that meant adding a shim on the retainer wall. Since the fence panels were uneven, hubs had to also add some shims on the vertical boards also to make it plumb.
Now it was time to drill holes to secure the panel. Hubs used screws and cup washers for mounting to give it a finished look:
He held the panel up against the fence and took some measurements, which he then marked on the panel.
Then he predrilled all the holes at once…
… and started to attach the screws and cup washers.
A Tool for Every Fumble Finger!
By the way, if any of those screws happen to loosen and fall, a great thing to have on hand is this magnetic pickup tool.
It helps with fumble finger syndrome. Here’s Hubs “demonstrating” for you how to reclaim a lost screw in a hard to reach place!
Hubs moved the panel into place. As he was doing that, I noticed that our pom pom topiary needs a haircut! It went onto our ever expanding list of things to do in the garden.
Hubs secured the screws while I snapped away with the camera.
When I stepped back to look at the ‘big picture’, I noticed two more things. The first was that it looked pretty plain.
Of course, I also couldn’t help but notice that hubs had cut the shim too short! So he cut a piece to fill the gap and installed that too. No big deal, the plant material will eventually cover it anyway 🙂
Metal Fence Decor
With that addressed, I headed to the garage to see if there was anything we could use to spiff up our big, blank panel. This is where being a combination pack-rat and upcycler (aka garbage picker) comes in handy. I spied this metal leaf structure that was languishing away in our garage for almost as long as the panel.
I pulled it out and brought it into the backyard to have a good look at it:
It was going to be just what the boring board needed! We secured it on using the same screws (without washers) so we could lift it off and store it in the winter.
As you can see, the dark metal is a nice contrast against the cedar panel for now. However once the wood greys with time, we may eventually paint the metal – we’ll see.
Even with the decorative metal piece in place, it still looked underwhelming. We had to turn our attention to adding some plant material in the rock garden to hide the wood structure holding in the soil.
Foliage to FIll In
We purchased four Sedum ‘Autumn Charm’ from the garden centre. It’s a slow grower but will eventually add enough height and width to mask the areas we don’t want to see. It also turns a gorgeous flame colour in the fall so will be beautiful to look at well into the colder weather.
I used a long shovel to mark the position of each plant.
Then Hubs took over since he’s more nimble and svelte than me. He got up close and personal with a hand spade and crawled right into the corner to plant the sedum. All I had to do was unpot each one and hand them over!
Looks better already, don’t you think?
He built up some of the soil too as he went.
The key to a successfully balanced rock garden (or any garden for that matter) is to have thrillers, fillers and spillers.
With these sedum acting as fillers, I think we’re finally getting there.
We had a very late start to our spring season this year, but I can’t tell you how nice it was to see something actually in bloom!
Soon after our screen went up, those blooms died off, but then our ‘Johson’s Blue’ Geranium graced us with the same purple colour (I love purple)!
Privacy Fence Decor
We were understandably in a rush to get the screen up, so I didn’t further emblish the screen. My original intent was to fill in some of the blank space at the top by painting on It (like the photoshop example below). It would add some interest while we waited for the ginkgo tree to spread in late Spring.
However, we added a hanging planter instead and it filled in the space nicely. The wave petunias finished off the corner with a pop of white and after a few weeks, our solid fence screen is looking like it fits right in! As you can see below, our pom pom topiary got its haircut too 🙂
Here’s a reminder of how it looked before the screen; not too nice seeing only a tease of the pool – especially when you don’t own one yourself!
The after looks so much prettier – even on a cloudy day!
All-in-all, I’d have to say that our backyard fence decor went ‘swimmingly’! No more peek-a-boo pool. Here’s a last look at a side-by-side comparison.
Pin Outdoor Privacy Screen
Don’t forget to pin our outdoor privacy screen!
If you haven’t already subscribed, you can follow us right here. You can also follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
I’ll leave you with a few more inspirational garden pictures. You can also check out these 10 outside the box planter ideas.
You can find links to some of them below (or browse our garden category here):
- Build a zen water feature
- Add curb appeal with a front pond
- Reshape a pom pom topiary
- Build a rock garden
- Build a dry creek bed
- Train clematis on a trellis
- Landscape a backyard into an oasis
- Build trellises and privacy screens; and
- Creative planter ideas for the garden
Last week, I left you with this teaser of our most recent upcycle find; it’s nearing completion and will eventually find its way into the garden too. At the moment hubs and I are debating whether to put it in the front or back (I’m partial to the front by the water feature). Stay tuned to see who wins this friendly DIY tug of war.
Sara, you come up with the best solutions to your various challenges. This is a great fix, for sound and privacy but also as a design feature. I *love* that leaf-shaped trellis. Your garden is looking pretty, too. It’s so nice when everything suddenly fills out at the start of spring.
I love the leaf shaped trellis too; I can’t even remember where we found it but I guess it was meant to be reclaimed for our project.
Spring is my favourite time of year and it was such a long time coming. I love watching everything emerge and grow; there’s something exciting to see every day.
I love the leaf trellis too. But why do you take it in during the winter?
Thanks Elizabeth! Our winters are very harsh and the freeze/thaw will rust the metal. However, if we have time this year, we’ll spray it with a protective coating and leave it out so we have something nice to look at in the winter too 🙂
What I great idea, you did a great job. The big leaves were a great idea.
Thanks Anita! It’s so hard to find privacy in such a small yard, but that did the trick!
What a beautiful garden you have, the screen is such a creative way to add privacy.
Thank you! It’s our little urban oasis; we love it.
What a difference your privacy screen makes! Thanks for the tutorial and the ideas. The leaf art is a great way to add more definition, too. I love visiting your blog for inspiration and fun ideas.
It really is a functional piece in our small garden; thanks for dropping by Meegan 🙂
Such a beautiful backyard! Great job!
Thank you Marty! It’s small, but mighty 🙂
What a wonderful corner now – a beauty.
Thank you Rosemary; we love our outdoor space 🙂