Friday, September 13, 2013

Deck Progress: Building a Privacy Screen

A couple of weeks ago as we started laying the decking boards over the frame we had built, it felt like such a victory to be able to walk out the back door (albeit only a couple of feet!) and to stand on the level of the new deck.  Progress!  

It took about 5 seconds to realize that being as high up as the house, while perfect for making it usable and party friendly, causes problems of its own: namely, that we're now peering over the fence into our neighbors' yards.  That's right, not just one neighbor, but from this new deck you can watch the dogs three doors down and see what the family two houses over is grilling for dinner on their own deck.  Hmmm.  Look, we like our neighbors and love to stop and chat on the street, but essentially sharing a back yard with the rest of the block just isn't what I had hoped for exactly for this new deck.

Knowing beforehand that the extra height could be a problem, we had planned on planting a row of Green Giant Arborvitae, which are lush evergreen trees that create a beautiful, formidable screen when lumped together.  The problem is, even when you buy pretty large ones, and even though they grow three feet a year, we needed privacy now, not six years from now.

Here in this photo you can see the two houses next to ours--from the height of the deck it feels like we're all a part of the same compound.  Thankfully our yard is much wider on the other side, and we already have a row of mature trees there, so the exposure is limited:)

 Ideally in a project like this one, your plans are so exact and all encompassing that you've already thought of everything and incorporated every factor into the design.  But sometimes you get halfway through and you realize you want to install a privacy screen where two sections of railing were going to be (hypothetically:)).  So changes have to be made.  For inspiration, I found this photo of a deck railing/ screen combo that we liked and started brainstorming about how to built it.

The biggest challenge to changing our plans last minute was the issue of the posts-- we had already installed 4x4 posts for the railings to the deck frame with huge lag bolts, but obviously they are much too short to support an eight foot heigh fence.  At first we thought we would just remove the bolts, slide out the short posts and replace them with long ones.  But after some serious effort and a lot of frustration we realized that those bolts are NEVER coming out.  Ever.  So whatever was going to happen, it was going to happen with those posts right where they are.

Not to be deterred, we measured and notched both the new extension posts and the existing 4x4s to fit together and screwed in the overlapping pieces.  For added strength and to cover up the wildly mismatching post colors and our questionable notching job, we nailed a 1x4 finishing board to the face of the whole post, giving it a more finished look.

The main section of the screen is made up of fencing panels, which you can buy cheaply at any big hardware store.  We measured carefully between our posts and cut down the panels to fit snugly inside.

To create the upper part of the screen we bought lattice sections and cut them down to size with a jigsaw.  To install them securely and to finish the edges, I created a frame for the lattice using pressure treated 1x2s, miter cut and nailed together with the nail gun. At first I thought I'd be making two simple rectangular frames for these lattice panels, but while measuring for the second one I realized it wouldn't clear the low hanging gutter against the house.  So after playing with some angles, I adjusted the rectangular shape slightly to create a little corner with enough room for the gutter.

And that's it!  After a few last minute adjustments to our plans, we now have a privacy screen, which I'm telling you has already made a huge difference.  We will still plant that screen of trees for the soft, natural privacy they provide, but in the meantime we're thrilled with our new look.

Have a great weekend!




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