Fence with extension made from lattice panels. Backyard Privacy:

Extending A Privacy Fence
With Wood Lattice Panels

 
In This Article:

Existing 4x4 fence posts are extended. 4'x8' sheets of lattice are cut smaller. 2x2 cedar frame material is custom-milled. After spray painting, the framed lattice is installed above the existing fence.

Related Articles:
Skill Level: 3 (Intermediate) Time Taken: About 20 Hours

By , Editor

Introduction:

Recently the owner of a small house in an older neighborhood asked me to build an extension to an existing privacy fence.

This small back yard originally had a 6-foot high privacy fence. In the foreground you can see the surface of a deck.

 

Another view, taken directly to the right of the first photo. The deck surface is about 16 inches above the ground, so the privacy fence rises less than 4½ feet above the deck.

Given the dilapidated condition of the house next door (which is about 3 feet from the fence) I could understand the homeowner's need for a taller privacy fence.

In the picture above you can see the lattice panels that the homeowner originally purchased. After some discussions we returned these to Lowes and bought 3 sheets of their "high privacy" lattice, which costs about $12 a sheet.

The original fence was built from pre-made 8-foot sections, the kind you see at Home Depot and their ilk.

 

One give-away of a factory-made fence: this horizontal rail is less than 1¼" thick. That's not a standard lumber size.

This skinny lumber will cause some problems when I need to install my framed lattice.

 

Extending The Posts
My Preferred Method:

I prefer to make an overlapping joint to connect sections of any structural component. Many pre-cut deck newel posts (handrail posts) use this method.

Extending a fence post.

On The Fence Post:

  • I set the circular saw depth to half of the width of the 4x4 post, about 1¾ inches.
  • I marked the bottom of the notch about 10 inches down from the top of the post.
  • I made the bottom cut by cutting horizontally across the post.
  • I made two vertical cuts with the circular saw. This is somewhat risky, so I kept a good solid grasp on the saw. Eye protection is necessary.

 

Other Notch Cutting Methods:

  • A series of 1¾ inch deep cuts could be made across the face of the 4x4, then the remaining wood could be chipped away with a chisel. The resulting face would be rough and may require some smoothing with a chisel or block plane.
  • A reciprocating saw could be used instead of a circular saw, but this is not as accurate or as fast. But a reciprocating saw would probably be safer, especially if reaching the top of the post was difficult.
  • The old-fashioned way: A hand saw.

 

 

Notching The Post Extensions:

Cutting the matching notch on the post extensions was much easier because the cutting can be done on a workbench. In Shortening A Notched Newel Post you can read more about this procedure. Since I wrote that old article I have acquired some better tools. I simply used my expensive slide miter saw to cut these notches, which is much faster than the circular saw.

 

There were only two posts where I could make this preferred connection. The other posts could only be reached by going into the neighbors yard. Unfortunately the neighbors were not highly cooperative. Fence posts made taller by adding extra length of 4x4.

I cut the top of the fence posts at a 30 degree angle. An angled cut will deter rain water from lingering on the top surface of the post and soaking into the end-grain.

 

Extending The Other Posts:

Since I could not easily reach the other fence posts to cut a notch in the top, I used a pair of metal tie plates to connect the post extension to the old post.

Using a half-dozen 1¼" Simpson Strong-Drive screws, I attached two tie plates to the lower end of the post extender.

 

Then I screwed the tie plates to the top of the old post.

But... I positioned this extension about one-quarter of an inch farther from the fence. (The red arrow points to the small "ledge" exposed by this set-back).

This should give me enough room to squeeze the framed lattice panel between the post and the fence boards.

Extending a fence post with metal tie plates and short piece of 4x4.

 

Warning:

  • This method of using tie plates to join posts together is for light-duty connections only.
  • Do not use this method for any deck posts or load-bearing structure (unless approved by a building inspector).
  • Test the connection before proceeding, by pushing and pulling on the post.
  • If the connection appears loose, add more screws to the tie plates, or add more tie plates, or use longer tie plates, or use a different method.
  • I would not recommend using nails on connections near the end of the board because nails tend to make the wood split when used close to the ends.

 

 

Here you can see a row of 5 extended fence posts.

 

Back At The Shop:
Building The Privacy Screen Panels

Cutting 4x8 sheets of lattice on a table saw. Using the big table saw, I was able to quickly rip the lattice into half-sheets.

 

Actually, I cut the lattice into sheets that were about 23 inches wide. This avoided cutting through the staples that hold the lattice together.

 

But... as these small chunks were cut free of the main sheet, they often got snagged on the saw components. I would just stop cutting and take a second to clear away the off-cuts.

I later discovered that a table saw is not the best method for cutting lattice.

Note the small size of the holes in the lattice above and compare it to the sheets visible in the second-from-top photo. The high-privacy lattice has much smaller holes. I could barely get my fingers through these holes.

 

Preparing The Lattice Frame:

I used red cedar 2x2's to build a frame to hold the lattice. Since none of my local suppliers sold cedar 2x2's, I bought several 2x6's at Lowes and ripped them to 1½" wide on my table saw.

My original thought was to make the frames from pressure-treated Southern Yellow Pine (the ordinary treated lumber). But yellow pine has such an awful tendency to warp that I couldn't stomach the idea. All the yellow pine 2x2's I found were shaped like bananas.

After ripping the cedar boards into 2x2's, I set up my router table with an adjustable slot-cutting bit. This bit is one-half of a Freud 99-036 two-bit tongue-and-groove cutter set, which cost me $93. This bit comes with an assortment of washers of various thicknesses. To increase the width of the slot, I  simply removed the nut on top and placed more spacers between the two cutting blades.

 

This router bit cuts quite smoothly. As always, it's important to keep the wood pressed tightly against the fence and against the table. Using a "featherboard" is a good idea.

Another way to cut this groove would be to use a straight-flute bit. But when a straight-flute bit is used to cut a groove, the wood chips cannot easily disperse, so the groove often becomes packed with debris.

 

The resulting groove had a lot of splinters along the edges, perhaps caused by pushing the wood through the router too quickly.

 

I used a 5" random orbital sander to clean up the splinters, and to remove the saw marks from the table saw.

 

To make a radiused edge on these boards, I just tipped the wood on an angle and gave the corners a quick buzz with the sander.

 

I cut the 2x2 frame boards to length on a miter saw.

I made the short boards 25¼" long, as measured on the long dimension of the mitered board.

I cut the long boards about 1/8 inch shorter than 96 inches.

 

Deviations:

In carpentry it's often the little variations of dimensions that cause the most grief. My experience has taught me to be prepared for imperfect spacing of things, structures that are not plumb or level, and stuff that is out-of-square.

I measured the spacing of the original fence posts, and they were all about 8 feet on center. The original fence panels were all very close to 8 feet long, and there were no gaps between adjacent panels. But I knew I couldn't expect a row of exactly 8-foot long panels to fit side by side. If the extended posts were actually closer than my measurements, then I would need to trim material off the sides of some panels, which would be a chore. If the posts were farther apart than 8 feet, I would have a small gap between panels, which I could easily cover with a thin strip of wood.

It's this type of analysis that makes carpentry go more smoothly:

  • "If I'm wrong and my material is too long, then I'll have to solve it by ..." and
  • "If I'm wrong and my material is too short, then I'll need to do ..."

and realizing that an error in one direction can be much easier to solve than an error in the other direction.

 

Determining The Length Of The Lattice:

I placed the end of the tape measure just shy of one end of the groove, and measured the distance to the other end of the groove.

I chose 93¾" as the length of the lattice. That should leave some room for expansion.

 

I marked the sheet of lattice and cut it with a jig saw.

It turns out that the jig saw is probably the best tool for cutting lattice. When sliding these sheets through the table saw, the ends of the slats often snagged on things, which really slowed down the cutting.

Cutting sheets of lattice with a jig saw.

 

Then I sanded the edges with 80-grit sandpaper. This proved to be crucial, as a little sanding created a small bevel that made it much easier to fit the lattice into the grooves of the framework.

Tip: when sanding the edges, move the sanding block in one direction only... the direction that the angled slats are "pointing". (That would be towards the camera in the photo.) Otherwise the sandpaper will get torn on the sharp ends of the slats.

 

Assembling The Lattice And Frame:

I placed a long piece of frame board on the sawhorses and set the lattice into the groove.

This was not easy. Many slats got caught on the groove edge, preventing the lattice from seating in the groove. I had to hold the lattice upright with one hand while pushing and pulling on the slats to see which were holding it up.

Having a helper here would be a good idea.

Assembling lattice and custom-milled frame channels.

 

The Secret Weapon:

After struggling with the first assembly, where the lattice kept falling out of the frame boards, I got wise and used some 12" cable ties to keep the lattice firmly seated in the groove.

 

After assembling the two long sides, I placed the short frame boards over the lattice and secured them with cable ties.

 

At each corner I pre-drilled and countersunk holes for three screws... two on the long board and one on the short board.

Then I drove in 2" stainless steel deck screws to hold the corner together.

 

With 3 screws the corner joints were quite strong.

 

I cut the cable ties.

 

But... the long boards were kinda flexible, almost to the point that the ends of the lattice slats could poke out.

Near the middle of each long board I drove two or three 1¼" brad nails. These were driven close to the edge so they would go into the lattice slats.

Afterwards the long boards were much less flexible.

Don't over-fasten the lattice. It might seem like a good idea to shoot brad nails into the lattice all around the frame, but I wouldn't recommend it. Ideally, the lattice would be free-floating in the grooves of the frame that holds it. But if the frame cannot be made beefy enough, then you might need to rely on the lattice itself for some structural assistance. If you fasten the lattice all around, the normal expansion and contraction of the wood might cause the frame to warp badly or the lattice slats to split.

 

After assembly I used the random orbital sander to smooth down any mis-matched joints.

 

The finished lattice panel, ready for painting and installation.

These were surprisingly light and strong.

Privacy screen made from lattice and custom-milled frame.

 

I also built this small section of lattice from thin strips of lath. Click here to read about building custom lattice.

 

Painting The Privacy Screen Panels:

While I built these privacy screens, the homeowner repainted the original fence with Behr latex solid-tone deck stain. Nobody expressed any interest in brush-painting the lattice, and when I mentioned that I had paint spraying equipment, the decision to spray the lattice was obvious.

I dragged my utility trailer into an open spot in the backyard and used the trailer as a work bench.

By propping the screen panel upright I was able to easily paint them with my airless paint sprayer.

 

I used a 2400 PSI Wagner airless sprayer, which cost about $100 at Home Depot.

Wagner's instructions have several good tips for spray painting, more than I can address in this article.

 

For a drying rack, I set up two pairs of sawhorses, each pair supporting an extension ladder.

 

I used a stick to prop up the screen. I put some heavy boards on the floor of the trailer to keep the prop rod from slipping.

 

Installing The Privacy Screen Panels:

The first panel I installed was this section that divides the back yard from the side yard.

 

Installing these screen panels was easy. I just set the panel in place between the fence boards and the post. Since it was a snug fit, the panels mostly stayed in place until I could level and fasten them.

 

Here you can see the screen panel (red arrow) wedged in between the post and the fence boards.

 

After I made sure the panel was level, I fastened it to the post with several 3-inch deck screws. I pre-drilled the holes (with countersink) to prevent the thin cedar frames from splitting. Installing privacy screen above existing fence.

 

Cap board made from cedar 1x3.

Capping It Off:

I made this cap board from 1x6 cedar that I ripped into 1x3's and routed with a 3/8" roundover bit.

I installed these 8-foot long boards so each piece covered a joint between adjacent screen panels, to help tie the panels together. The ends of these cap boards were always in the middle of the screen panels.

 

The cap board adds a minor detail that seems to unify the screen panels.

 

Solid privacy fence with screen extension. I noticed that the screen panels made a noticeable difference in the amount of privacy in this small backyard. I would definitely recommend using the high-privacy lattice if someone really needed more privacy.

 

Material Usage:

To make six privacy screens, I used three 4'x8' lattice panels, intending to cut each panel in half lengthwise. Wanting to make the panels as high as possible, I cut the lattice to 23 inches wide by about 93½ inches long. Without doing much careful planning, I bought 8-foot cedar 2x6's to be ripped into 2x2's, figuring that each frame would require 2½ pieces of 8-foot long 2x2, or 20 lineal feet per panel. With six panels to build, plus a small extra panel, I figured I needed 120 lineal feet of 2x2, or 15 pieces at 8 feet long. So I bought five 2x6x8' cedar boards (about 12 bucks each) knowing that I could get three 2x2's from each board.

The length of these frame boards was just fine for the long side of the panel frames, but the short sides ended up at 25¼ inches, which meant that I could not get 4 pieces from an 8-foot board, as I had planned in my head while shopping at Lowes. I needed to go back to the store and buy some more cedar boards.

If I had planned this better, I could have either:

  • Made the frames exactly 24 inches tall and cut the lattice just less than 22 inches wide.
  • Bought one 10-foot cedar 2x6 for the 12 short pieces of frame material. This would have allowed me to cut the lattice closer to 24 inches wide, and make a panel about 26 inches tall.

 

 

 

 

 

Tools Used:

  • Cordless drill/driver
  • Basic carpentry tools
  • Table saw
  • Miter saw
  • Circular saw
  • Jig saw
  • Router table
  • Freud 99-036 two-bit tongue-and-groove cutter set
  • Brad nailer
  • Random orbital sander with 60 grit sandpaper

Materials Used:

  • Lumber, cedar, 2x6x8'
  • High-privacy lattice, 4'x8' sheets
  • 2" stainless steel deck screws

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Written August 29, 2005