Make privacy pretty with these cedar panels that can be built as artfully placed screens or linked to form a custom-look fence.
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Build this project as a stand-alone feature; place them in a series along one edge of a deck or patio or as a fence. Before installing panels, verify your property lines. Ask your local building code enforcement office if a building permit is needed and about hole-depth requirements and fence height rules. After you choose the panel location, call 811 to have the underground utilities marked around them before you dig.
From 2 x 2s, cut the verticals (A), short slats (B), long slats (C), and spacers (D) to length (Project Diagram, Cutting List, Cutting Diagram, and Drawing 1).
This project requires multiples of each part that must be cut to identical length for easy assembly. Wrap groups of oversize material with painter’s tape and saw the parts to length with one cut to get perfectly matched parts.
For all of the screws in the top panel, and whenever drilling near the end of a board, drill a countersunk pilot hole before driving the screw to prevent splitting. Center the verticals on the ends of the short slats (B) and secure with 2-inch-long deck screws and exterior wood glue (Project Diagram, Drawing 1).
Glue and screw the spacers (D) to the long slats (C).
Clamp together the subassemblies made in Step 2 and Step 3 to make the center of the upper panel. Use a square to check the alignment of the parts and secure the slats (C) to the verticals (A) with glue and screws.
Add the remaining long slats to the spacers to complete the center portion of the top panel.
Cut the top stiles (E), frame rails (F), and lower stiles (G) to length from 2 x 4 cedar. Place the upper center panel on 3/4-inch-thick scrap boards and secure the top stiles to the ends of the slats (Project Diagram, Drawing 2).
Use 3-inch deck screws to fasten the frame rails (F) to the top stiles. Repeat for each privacy panel you wish to build.
Assemble the lower panel frame by securing the remaining frame rails (F) to the lower stiles (G) using 3-inch deck screws (Project Diagram, Drawing 3).
From a 1 x 2, cut the ribs (H) to fit between the lower stiles (Project Diagram, Cutting List, Cutting Diagram). For each rib, place the outside rib face flush with the lower stile edge. Secure the ribs to the stiles with 2-1/2-inch deck screws.
Cut the vertical slats (I) to length from 2 x 2s. Install the two outside slats first, leaving 3/4-inch gaps between the slats and the stiles (G) (Project Diagram, Drawing 3). Drive 3-inch deck screws through the frame rails (F) into the ends of the vertical slats.
Install the remaining slats (I) equally spaced across the frame with a 1-1/2-inch gap between the parts.
Dig 8-inch-diameter postholes 51-1/4 inches apart for each privacy panel (Project Diagram, Drawing 4). The depth of the hole may vary depending on your local building code.
Add 4 inches of crushed stone for drainage at the bottom of a hole and set one of the posts (J) on the gravel. The top of the post should be a minimum of 81-1/4 inches above the ground.
Mix a bag of concrete following the manufacturer’s instructions and add it to the hole around the post, tamping it down periodically. After placing the concrete in each hole, check the post for level, adjust as necessary, and allow the concrete to cure for a few hours.
When mixing concrete for a fence post, mix the concrete with slightly less water than called for to make a very stiff, dry mix. The dry mix will hold the post securely; a wet mix will allow the post to lean before the concrete dries. If it is windy, brace the post with a wooden stake in the ground and a 1 x 4 brace.
Set the lower panel in position next to the post and secure with 3-inch deck screws (Project Diagram, Drawing 5). Have a friend help with the installation, or prop the panel up off the ground with a scrap of wood while you secure the lower panel to the post.
Verify the second post will slide into the remaining hole, trim the edges of the hole as needed to allow a few inches of clearance between the wood and the soil to allow clearance for the concrete. Add stone to the bottom of the hole and set the post in place against the lower panel. Using 3-inch deck screws, secure the panel to the second post, mix the concrete, and add it to the hole. Check for level and allow the mix to cure for an hour.
Slip the upper panel between the posts and rest it on 2 x 4 scraps on top of the lower panel to create a 1-1/2-inch gap. Secure the panel to the posts with 3-inch deck screws (Project Diagram, Drawing 4).
Cut the posts to the final height and add a caps (K) made of two 2 x 4s centered on the width of the posts. The caps extend past the post by 1 inch on each side of the posts. Secure with 3-inch deck screws.
Remove any bracing, fill the remainder of the holes with dirt and apply a clear preservative to the wood. A semitransparent or solid-color deck and fence stain can add color and additional protection from the environment.