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How to Build a Privacy Planter

Use cedar and stock lumber to spruce up—and shield—your backyard

Joseph TruiniThis Old House magazine

Overview

Day-to-day timeline
SATURDAY Build the planter frame and sheathe it in cedar (steps 1-9).
SUNDAY Create and attach the cedar trellis (steps 10-17).

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Step 1: Build the Front
and Rear of the Planter
Frame

Use a miter saw to cut all the


pressure-treated 2x4s to length
according to the cut list. The
front and rear of the planter
frame consist of three 2x4s
assembled into an H shape.
Clamp the parts to a workbench
with the short board centered
between the two long boards,
as shown. Drill four ⅛-inch pilot
holes at an angle through the
center board and into the long
boards. Fasten the parts with
2½-inch deck screws. Repeat
to fabricate an identical rear
frame.

Step 2: Make the Ends of


the Frame

Clamp the parts for one end of


the frame to a workbench, with
the short boards flush with the
ends of the long ones. Drill pilot
holes at an angle through the
short boards and into the long
ones. Fasten the parts with 2½-
inch deck screws, as shown.
Repeat to build the other end
frame.

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Step 3: Join the
Assemblies

Stand one end upright and


clamp it to the workbench.
Clamp the front assembly tight
against the end and square to
it. Then drill pilot holes at an
angle through the front
assembly and into the end.
Fasten the assemblies together
with 2½-inch deck screws, as
shown. Use the same
procedure to attach the
opposite end and then the rear
assembly.

Step 4: Attach the Base


Plates

Cut three pieces of 5/4x6


pressure-treated decking to use
as base plates. Clamp the base
plates in place: one on each
end of the frame and one
spanning the center. The pieces
should be set back from the
edge of the frame by ¼ inch.
Drill pilot holes and attach the
base plates with 2½-inch deck
screws, as shown.

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Step 5: Attach the Casters

Position a caster on one of the


end base plates, mark its four
mounting holes, and drill the
holes through the base plate.
Attach the caster using hex-
head machine bolts with
washers and nuts. Install the
other three casters, with the two
locking ones at opposite ends
of the planter. Flip the
assembled frame upright.

Step 6: Notch the


Floorboards

Use the miter saw to cut to


length 10 pieces of 5/4x6
pressure-treated decking to line
the bottom of the planter box.
Use a jigsaw to notch the four
floorboards that fit around the
vertical 2x4s at each end and
the middle of the planter-box
frame. The floorboards should
be cut so they fit ¼ shy of the
edge of the framing, to allow
them to expand and contract.

4 How to Build a Privacy Planter | Ratza


Step 7: Install the
Floorboards

Position a notched floorboard at


each set of vertical 2x4s, then
set the other boards in place,
spacing them about ½ inch
apart to allow for drainage. Drill
pilot holes and secure each
floorboard to the frame with four
2½-inch deck screws.

Step 8: Install the 1x6s

With the planter frame upright,


lock the casters to keep it from
moving. Use a miter saw to cut
to length the 1x6 cedar boards
that sheathe the planter. Start
at the top front of the frame and
work your way around to one
end, the back, and the opposite
end. Note that each board
overlaps one end of the next
board and that the overlaps of
each course are offset from
those of the one above it. Drill
pilot holes and secure the
boards with 1⅝-inch stainless-
steel trim-head screws.

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Step 9: Fasten the Last
Row

After completing the top row,


work your way down, fastening
each board with trim-head
screws. The fourth and final row
will slightly overhang the base
plates.

Step 10: Make the Legs

The trellis is a series of


overlapping cedar boards,
including horizontal 1x3 and
1x6 slats and vertical 2x2
pickets. Two tall 5/4x6 cedar
legs straddle the planter box
and hold the trellis in place, and
are capped with a 5/4x6 cedar
board. Cut the parts to length
on the miter saw. Place a 2x2
picket on each leg, ¾ inch from
the rear edge; you can use a
1x3 scrap on edge, as shown,
to set the spacing. Drill pilot
holes and attach the pickets
with 2-inch deck screws.

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Step 11: Install the Slats

Prop the legs on edge with the


pickets facing inward and the
¾-inch reveal facing down. Lay
the slats between the legs on
the pickets, starting flush at the
top of the trellis with a 1x6 slat.
Drill pilot holes and secure the
slat with 2-inch deck screws.
Next, install a 1x3 slat 3 inches
from the 1x6; use a pair of short
2x2s as a spacer block, as
shown. Continue, alternating
the 1x6 and 1x3 slats, seven in
all.

Step 12: Install the


Pickets

Turn the trellis over. Cut a wood


block 5 13/16 inches long, and
use it as a spacer to set the 2x2
pickets evenly between the
legs. Make their ends flush with
the top slat, then fasten them
one by one with 1⅝-inch trim-
head screws. Flip the trellis
back over, and attach the front
pickets from underneath, as
shown. Center each one
between the pickets on the
opposite side.

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Step 13: Clip the Corners
of the Top Trim

Cut to length a 5/4x6 cedar


board to span the top of the
trellis panel. Use a combination
square to mark 45-degree
cutlines ¾ inch 
from each
corner. Set the miter saw to 45
degrees, and clip off the four
corners.

Step 14: Attach the Top


Trim

Set the trim piece against the


top of the trellis panel, as
shown, and center it so that an
equal amount overhangs each
side. Then drill pilot holes and
fasten it to the top 1x6 slat and
top ends of the legs with trim-
head screws.

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Step 15: Bolt the Trellis
to the Planter Box

Cut a 1x3 cedar board to the


length of the planter box to use
as cap trim. Set it on the rear
edge of the planter box, flush
with the inside edge. Drill pilot
holes and secure the cap with
trim-head screws. Stand the
completed trellis on top of the
planter box, covering the cap
trim. Hold the legs flush with the
rear of the planter box. Bore
three staggered ⅜-inch-
diameter holes into one leg and
through the end of the planter
box. Insert a carriage bolt into
each hole. Put a washer and
nut onto each bolt end and
tighten with a socket wrench.
Repeat for the other leg.

Tip: Place an unopened bag or


two of gravel inside the planter
box to act as ballast while you
bolt on the trellis.

Step 16: Notch the End


Pieces

Use a jigsaw to notch the 1x4


end pieces to fit around the
trellis legs. Mark them where
they meet the front inside
corners of the box, then miter
them at 45 degrees from that
mark. Drill pilot holes and
secure the trim with trim-head
screws.

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Step 17: Install the Front
Cap

Mark, miter, and install the 1x4


front cap-trim piece with trim-
head screws. Coat all the wood
with teak oil. Spread a 4-inch
layer of crushed stone over the
floorboards. On top of the
stone, line the planter box with
landscape fabric, fill with potting
soil, and plant your favorite
shrubs and climbers

10 How to Build a Privacy Planter | Ratza