ReadyMade Magazine April/May 2011

At Home: Hands On with Amy Devers

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Hands On: Fence Defense

Two clever ways to extend a fence in order to create privacy and exert a little view control.

RM Fence vertical garden


Written by Amy Devers, Illustrations by Kate Sutton

“Sadly, the beautiful grapevine in my backyard collapsed and has exposed my neighbors not so pretty home. There is an existing fence, but about a foot and a half of additional coverage is needed. Do you have any suggestions?” —M. Adkins, Portland, Oregon

Aw man, stupid grapevine. Why’d it have to go and let you down like that?

I know how important your view is to the ambience of your backyard. Unfortunately, neighboring houses can sometimes blight that view. Since I’m in your corner, on your team, and watching your back (unlike Mr. “ol’ unreliable” Grapevine there), I’m going to help you fight for whats right.

I would tell you to build a taller fence, or add more to the top of the one you’ve got, but chances are you’re already at the maximum height allowed by law. Many cities have 6-foot height limits, and exceeding that would require a permit (check your towns municipal building department to find out for sure). Fortunately, “temporary” installations usually do not.

Build These Projects

Operation Vertical Garden 

No doubt about it, vertical gardens are rad. With the help of handy-dandy Woolly Pockets, you can grow herbs, plants, and flowers all in neat little rows. Woolly Pockets are a modular system derived from recycled plastic water bottles. The breathable, lightweight material comes in black, brown, or blue, and pockets are available as singles, rows of 3, or rows of 5.

Position them high enough and they have the added benefit of blocking ugly house views. You’ll need to add a little bracing to your fence to hold them up that high, and you may need a stepladder to water them. Or you can just get a super-soaking water gun and spray them from an upstairs window. Even more rad.

Skill Level: Moderate

Active Time: One day

Cost: $$


Two 2×4 x 8-foot redwood boards

3½-inch Deck Mate flat-head coated galvanized redwood deck screws

Two 2×4 x 10-foot redwood boards, another for each extra row of Wally Fives

2½-inch Deck Mate flat-head coated galvanized redwood deck screws

Woolly Pockets: Wally Fives (thats a row of five pockets); use at least two, but you can do more rows if you like

Plants and soil


Circular or chop saw

Measuring tape and pencil




1. Cut both 2 x 4 x 8s to 90 inches in length with a 30-degree bevel on one end (to help water drain off the top).

2. Face one 2 x 4 so its flat against the fence, on-center with a fence post on the back side of the fence, and with the bevel on top sloping toward the back. Plumb with a level. Drive in 3½-inch screws, predrilling if needed, to sister the 2 x 4 to the fence post.

3. Do the same with the other 2 x 4 x 8 at the next post. The tops of the 2 x 4s should be even       and level.

4. Attach a 2 x 4 x 10 perpendicular to (and even with) the top of the posts with 2½-inch screws. Center and level.

5. Do the same with the second 2 x 4 x 10, 13 inches on-center down from the top.

6. Repeat for any additional rows, spacing them 13 inches on-center.

7. Now stretch your Woolly Pocket out across each cross member, and attach it by driving the included screws in through the grommet holes.

8. Add plants and soil, and voilà!


RM Fence lattice panel

Operation Lattice Panels 

Even naked, lattice panels are better looking than the house next door. They let in dappled light and, after a season or two, they will be covered in gorgeous vines and flowers. Très beau. You can pick up some framed redwood “privacy” lattice panels from The Home Depot, Lowes, or most hardware/home stores. Redwood looks good with everything, even if your fence is painted, and it weathers beautifully. You could also go for a vinyl option, or you can always build your own. If your fence is fairly level, installation should be a snap. (If not, let us know!)

Skill Level: Moderate

Active Time: One day

Cost: $$



Chalk line

4 x 8-foot framed redwood privacy lattice panels (as many as you need)

#9 x 3-inch flat-head coated galvanized redwood deck screws (I like Deck Mate brand; the special driver bit comes right in the box from The Home Depot, Lowes, or the like.)

#9 x 2-inch flat-head coated galvanized redwood deck screws

Optional: 1½-inch galvanized (so they wont rust) nails and a hammer


Measuring tape

Level or straightedge

Spring clamps, Irwin Quick-Grips, nails, hammer, and ledger board (or human helper for holding panels in position during fastening)


Drill bit with countersink (I like the DeWalt tapered drill bit/countersink combos in the #6, #8, and #10 3-piece set. This gives you a few size options to play with. Remember, you may also need to pick up the hex wrench thats required for adjusting them.)

Optional: 1½-inch galvanized (so they wont rust) nails and a hammer

1. Working on the good side of your fence, measure 30 inches down from the top to get the additional foot and a half of coverage you want along the length where the panels will go. Draw or snap a line. Dont worry if its not level as long as it is parallel to the top of your fence.

2. Position your first panel horizontally on the line, flat against the fence, landing on-center between two fence posts. Most fence posts are positioned 8 feet apart, but if yours arent, position at least one edge of the panel on the center of a post.

3. Clamp in position, or ask a friend to hold it for you. Or you can nail a ledger board, top edge even with your line, to your fence to act as a temporary shelf as you secure the panel in place.

4. Carefully drill two pilot holes for your screws on either side of your panel. Screw placement should be as evenly spaced as possible; stay at least 4 inches away from the mitered corners on your panels and 4 inches down from the top of your fence boards. If backed by a fence post, drill through the redwood and into the fence about 1 inch, countersinking the redwood ever so slightly. (If not backed by a post, drill into the fence board only by about inch.) Be careful not to split the redwood. The 9/64-inch drill bit should be perfect, but you can move to a slightly bigger one if you have any splitting.

5. Drive in a 3-inch screw on each side (or use a 2-inch screw if not backed by a post). This will hold the panel in place while you continue piloting holes and driving in screws. Dont torque the screws down too tight or you may split the frame.

6. Continue piloting holes and driving in screws. Use 3-inch screws wherever you’re backed by a post and 2-inch wherever its just a board. Ideally, you’ll have about three screws running vertically on each side of the panel, and about seven to nine running horizontally across the bottom.

7. Optional: If your lattice feels a little floppy in the middle, you can tap in a few galvanized nails to secure it. Predrill pilot holes through the beefy points where the lattice crisscrosses, the same diameter of the nail, and only through the redwood. This will allow you to maintain the ½ inch or so of void behind the lattice. Tap in the nails, being careful not to pinch the lattice up against the fence.

Plant a fast-growing vine of your choice. Be sensitive to soil, sun/shade, and climate requirements. 

ReadyMade Hands On 4-11