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Add a Little Privacy to Your Backyard

Posted on Jun 6, 2019 in:
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Remodel
  • Maintain
  • Homeowners

Tranquil backyard patio

Q: I’m thrilled we’re getting more sunshine, but my yard doesn’t have much privacy. How can I create separation from my neighbors so I can enjoy the great outdoors?

A: As the rainy days slow to a trickle and the sun settles in for the summer months, we’re all heading outside. If you live in a typical Seattle neighborhood, you probably have little yard space and very close neighbors, which can make relaxing outdoors difficult. To help you out, I’d like to present a few project ideas to add a little privacy to your outdoor living space and help you make the most of the warm weather.

Build a DIY privacy fence

If you live on a busy street, you know that a fence can make a big difference in privacy. You probably also know that contractor bids can easily sail over your budget, especially if your home is on more difficult terrain. The good news is that building a privacy fence yourself is doable with one long weekend and a little sweat. You can build one with horizontal slats or vertical slats for a look that suits you; with so many materials and finish options to choose from, it’s easy to customize it to match the style of your home. Consider adding a decorative fence topper to spruce it up.

Make a garden trellis

A garden trellis is great for apartment dwellers looking for a simple solution for separating balconies. The best part about a garden trellis is that you can design it to suit your specific space and alter the size of the openings based on the amount of privacy you’d like. Like most DIY projects, a garden trellis is customizable, which means you can match it to your aesthetic and budget. Plus, having a spot for plants and vines to climb is a perfect way to add a little green. I recommend Holboellia coriacea (blue china vine), Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine), or Hydrangea petiolaris (climbing hydrangea).

Build a framed-panel fence

A framed-panel fence can add a distinctive touch to your yard. There are several companies that make decorative panels (you can also make your own) that screw directly onto your fence frame for a look that packs more personality than your average fence. Some panels are made from wood-poly composite, which means they have the look, feel, and durability of natural timber but require no sealing, painting, or maintenance. Other panel screen products are made from woods like western red cedar that offer beauty as well as natural rot resistance.

Make a vertical planter

Like classic garden trellises, a planter wall is a smart solution for small-space dwellers. A vertical wall planter—picture a small section of a horizontal-slatted fence with hanging planter boxes—creates more space by growing up instead of out. This is a fantastic solution for small backyard patios during the summer months. Plus, it’s always handy to have fresh herbs nearby for dinner al fresco and sunset cocktail parties.

Build a raised bed

Sometimes, it’s less about privacy and more about separation. Consider building a raised bed. You can make it as long, wide and tall as you please to draw a line between your yard and your neighbor’s. Fill it with fruits, vegetables, and flowers for a divider as beautiful as it is functional. Please note that if you decide to build your raised bed higher than average, it’s wise to layer the base with newspaper, bark, old brown leaves, grass clippings, or straw so you can save on soil.

With just a little bit of creativity and effort, you can turn your yard or apartment balcony into a private outdoor oasis in one weekend or less. Now get to work and enjoy having your space all to yourself.


Kirsten Dunn is a proud fifth-generation Dunn family member and employee at Dunn Lumber, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’ nearly 2,800 members, write to


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