How to Build a Privacy Planter

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

Neighbors on your nerves? Or maybe it's just the constantly buzzing AC peeking at you from the corner of the house. Either way, this living, leafy privacy planter provides an attractive screen, not to mention a convenient way to exercise your green thumb.

The planter frame is constructed of rot-resistant pressure-treated lumber and clad with rustic red cedar, which is naturally resistant to decay, to match the trellis. Casters make it easy to roll the screen around a patio, porch, or deck, so you can shut out the neighbors wherever you sit. You can bet they'll be peeking as you put this beauty together using the following instructions.

Shown: Western red cedar is the perfect choice to clad this planter and make its trellis.

Download and print the privacy planter cut list
 


Steps // How to Build a Privacy Planter
1 ×

Overview of Building a Privacy Planter

 
Step One // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Overview of Building a Privacy Planter

an exploded view of planter/trellis construction
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

CUT LIST:

You can use the cut list below or Download and print the privacy planter cut list here.

2x4 pressure-treated horizontal rail, front and rear:
four @ 55 ½ inches
2x4 pressure-treated vertical center support, front and rear:
four @ 13 inches
2x4 pressure-treated vertical support, end:
four @ 20 inches
2x4 pressure-treated horizontal rail, end:
four @ 9 ½ inches
5/4x6 pressure-treated base plates:
three @ 16 inches
5/4x6 pressure-treated floorboards:
ten @ 16 inches
1x6 cedar sheathing, front and rear:
eight @ 59 ¼inches
1x6 cedar sheathing, ends:
eight @ 17 ¼ inches
5/4x6 cedar trellis legs:
two @ 70 ¼ inches
5/4x6 cedar trellis top trim:
one @ 76 inches
1x6 cedar trellis horizontal slat:
four @ 60 inches
1x3 cedar trellis horizontal slat:
three @ 60 inches
2x2 cedar trellis vertical pickets:
seventeen @ 47 ½ inches
1x3 cedar rear cap trim:
one @ 60 inches
1x4 cedar front cap trim:
one @ 62 ½ inches
1x4 cedar end cap trim:
two @ 16 ½ inches

Day-to-day timeline
SATURDAY Build the planter frame and sheathe it in cedar (steps 2-10).
SUNDAY Create and attach the cedar trellis (steps 11-18).

 
2 ×

Build the Front and Rear of the Planter Frame

 
Step Two // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Build the Front and Rear of the Planter Frame

Mark Powers assembles the planter frame
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
3 ×

Make the Ends of the Frame

 
Step Three // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Make the Ends of the Frame

Mark Powers assembles the end frame of the planter
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
4 ×

Join the Assemblies

 
Step Four // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Join the Assemblies

Mark Powers joins the assemblies for the planter frame
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
5 ×

Attach the Base Plates

 
Step Five // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Attach the Base Plates

Mark Powers attaches the base plates to the bottom of the planter frame
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
6 ×

Attach the Casters

 
Step Six // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Attach the Casters

Mark Powers attaches the casters to the bottom of the planter frame
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
7 ×

Notch the Floorboards

 
Step Seven // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Notch the Floorboards

Mark Powers notches the end floorboards of the planter
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
8 ×

Install the Floorboards

 
Step Eight // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Install the Floorboards

Mark Powers places the rest of the floorboards of the planter
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
9 ×

Install the 1x6s

 
Step Nine // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Install the 1x6s

Mark Powers fastens 1x6 boards to the planter
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
10 ×

Fasten the Last Row

 
Step Ten // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Fasten the Last Row

Mark Powers fastens bottom row of 1x6 boards to the planter
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
11 ×

Make the Legs

 
Step Eleven // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Make the Legs

Mark Powers builds the trellis legs
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
12 ×

Install the Slats

 
Step Twelve // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Install the Slats

Mark Powers attaches the trellis slats
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
13 ×

Install the Pickets

 
Step Thirteen // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Install the Pickets

Mark Powers attaches the trellis pickets
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
14 ×

Clip the Corners of the Top Trim

 
Step Fourteen // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Clip the Corners of the Top Trim

Mark Powers marks the corners of the top trim of the trellis to be beveled
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
15 ×

Attach the Top Trim

 
Step Fifteen // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Attach the Top Trim

Mark Powers attaches the top trim of the trellis
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
16 ×

Bolt the Trellis to the Planter Box

 
Step Sixteen // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Bolt the Trellis to the Planter Box

Mark Powers bolts the trellis to the planter
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
17 ×

Notch the End Pieces

 
Step Seventeen // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Notch the End Pieces

Mark Powers notches the end cap piece to secure the connection between the trellis and the planter
Photo by Kolin Smith

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.

 
18 ×

Install the Front Cap

 
Step Eighteen // How to Build a Privacy Planter

Install the Front Cap

Mark Powers installs the planter/trellis front cap
Photo by Kolin Smith

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

 
 
 

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