Handyman Hints: Building a little privacy for your decking project


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Aug 25, 2023

Handyman Hints: Building a little privacy for your decking project

On a bright and early morning, and with coffee in hand, wouldn’t it be nice to

On a bright and early morning, and with coffee in hand, wouldn't it be nice to simply slide open the patio door and step out onto your deck unshaven and wearing nothing but a loosely tied housecoat, and not have to wave to your neighbour, or advertise to any onlookers that on this particular morning with the world at war and people protesting in the streets, you really don't give a hoot?

Well, if this is to become your Saturday morning ritual, you’re going to need privacy. As most backyard decks are raised several feet off the ground, well above the privacy benefits of your good-neighbour fence, your sometimes-questionable living habits are placed on a podium.

Creating an effective deck privacy screen can be a challenge. Essentially, you’re going to need a barrier, or what's essentially a wall without falling under the definition of a wall. Because, yes, you desire privacy, but you don't want to box yourself into a cubicle or hurt your neighbor's feelings by building a barrier that suggests you’re no longer on waving-hello terms.

Although, in all probability, he’d rather you erect a brick wall than catch another glimpse of you in your cropped house coat.

So, because we’ll be building a barrier, and not a wall, in that our privacy barrier will be somewhat porous, allowing some light and some hint of a breeze to flow through, there are certainly options.

Rules to creating a privacy barrier? None really, unless this barrier wall serves the dual purpose of acting as a railing, then there will be engineering documents required as per the regular building code.

Otherwise, your privacy wall should be somewhat decorative, but with a purpose, providing a hint of privacy without looking like you’ve barricaded things up to camouflage whatever you choose to do in your yard.

The barrier should be light, in both weight and appearance, and not overwhelm your deck. This privacy wall will be something to set a table and two chairs beside in order to enjoy a peaceful morning coffee with the newspaper and shouldn't look like a backstop to shoot hockey pucks against.

When working with treated lumber or cedar, a very effective privacy wall can be created with a louvre-kit type of mechanism. Basically, and if your privacy barrier is to be about six feet in height, build the bottom half in the same manner you would a good-neighbour fence with vertical fencing planks, with the top half of the structure having horizontal- or vertical-positioned panels operating as louvres. The convenient thing about louvres is you can create a panel that is quite private, quite open, or somewhere in between.

Plus, louvres are attractive, and will provide an excellent accent piece to your deck.

Otherwise, look to incorporate decorative cast-iron windows, aluminum balusters, or black privacy vinyl lattice into what would otherwise be a regular-fence type of construction. A barrier or privacy wall made of lumber can look good— but add a few ornamental black windows or decorative vinyl panels to the mix and it will look absolutely terrific.

Even though privacy-wall installation isn't so much guided by the building code, and will be somewhat porous leaving air and light through, wind will always want to challenge its integrity. So, be sure to bury the 4×4 vertical-support posts of your privacy barrier into the joist system below your decking, or use an approved post-mount hardware as per your building dealer's recommendation.

If you own a composite deck, you’ll want to keep the composite theme going by building a privacy barrier using composite fascia planks, a less-weighty alternative to decking planks. Otherwise, there are decorative aluminum panels such as those made by companies such as Sunbelly.

The advantage to aluminum privacy panels is they’re maintenance-free and easily installed. Plus, there are plenty of pre-manufactured panel choices providing the homeowner with decorative styles that include mid-, semi-, and full-privacy type panels.

So, don't forget to include the privacy factor in your spring deck project.

Good building.

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