Build an Outdoor Reed Screen for Around $90

Due to a broken pump, my backyard ponds have sat idle for the past five years. If it wasn’t for the goldfish in the lower pond, I probably would have filled in the ponds and streams a couple years ago and made them into flowerbeds.

With the long stretch of great weather we had this summer, I really began to miss the sound of water trickling over the small waterfalls. So as the memory of Summer faded, and the reality of Autumn set in, I scrambled to expand the upper pond, adding a new four foot high falls area. As part of the renovation, I decided to severely prune back the laurel hedge that was encroaching on the upper pond.

P1060833Once the laurel was cut back I had a nice little strip to put in additional shrubs to soften the large amount of new rock work. However, there was now an unsightly hole showing the larger branches of the hedge, and stealing away the privacy barrier between our yard and the neighbor’s property.

The solution was to put up a small fence-like screen to hide the exposed inner part of the laurel hedge. I chose a reed screen.

Even for a construction impaired person like myself, this project was easy to plan and execute, requiring a minimum of time and tools.

Reed ScreenI am not completely convinced that the reeds will last for as long as I would like with the wet climate we have here in the Pacific Northwest. A bamboo screen might have been a better choice, but was also significantly more expensive.

Never the less I thought I would document the basic assembly of the screen for those who might be interested in undertaking a similar project.

Tools needed:

Hammer   •   Skill Saw   •   Level   •   Pencil  •  Drill with 1/8″ drill bit   •   Shovel Wheelbarrow and hoe (to mix concrete)   •   Shovel   •   Carpenter Square

Materials:

  • (2) 8′ 2×4 (pressure treated)   $11
  • (4) 8′ 2×4 decking   $26
  • (1) 8′ 2×2   $4
  • (3) 80 lb concrete mix   $11
  • (1) 6′ ceder fence board   $2
  • (around 25) #9×2.5″ outdoor woodscrews   $6
  • (1) 6’x16′ reed screen   $29
  • Hot dipped poultry net staples   $4

Start by marking where your post holes need to be dug. I used a 16 foot screen and doubled it over to minimize the amount of space showing through it. I didn’t need a full eight foot width so I moved the posts closer together.

Another factors in post distance is that the actual width of the screen may not stretch a full eight feet. The best thing to do is to unpackage the screen and measure it before you start digging.

Corner of Reed ScreenOne reason to move the post even closer together is if you would like to hide the sides of the posts with the screening material. In my case, the distance from the outside edge of each post was 85″ which allowed the screen to bend around the side of the post giving it a finished look.

A hole eighteen inches deep would allow the bottom of the screen to be six inches off the ground without cutting off the tops of the posts. You can adjust the depth of the hole or simply cut off some of the top of the posts after the cement has dried in order to place the screen at the desired height.

Hopefully you will not run into any surmountable roots while digging your post holes. I came across a large root from a nearby Douglas fir and had to expand my hole until I was clear of it.

I dug my holes a little deeper than needed and filled those spaces with drainage rock.

Once you have leveled and secured the pressure treated posts (with the longer dimensions facing the sides), mix the concrete according to the instructions and fill the holes.

PrintBefore going any further, make sure your post height is correct. Lay a board across the top of the posts and measure down 73.25″. This will be the approximate bottom edge of the screen shelf. If you desire less of a gap to the ground, trim the top of the posts accordingly once the concrete has dried.

Cut and screw one of the decking boards to the top of the posts. It is not important that it is level since you will probably be following the slope of the terrain.

From the top edge of this board, measure down each post and make a pencil mark at 70.5 inches. Cut a decking board to fit between the posts with the bottom of it hitting this mark. Screw in from the outside of the posts, drilling pilot holes first. Check your screening material to make sure it fits between the two horizontal boards with about an inch to spare on the top and bottom.

Screw in the remaining two decking boards at equal distances between the two that are already in place. Make sure that all boards are flush to the front side of the structure so your screen will be nice and even after it is nailed on.

You may notice at this point that the framework is a bit rickety. To fix this, simply mark a line across the center of the cedar fence board, cut through the midpoint at a 45º angle, position as shown in the illustration, mark and trim the extra triangle piece that sticks out, and nail into place on the back of both sides.

You are almost ready to put up the screen. To make things easier, cut (to the outer edge of the posts) and screw in the 2×2 board across the bottom of the framework on the front side. It should be an inch below the lowest decking board. This will serve as a guide for the bottom edge of the screen while being tacked into place. Although it was not part of my original plan, I left this platform in place after the screen was secure, mainly to protect the fragile bottom edges of the reeds.

At this point, it would make things considerably easier if you had someone to help you. Position the screen on the front of the framework with the bottom edge resting on the platform. If you did everything right, and my instructions weren’t too convoluted, everything should fit nicely with all of the framework hidden behind the screen.

Now you can hammer down the screen to the decking and posts using the staples, with the assistant, holding things in position. Starting from the center and moving towards the sides probably works the best. Before getting too far, check to make sure the screen didn’t move on you, and is able stretch around both sides. Use a gentle touch with each staple, adjusting the position until it touches the board, and pound it in just to the point where it puts a small amount of pressure against the reeds. You don’t want to break them.

I have given fairly detailed instructions, so you can see how I did everything. But I am not a builder and I did not consult any authority or go to any DIY web sites to figure out how to proceed. There are most likely better ways to do what I have done here. Don’t be afraid to adapt this to your own project, and check with other sources so the finished screen is exactly what you want.

The one thing I noticed after the project was done, was that it is a little boxy and doesn’t quite flow with the rest of the landscaping yet.The introduction of some more shrubs and perhaps a taller plant or two at the edges may help. Maybe some decorative elements using pieces of bamboo will help as well.

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4 Responses to Build an Outdoor Reed Screen for Around $90

  1. Maria F. says:

    Thanks for sharing this, useful for sure.

    Like

  2. Renee says:

    I like the way the screen turned out. It hides the tree nicely while waiting for som foliage to grow. Nice work!

    Like

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