Category: Lawn & Garden

So, You Want to… Build a Floating Deck

Add an elevated platform to your outdoor area with the know-how you’ll find here.

How to Build a Floating Deck


Summer isn’t summer unless you’re soaking up the sun, grilling, and chilling in your own backyard. Yet a traditional deck isn’t always feasible or permitted by local authorities, so for many homeowners, a “floating” deck—a raised wooden platform that sits a few inches off the ground—is the perfect solution. A floating deck isn’t all that difficult to build for the DIYer with basic carpenter hand and power tools and a working knowledge of standard deck construction. Ahead, all the information you’ll need before purchasing materials for the project—or opting to hire a pro.

There’s not a big cost differential in materials for either a traditional or a floating deck; the main difference lies in their structural support systems.

A traditional deck has posts cemented below ground level, making the deck a permanent structure and subject to local building codes.

Floating decks, on the other hand, sit low to the ground and actually appear to float on two or more sides, depending on the joist system design. They rely on a structural base that’s not permanently fixed in the ground, classifying them in most communities as personal property instead of real estate. Because it’s not attached to the ground or an existing structure, local building authorities do not require a building permit. If your neighborhood has a homeowner’s association, however, you will need to get permission before proceeding. All of that said, don’t let the term fool you: You can’t take a floating deck with you if you choose to move—they’re not portable.


How to Build a Floating Deck


A well-constructed floating deck adds style and comfort to a backyard, but it has a few possible downsides:

• Because floating decks sit low to the ground, there is an increased likelihood of weeds growing up between the decking planks.
• A floating deck can become a hazard in serious storms, as high winds can potentially toss it off its base.
• If the ground beneath a floating deck settles, the deck could tilt or sag, requiring it to be rebuilt.

If you decide that a floating deck is for you, keep in mind that your finished product will only be as good as its structurally sound base. While you can build one on concrete pavers or over an existing level patio, perhaps the soundest way to support a floating deck is with pre-made concrete deck blocks that have notched tops designed to hold either 4×4 posts (on end) or 2×6, 2×8, or 2×10 lumber (on edge). Deck blocks must sit on a stable surface, typically comprised of compacted sand a few inches deep, and their tops must be perfectly level. Using a laser level will ensure accuracy. Basic models start in the $200 range, so if you don’t want to spring for one, rent one for about $40 per day.


How to Build a Floating Deck in the Backyard


Once the base is in place, you’ll apply standard deck construction techniques. You’ll set support beams on the deck blocks, and then install deck joists on top, perpendicular to the beams.

Lumber dimensions you choose depend on the intended size of the deck and joist span. If you’re unsure how to size your lumber, take a drawing of your deck to the engineering department of your local lumberyard (not a do-it-yourself center) for help choosing the correct dimensions.

The “floating” aspect is created when joists extend far enough past the blocks to obscure the blocks. This, combined with the deck’s close proximity to the ground, gives the illusion of a hovering platform. Usually, this floating effect occurs on the two sides of the deck where the joists end. On the sides parallel to the joists, the support blocks beneath will be visible. A deck that floats on all sides requires advanced framing skills that involve installing cross-joists and notching rim joists to support them. If you’re not experienced in this type of framing, call a reputable contractor or deck builder.

Should you decide to build a deck more than 8 inches above the ground, don’t forget to include a stair or two in the plans for stepping on and off safely and easily.


How to Build a Floating Deck - with Steps


Once you’ve invested your money, time, and effort into updating your backyard with this installation, keep the brand-new floating deck looking great for years to come with some easy (and essential) maintenance. Immediately after construction, application of a penetrating sealer, or a sealer/stain combo, will repel moisture and prolong the deck’s lifespan. Beyond that, simply remember to sweep the deck frequently to remove fallen leaves and debris, and spray it down with plain water to rinse off occasional spilled food or bird droppings. A thorough cleaning at least once a year with a good deck-cleaning solution and scrub brush—followed by more sealer—should take care of the rest for your backyard retreat.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.

Genius! Double Your Grilling Space Without Spending a Dime

Why slave away over the grill for your next summer barbecue? This space-saving homemade warming rack can half your grilling time—and is doubly fun to build!



From searing a steak to piecing together the perfect kebabs, manning the grill is a juggling act. For BBQ-ers without a built-in top rack for buns, melting cheese, and cooking veggies, a simple Labor Day cookout requires precise timing, coordination, and creative use of limited space. Even if you’re blessed with a two-tiered grill, hosting a family get-together or a tailgating party usually calls for even more cooking room. Whatever you’re working with, the problem is the same: Put side dishes on too soon, and you might not have space for the main entrée—but, wait until the entrée is fully cooked to add the sides, and you’ll have to serve cold burgers and dogs to hungry guests.

For those in the same BBQ bind over the holiday weekend, Joshua Bousel of Serious Eats devised a DIY grill add-on that warms finished food and doubled his cooking space. The grilling gastronome’s rack rose from humble beginnings: two rinsed tin cans, to be exact. With both ends cut off and the labels removed, Bousel stood the two containers upright on his charcoal BBQ. He then rested another circular grate (an oven rack or a stove burner will work, too) right over the cans.

Removed from the blazing heat of the flames below, the second level serves as a standalone warming rack for finished food.  Or, covered with foil, the top tier works as a a slow cooker by evenly roasting potatoes, corn, and other seasonal veggies without burning them. Best of all, this free BBQ booster leaves plenty of room on the bottom for more food. With all of the extra space, you’ll be able to throw everything on at once, essentially cutting cooking time in half and getting you back to the party sooner.

FOR MORE: Serious Eats




Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.

How To: Get Rid of Clover

Try some of these simple DIY solutions to eradicate this common lawn invader.

How to Get Rid of Clovers


Stubborn weeds are the bane of a beautiful lawn. Yet, although it’s pretty stubborn, clover (aka Trifolium repens) is actually beneficial. It brings nitrogen into the soil and encourages grass growth when it decomposes. In fact, some grass blends even include micro-clover as a welcome addition to a lawn. Still, many homeowners simply don’t appreciate all those small white flowers interrupting their field of green. Mowing it over is only a temporary fix: Clover grows back, fast. So, if you’re adamant about keeping this herbaceous three-leaved intruder off your landscape, you’re in luck! Read on for easy remedies that can get rid of clover for good.

Knock it out with nitrogen. Generally speaking, a well-fertilized lawn keeps all weeds at bay, but ensuring proper nitrogen levels will give you an extra edge against clover. It’s a lack of nitrogen that allows clover to thrive, so try a nitrogen-rich weed-and-feed formula. Organic fertilizers might do the trick if you have a small amount of clover, but if your lawn is becoming overrun, choose a standard fertilizer that is not slow release.

Remove it manually. Don’t give clover a chance to spread. Get rid of small clumps as soon as you notice them by gently loosening the soil around the base with a spade or your fingers, then plucking the clover up. Be sure you get all of the root.

How to Get Rid of Clovers


Cook it. A natural way to thwart clover is to deprive it of sunlight and oxygen. Place plastic sheeting (a garbage bag will do) on top of clover, securing the corners so it won’t blow away. This ought to kill the weed in a few weeks, but use this method only on large clover patches; otherwise, surrounding grass will probably experience collateral damage.

Douse it. Here’s a natural remedy many gardeners find effective: Mix vinegar with a small amount of dish soap, put the mixture in a spray bottle, and spot treat clover clumps. Just take care to avoid surrounding plants.

Kill it with corn gluten. Corn gluten meal, available at garden centers and nurseries, can inhibit clover growth with no ill effects on nearby plants. It releases organic dipeptides into the soil, which dry out seeds and make it more difficult for them to sprout. Spread about 20 pounds of corn gluten meal per 1,000 square feet of lawn, water well, and allow to dry naturally.

Hit back with herbicide. If you’ve got to pull out the big guns to get rid of clover, broadleaf herbicides can do the job. These products generally contain the chemicals 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, Mecoprop, and Dicamba, which disrupt normal growth patterns and cause the weeds to twist, the leaves to cup, and the stems to crack. While these herbicides don’t harm surrounding grass, they can hurt some garden plants and insects, so it’s wise to spot treat directly on clover rather than apply freely.

Buyer’s Guide: Power Hedge Trimmers

Find the right tool to tame your shrubs and keep your landscape looking sharp.

Best Power Hedge Trimmers


The shape and tidiness of your shrubs is a crucial component of curb appeal. Whether you’ve got a densely landscaped plot with all manner of hedges and trees or a simple series of bushes lining the perimeter, regular upkeep is critical. Luckily, with today’s power trimmers it’s easy to groom that growth like a pro, saving you the cost of hiring a gardener. We’ve got the lowdown on the different types of tools and the most highly recommended models to help you pick the best hedge trimmer for your property’s needs.

Find your type. You’ve got two options: gas and electric. The one you choose will be based on how much power and portability you’re after.

• Gas-powered hedge trimmers. These tough tools, which generally require both oil and gas to run properly, tend to work harder than their electric counterparts. The downside to more power is weight: Gas hedge trimmers may be more than 10 pounds, making it a challenge to reach up and around tall shrubbery.

• Electric-powered hedge trimmers. While they don’t provide quite as much oomph as gas-juiced models, electric trimmers are usually lighter, making them easier to wield at chest height or higher. Lower-priced corded models offer uninterrupted use but less mobility because they’re plugged into an outlet—a problem for larger yards. Battery-powered trimmers mean total freedom of movement, though you must recharge or replace batteries regularly.

Choose a cut above the rest. Another factor to consider is how big of a branch the trimmer can tackle. Most slice through branches up to ½-inch thick, while more powerful models can usually handle up to an inch in diameter. Check the size of the gap between the blade’s teeth; the greater the gap, the higher the cutting capacity. A majority of trimmers have a gap between ⅜ to ¾ of an inch to manage common hedges cleanly.



So what really makes the cut? Here’s what reviewers—everyone from the experts who tested selections out in their laboratories to the consumers who have added these power landscaping tools to their collections—said about today’s top models.


Stihl  HSA 66 Hedge Trimmer


HSA 66 Stihl Lithium-Ion Hedge Trimmer ($220)
“This machine is a brute,” declared the no-nonsense team at Popular Mechanics, which ranked it best overall in a recent challenge. “It cuts with a vengeance, and it’s got incredible longevity. You’ll get tired before this trimmer will.” That may be due to its weight, since the HSA 66 clocks in at a decidedly hefty 8.7 pounds with an AP 100 battery—or 10.4 pounds, if you purchase the model with an AP 300 battery. With the extra weight comes as much muscle as a gas-powered trimmer: A 20-inch dual-sided blade cleanly cuts through shrubbery at 3,000 strokes per minute, and the 36-volt lithium-ion battery allows the machine to work with no added fuel costs, power cords, or exhaust emissions. Thanks to an energy-efficient design, the Stihl HSA 66 has an impressive run time, never slowing down until you completely deplete the power. The hedge trimmer retails for around $220, depending on the dealer. Note that the battery and charger are sold separately. Available at authorized Stihl dealers.


Echo SHC 225S Hedge Trimmer


Echo SHC 225S Gas Hedge Trimmer ($359)
Earning high marks from Home Depot shoppers, this ruthless gas-powered trimmer boasts a 20-inch shaft and double-sided, double-reciprocating razor-edge blades. The high-capacity 21.2 cc power boost vortex engine can easily conquer large hedge growth, with a maximum cut diameter of 0.5 inches. This trimmer also boasts a 1-inch blade length and fuel tank capacity of 14.9 oz. Features like hand grips and vibration control create added comfort, which almost makes up for the trimmer’s heavy weight of 13.7 pounds. Available at The Home Depot.


Black & Decker Hedge Trimmer


Black & Decker TR117 Corded Electric Hedge Trimmer ($35)
For a reliable budget option, consider this runaway favorite of Lowe’s customers, which earned an almost-perfect 4.5-star average from more than one hundred users. The corded electric trimmer spans 17 inches in length and tackles branches up to ⅝ inches thick. Its 3.2 amp motor stands up to moderate jobs, with the help of a rust-resistant and dual-action stainless steel blade that remains sharp for an extended length of time. Additional features include a lock-off switch (so you don’t need to worry about accidentally starting the engine) and cord retention. The trimmer’s light weight of 4.3 pounds makes it a breeze to pilot around bushes, and the compact design gives off minimal vibration. Priced under $50, this trimmer is both cost-effective and efficient. Available at Lowe’s.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.

Weekend Projects: 6 Designs for DIY Garden Furniture

Why shell out serious cash on outdoor garden items when you can make them yourself? Check out these six DIY furniture ideas to create a one-of-a-kind space surrounding your plant beds.

With the right furniture, you can turn your garden into an outdoor reprieve for rest and relaxation. But, unfortunately, the weather-proof options don’t always come cheap. That’s why we pulled together six DIY garden furniture designs—building your own outdoor furnishings allows for total customization without emptying your wallet. Whether you’re looking for a place to put your feet up after hours of labor or a table to keep you organized while you get your hands dirty, there’s sure to be a handmade option that will meet your gardening needs.



DIY Rope Ottoman


You don’t need a store-bought ottoman to add functionality to your patio. Try making your own by following this clever project from Style Me Pretty—all you need is a spare tire, two types of rope (nylon and sisal), and a hot glue gun. Start by wrapping the nylon rope around the sides of the tire, then hot gluing the sisal rope in a circular pattern on top. You can paint the whole thing with a light coat of sealer so that it survives during rainstorms.



DIY Potting Bench


Gardening is a lot easier when you have a dedicated set-up that’s just for re-potting blooms. This two-shelf table from Refresh ReStyle can be constructed to store your trowels and pots beneath the area where you’ll work. When you’ve wrapped up construction, give the table a rustic look with a stain of your choice. The entire project will take the length of an afternoon—and just $15 out of pocket. Not bad!



DIY Patio Chair


To build a backyard chair that’s both comfy and sturdy following this design idea from the How To Specialist, you’ll want to invest in heavy-duty lumber and plywood. The key to this construction is making exact measurements upfront, then doubling up in terms of fasteners: Use both a waterproof glue and a power drill to attach each carefully cut 2×4 together. An exterior wood stain would ensure that your hard work doesn’t succumb to water damage. Then, repeat the process to make a pair for your yard.



DIY Outdoor Bench


When it comes to garden furniture, the flexibility provided by a bench that seats anywhere from one to three people is always best. This original design from incorporates a variety of lumber in different sizes—2×2s, 1×2s, 1×3s, and 1×5s—to build an interesting striped design right into a sturdy frame, each width of slat highlighted in a different finish for emphasis. Thanks to two protective coats of varnish, the result is a weathered-looking bench that can be kept outdoors year-round.



DIY Sofa Bench


A robust selection of leftover wood and screws are all it takes to assemble this one-of-a-kind outdoor seating option. Building a solid frame that doesn’t sag or get warped over time requires plenty of center supports, but Funky Junk Interiors‘ step-by-step makes this DIY garden furniture look doable. Also, a pro tip from the handy blogger who dreamed up the design: Find the mattress first before diving into the woodworking, since the soon-to-be seat cushion will dictate the size of the furniture’s frame.



DIY Bistro Table


Rather than searching for the perfect “table for two” to match your garden aesthetic, follow this tutorial from The Shabby Creek Cottage and make your own—to the tune of $15. The only lumber you’ll need to pick up is a handful of humble 2×4s, which the DIY blogger then advises cutting with a power saw into the variety of pieces that make up this garden classic. Sanded down and assembled with a power drill, the wooden bistro table only needs a fresh coat of paint to provide a pop of color in your backyard hangout.

How To: Edge a Lawn

Why edge your lawn? It’s the difference between just mowing a lawn and manicuring it. Maybe time-consuming initially, maintenance will be infrequent, quick, and rewarding.

How to Edge a Lawn


Beautifully mowing a lawn without edging the perimeter and beds is like getting an amazing haircut but leaving an overgrown beard unkempt. You could do that, but why would you? We all know the guy with the perfect lawn, the golfing-green grass with perfectly-edged sides. That guy. Guess what? His secret’s out, and it’s not hard. The peekaboo glimpse of soil in edging looks sharp and snazzy, but it also helps prevents grass from invading your garden beds, sidewalk, or driveway. It doesn’t take a horticulture degree to edge a lawn! All you need is time, the right tools, and patience.

- Power-edger
- Manual edging tool (optional)
- Weed whacker and/or hand shears
- Spade
- Rope or garden hose

Tool notes: Some power-edgers are great with curves and some are abysmal; for the latter, you’ll want to switch to the manual edger anyhow for clean cutting. Rather than stock two tools, it’s worth spending more for power that’s both great on curves and makes a big yard a much smaller task.

How to Edge a Lawn


Just like taping before painting, it’s best to know what you’re after with edging. If this is your first time edging your yard and making new beds, mark out a path by using a rope or garden hose laid where you want your edging cuts made. (You will edge between your chosen guide and the pavement or flower bed, so place your guide accordingly.) Some advise spray-painting your path, but this can cause as many problems as it solves, if your spray gets unruly or a wind gust blows unexpectedly.

If edging is obvious, like along sidewalks, you may feel comfortable skipping this step.

For straight edging, start at an end. For curved edging, you may find it easier to control the shape if you start in the center then work out on either side. Depending on the type of edger you’ve invested in, your technique will vary slightly.

• For power edging, assume a good stance that allows you to walk forward slowly while firmly controlling the path of your edger. Engaging your core and watching your posture will keep you in better control. If new to this, make your first practice edge in the backyard so you get the hang of it before the front yard for all to see. Go slowly, because the faster you go, the more likely you’ll go awry and get a wobble cut or go off-track.

Manual edging uses a tool that looks like a shovel with a half-moon blade. Firmly but gently push it in with your feet and rotate the blade left-to- right or vice versa to get your cut. Be sure to use the same procedures as you would with shoveling to avoid straining your back. Overlapping cut marks with each incision may help you stay straight.

With either method, cut only about 2 inches deep, and be wary of buried pipes and cables. This depth may seem arbitrary, but it’s one most power-edgers reach and tends to be sufficient for controlling root spread. Two inches is a rough guide, but it’s your choice. See what depth will be easiest to handle throughout.

Periodically remove cut turf to ensure you’re making clean lines. Stand back for a good look and make corrections where you may have wobbled in or cut inconsistently along the way.

If it’s garden beds you’re edging, grab the spade and deepen edged cuts to about 4 to 6 inches if your flower beds are sunken. If raised, then choose a depth that works aesthetically for your bed. Cut into the bottom from inside the beds for easy turf removal. Some prefer a 90-degree angle for this, but really, it’s about consistency from one end to the other, so pick an angle and carry through.

Ah, the reward! It’s time for perfect edges. Bust out the weed whacker or the hand shears! The goal here is to get the grass cut back perfectly in line with the trench edge. The weed whacker could be overzealous, so proceed cautiously. Hand shears will do a beautiful, meticulous job. Repeat this task as needed throughout the season.

Be nice to your tools. Before you put them away, clean and dry any blades, and follow manufacturer’s maintenance suggestions on your power tools. In general, manual edgers can be filed or sharpened when you find it laborious to use, but cleaning after every use will prolong their sharpness. Power-edgers are similar to lawnmowers—blades should be fine for up to three years, but look for nicks and other damage that may require replacing. Look for blades of grass that seem torn rather than sheared off as a clue that your blades need attention. Now grab a chair and enjoy the beauty of a well-edged yard.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.

How To: Get Rid of Ladybugs

These insects are cute as can be—until they take over your home! Follow these tips to rid your space of the pretty little pests and keep them from coming back.

How to Get Rid of Ladybugs


A healthy outdoor ladybug population is a good thing. Gardeners appreciate their voracious appetite for the destructive likes of aphids and scale, while kids of all ages can’t resist counting the spots on their bright bodies. Yet too many coccinellidae—especially if they’ve made their way into your living space—is a sign of potential infestation. The little beetles generally enter homes to hibernate over the winter and can multiply by the thousands, ultimately emerging from the wall structure as an overwhelming nuisance. So don’t be lulled by their cuteness! Debug your place with these techniques.

Due diligence is required to send the pests packing. Remove the ones you see inside immediately with any or all of these effective methods.

How to Get Rid of Ladybugs


Vacuum with vigilance. Notice ladybugs in your domicile? Vacuum them up without delay, then dispose of the bag or empty it outside. You can avoid that messy chore, if you own a canister model with a hose, with this trick: Cut the foot section off an old sock and attach it to the end of the hose with a rubber band. Turn the vacuum on, and the fabric will enter the hose (but not the bag). As you suck up ladybugs, they’ll get caught in the sock attachment—then simply remove the sock and empty it outside.

Turn on a light trap. If ladybugs have infested a dark area, like an attic, use a light trap. Purchase one for about $35 or DIY your own out of a plastic jug, a light bulb, and transparencies typically used for overhead projectors. Once trapped, release the ladybugs outdoors.

Get professional help. If the pest problem is already severe, call a pest control pro to get rid of ladybugs. Over-the-counter insecticides aren’t recommended to control ladybug infestations, but exterminators know what to use and how to use it.

Keep your hands off. Though ladybugs don’t bite or carry disease, you should avoid picking them up individually with your fingers, or even sweeping them into a dustpan. When stressed, ladybugs secrete their blood, a yellow, smelly substance that can stain skin, fabrics, and painted surfaces.

In fall, ladybugs look for warmth—and your house is an inviting prospect. They’ll enter through any hole, crack, or gap they can find. Keep ladybugs at bay with these preventive measures.

Fix screens. Repair breaks or tears in all screens and don’t leave doors or windows without screens open.

Install weather stripping. Gaps under doors make an easy entry point for ladybugs. Weather stripping on all doors is an excellent barrier (and it helps keep your energy bill down, too).

Seal gaps. Apply high quality silicone caulk to exterior cracks and crevices, in any gaps in your siding, and around window frames, doorframes, and utility pipes. Ladybugs can also enter through cracks in mortar, so if your home is of brick construction, check the pointing and repair with mortar or cement where necessary.

DIY Lite: The Easy Way to Build Better Backyard Privacy

Do you wish your backyard was a little more shaded and secluded? Simply follow these steps, and you can be chilling out in a private outdoor oasis right on your property in less than a weekend.

DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Are your neighbors so close that it feels like you practically share a backyard? There’s no need to fence off your property! In fact, we may have an even easier solution that defines your outdoor space, establishes privacy, and even creates some extra shade in an otherwise sunny garden. Simply follow our step-by-step and you can build yourself a suitable privacy screen and canopy—all out of less than a dozen wooden planks.


DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

- 8-foot-long 2×4 lumber (6)
- 8-foot-long 2×2 lumber (5)
- Measuring tape
- Pencil
- 2-inch metal brackets (16)
- 3-1⁄2-inch screws (44)
- 1-1⁄2-inch screws (98)
- 12-inch ornamental brackets (8)
- Cordless drill/driver
- Wood tie plates (8)
- Palm sander
- Brush
- Exterior wood stain
- Varnish (optional)
- Outdoor fabric (2-1⁄2 yards by 8 yards)
- Ribbon (2 yards)
- Sewing machine (optional)



DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Let’s start by making the roof out of five 8-foot pieces of the 2×2 lumber and two 8-foot pieces of 2×4. For easiest assembly, find a flat surface large enough to accommodate the finished 8-foot-square DIY outdoor privacy screen.

Place the two 2×4 lumber parallel so that 3-1⁄2-inch sides (remember, a 2×4 isn’t exactly 2 inches by 4 inches) face one another and the narrow 1-1⁄2-inch sides lie flat against the ground; separate them by 8 feet. Then, set the five 2×2s perpendicularly in that open space—these will connect the 2×4s. Check against a measuring tape to ensure that you space them equidistantly, leaving 2 feet between each. Position a 2-inch metal bracket inside the corner of each rectangle you’ve created.



DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Take note of how, laid out on the flat surface, the 2×2 lengths are about two inches shorter than the 2×4s on either end—that’s not a mistake! Keeping the bottoms flush will ensure the positioning is the same at every intersection and that your roof doesn’t inadvertently end up crooked.

Where each end of a 2×2 meets with a 2×4 wood plank, fasten using two 3-1⁄2-inch screws. (Tip: Whenever you’ll be inserting screws in this project, first drill pilot holes in order to help guide the fasteners and prevent the wood from splitting in the process.)

Work your way down one length of 2×4 and then repeat along the other to build the top of your DIY outdoor privacy screen.



DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Screw 2-inch metal brackets at every intersection of lumber. Two brackets (which use four 1-1⁄2-inch screws apiece) will secure both sides of every 2×2 end, except at the outer corners where you can only place one.



DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The four remaining 2×4 planks will make the DIY prviacy screen’s legs. Cut a foot from each length so that they’re only 7-feet tall. (You can get this done at a big box hardware store at the time of purchase, or saw them off yourself at home.)

Then, while the roof is still laying on the floor, prepare to attach the legs to it using eight 12-inch ornamental brackets, or two in each of the structure’s corners.

• Start by attaching the ornamental brackets to the roof’s 2×4s. Pencil a mark 3-1⁄2 inches from the end of one of the 2×4s in order to leave enough space for a leg. Position one bracket so that its corner aligns with your pencil mark (the decorative part will face the opposite end), and attach using 3-1⁄2-inch screws. Repeat at the opposite end of this length, then complete the second 2×4 in the same manner.
• Next, place the remaining 12-inch brackets at the ends of the outermost 2×2s; they’ll be perpendicular to the ones already installed. Push each right to where the 2×2 intersects the 2×4, and use 1-1⁄2-inch screws to fasten to the roof lumber.



DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, you will need help of at least two strong friends for this step. Raise the roof structure and flip it so that the ornamental brackets face down. Ask your assistants to hold the roof structure while you attach the exposed halves of the brackets to the four legs with 1-1⁄2-inch screws. (The lumber should fit neatly in the space you left for each leg in Step 4.)



DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Reinforce the structure where the roof and the legs meet by screwing 2-inch by 4-inch wood tie plates over the outside of each corner, one on each side. If you can use an L-shaped tie plate, even better!



DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Congratulations! You’ve just built the bulk of your DIY outdoor privacy screen, and you’ll be sitting shaded from sun and neighbors soon enough. Round up your friends, and—each one taking a foot—move the soon-to-be shelter to its destination in your yard.



DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sand the entire structure, then apply a coat of exterior wood stain in the direction of the grain. The brush you use to do so will depend on your stain of choice: Work with a natural-bristle brush for oil stains and a synthetic-bristle brush for latex stains. Stir the stain periodically so that the color remains well mixed as you apply it to the large structure. Then, leave the wood to dry for the product’s recommended amount of time (likely 24 hours).

If you don’t have a specially formulated exterior wood stain to help weatherproof your backyard project, you  can choose a standard stain followed by at least two coats of varnish to protect it over the outdoor season.



DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

In order to cover not only the sides of our backyard privacy screen but also shade the top, we purchased a piece of fabric that was 2-1⁄2 yards wide by 8 yards long. A simple cotton fabric works well, but outdoor fabric—resistant to fading, stains, and mildew—is even better for this sort of use.

Sew a small, 1⁄2-inch seam all along the fabric edges to avoid fraying. (If you don’t own a sewing machine, check if your fabric store might for a small fee.) While you’re at it, attach a 20-inch ribbon at each corner to tie down the fabric around your canopy’s feet.



DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Finally, attach the canopy by weaving it through the 2×2s in the structure’s roof (over one, under the next, and so on). Drop the fabric on the sides and make a knot with the ribbon around each foot to hold the shade in place. With that, your private outdoor room awaits! And whenever you want to invite a large party of guests over to admire your latest backyard addition, simply raise one fabric side and tie it to a tree to increase the shaded area. (Trust us, you’ll want to invite the guests over.)

DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Completed Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Outdoor Privacy Screen - Expanded Shade

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.

How To: Kill Tree Roots

Just because you cut down the trunk doesn’t mean your troubles are over. These options will help you regain your yard.

How to Kill Tree Roots


Trees add great beauty to your landscape and their shade can help keep cooling costs low. But when a tree outgrows its location or is seriously damaged in a storm, it becomes a hazard that should be removed—and chopping it down is only half the battle. A tree’s underground root system can extend up to 20 feet deep in ideal soil conditions, and spread over an even greater area. These tree roots can continue to grow even after the trunk is history and, if close to your sewer line or foundation, cause serious damage. Eliminate underground issues with either the chemical or natural treatment described here—just remember to use caution and keep both herbicide and rock salt out of reach of pets and kids. Now read on to get to the root of the problem.

OPTION 1: Chemical Herbicide

The fastest, most effective way to kill roots is with chemical herbicide, as soon as the tree has been cut down. If you can treat the tree immediately, proceed to Step 2; if not, follow Step 1.

How to Kill Tree Roots


- Saw
- Water
- Watering can or hose
- Glyphosate herbicide (such as RoundUp) with 41 percent or higher active ingredient concentration
- Small bucket
- Garden sprayer, hand-held sprayer, or paintbrush

If the tree was cut down days (or more) ago, make a fresh cut with a saw across what remains of the trunk. This slice should create a flat surface and expose new flesh. With trees three inches or less in diameter, cut across the entire surface of the trunk. For larger trees, expose new flesh of the outer two to three inches.

Saturate the tree’s cambium layer—the outer ring located just under the bark—with 2 to 3 inches of water. As t his outer layer is still alive and growing, the liquid will help carry the herbicide from the live tissue to the tree roots.

Mix a 50/50 solution of glyphosate herbicide to water and apply it to the exposed cambium layer. You can use a garden sprayer, hand-held sprayer, or paintbrush to do so. Be careful in your application to avoid splashing and inadvertently harming plants or grass surrounding the trunk. Tree roots should die off completely in a couple of weeks.


OPTION 2: Rock Salt

Although it takes longer than chemical herbicide, rock salt can effectively kill tree roots by robbing them of water.

- Rock salt
- Water
- Drill with 1-inch or larger drill bit

Drill several holes 3 to 4 inches deep into the cut surface of the tree trunk. Before you stow your power tool, bore several additional holes into any larger roots that are exposed near the ground.

Fill the holes completely with rock salt, and pour water into them to fill to the top. Avoid overfilling, as the rock salt solution is harmful to surrounding vegetation and toxic to pets—you won’t want any spillover. Repeat this process several times for a few months, and eventually rock salt will kill the tree roots. (You’ll know the roots are dead when there is no longer any regrowth from the trunk.)


Fear that the roots have invaded a sewer line or your foundation? Maybe you wish to keep the decomposing material from feeding unattractive fungus. In either case, you could also attempt digging the larger tree roots out of the ground. It’s an arduous process, but once you remove them you can reclaim your lawn.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.

All You Need to Know About Fence Materials

Before you set out to build an enclosure for your property, consider these nine popular materials to find the type of fencing that's best for your needs and budget.

Fence Types


From the zigzag post-and-rail of the Colonial era to the elaborate molded vinyl styles of today, fences have always been a preferred means of ensuring privacy and deterring unwanted visitors. Whether you want to keep your pets safely in your yard or keep the neighborhood children out of your flowerbed, there’s a fence style and material fit for your property.

Before loading your truck with fencing materials at the lumberyard, take a few minutes to call your local zoning office to find out what, if any, preliminary steps you need to take. If you’re putting the fence on a property line, you might need a lot survey. If you belong to a homeowners association or live in a development that is subject to covenants, you could be restricted to using specific materials and limited on fence height. Once you’ve got the green light, the next step is choosing the right type of fence material.


Fence Types - Cedar


Cedar, the king of backyard privacy fencing, is known for its long-lasting good looks—tight grain, fewer knots, and a desirable red hue—and its promise never to warp or shrink. While cedar also naturally resists decay and insects, this wood is not as impervious to soil as treated wood and will likely rot after several years set in it. If you choose to build a fence from cedar, it’s recommended to install in a concrete base or secure to fence posts that are treated wood. Even so, the installation process is DIY-friendly, and you can customize the planks to create a variety of styles, including saddleback and lattice-topped.

Maintenance Tip: Cedar naturally weathers to a silvery gray, and a fence of this material will require maintenance, including occasional plank replacement. For long-lasting color and protection, apply a penetrating sealant immediately after installation and annually thereafter.


Fence Types - Vinyl


Vinyl fencing has been around for a few decades, but it’s still a relatively new kid on the block. Early vinyl fencing products had a tendency to yellow, sag, or become brittle after a couple of years, but today’s fence manufacturers are putting out durable fencing products in a variety of heights and styles. When it comes to quality, thickness counts; thicker gauge, “virgin” vinyl will look best for the longest amount of time (some with a lifetime guarantee). For the best results, installation must be precise, so consider hiring a professional fence installer. A little out-of-level here or slightly out-of-plumb there will be significantly noticeable in the finished fence.

Maintenance Tip: Once installed, vinyl fencing is virtually maintenance-free. Wash dirt off occasionally with a mild detergent, rinse with a garden hose, and you’re good to go.


Fence Types - Composite


FENCE TYPE: Composite
Manufactured from wood fibers combined with plastic polymers, composite fencing provides a like-wood look without the propensity to degrade from insects and rot. Such combination of style and substance runs slightly more expensive than vinyl and cedar, though, in both material and installation—like vinyl fencing, composite requires precise installation by professionals. Since the material’s quality varies, you’ll want to explore your options and buy composite fencing components from a reputable dealer.

Maintenance Tip: After professional installation, composite fencing requires only an occasional spraying with plain water to keep it looking clean and fresh.


Fence Types - Redwood


FENCE TYPE: Redwood and teak
You’ll pay top dollar for a redwood or teak fence, but nothing else compares to their natural softness and luster. Because they’re expensive, redwood and teak fences are usually limited to small areas: enclosures around spas or pools. Like cedar, redwood and teak both naturally resist insects, decay, shrinking, and warping from the elements.

Maintenance Tip: Both redwood and teak require the application of a penetrating sealer or oil once or twice a year to maintain their original color. A light sanding prior to application will remove surface weathering.


Fence Types - Metal


Options for metal fencing range from classic to contemporary, with a variety to match or blend with any home exterior. Wrought iron fences have survived centuries of style changes, and with good reason: More than simply classic, they’re extremely durable. Consider hiring a specialized fencing contractor if you’re looking to incorporate the traditional appeal of wrought iron into your property, as these enclosures tend to be custom made to fit the property and even include more intricate patterns. Some newer metal options—including cast iron, aluminum, and steel fences—package the strength of wrought iron with a more DIY-friendly panel installation.

Maintenance Tip: Aluminum fencing holds up without rust all year long, but wrought iron and some steel fences require treatment with a brush-on or spray-on rust-inhibiting paint when they start to show signs of corrosion.


Fence Types - Treated Wood Pickets


FENCE TYPE: Treated wood
Pressure- and chemically-treated wood pickets or cedar-style planks are a popular pick for outdoor structures as a whole—gazezbos, decks, pergolas, and more—and assembled as a fence, they offer privacy at a wallet-friendly cost. While this more economical fencing option is a perfect choice for fence posts inserted in the ground (treated wood resists both insects and moisture), its fence pickets have a tendency to warp or twist as quickly as one month after installation. For best shot at a warp-free results, handpick out the planks individually from your local lumberyard rather than having them delivered in bulk. Look for the straightest planks and skip any that look “green,” or damp, which could indicate they recently came from the manufacturer and are more likely to move as they dry.

Maintenance Tip: Seal or paint treated wood for a better look, and replace warped planks as needed.


Fence Types - Brick Masonry


Concrete, stucco, brick, block, and stone fences create a stately aesthetic around the home, but at a cost: These materials skew pricey and require professional installation. Due to their weight, masonry fences need a structural footing poured below the frost line, or the depth to which the groundwater in soil is expected to freeze in winter. Many homeowners mix some type of masonry with another fencing material, such as wrought iron or wood, for reasons of both design and cost. Block and poured concrete require steel reinforcement and brick fences often feature a concrete or block inner fence with brick veneer only on the exterior.

Maintenance Tip: Over time, mortar joints in stone and brick fences can work loose and require re-pointing to stabilize.


Fence Types - Chain Link


FENCE TYPE: Chain link
While their open links certainly don’t do much for privacy, chain link fences offer adequate security for pets and kids at a competitively low cost. The materials are among the least expensive fencing options available, making this type of fence is a common choice for large rural yards where the amount of fencing needed makes other choices cost-prohibitive. In addition to economical materials, an easy-to-DIY installation—one that involves setting posts, installing a top rail, and then stretching linked mesh between the rails and posts—saves homeowners more money.

Maintenance Tip: Chain link can corrode, especially at the junctions where the mesh links meet, but it’s difficult to prevent. For a better look and a longer life, consider upgrading to vinyl-coated chain link.


Fence Types - Barbed Wire


FENCE TYPE: Barbed wire
This type of fence is strictly functional, usually set up to keep livestock in or natural predators out. Its standard design is simple and affordable enough for property owners looking to fence in a larger area: five strands of barbed wire strung taut between metal T-posts around the perimeter of the property, with heftier wood or steel posts installed at the corners to support the tension of the stretched wire. Before you install, know that barbed wire fencing is limited to rural use and prohibited in most communities.

Maintenance Tip: Barbed wire strands should be re-stretched from time to time if they sag due to livestock leaning on them.