Project Spotlight: Using a Wood Fence As a Backdrop for an Updated Outdoor Space

It started innocently enough, an inquiry arrived in my inbox regarding a fence.  I usually have to flush these out a little and find out if it’s something I would be a good fit for.  My focus is on residential wood fencing here in Louisville, but I get many calls and emails for other types of fencing as well as commercial work.  After a few questions on both our parts, we set a time to meet so I could get the information I needed to provide a proposal.  I was in for a pleasant surprise.

The outdoor space had been redesigned over the summer.  The water feature, plants and stone walking path made for an inviting and intimate space to enjoy a cup of hot tea in the morning, a glass of wine in the evening, some time with a good book, or just a moment of stillness at the end of a busy day.  There was only one problem; the eight foot tall privacy fence seemed to be too much of a barrier and inhibited rather than nurtured the peacefulness of such a setting. This is where I come in.

The original wood fence


The “before”

There is a familiar dance that takes place with projects like this.  Usually the client has an idea or image they like, but don’t have the exact design firmly grasped in their mind.  I lead this journey by asking questions and requesting images.  The questions are more about how they intend to use the space.  I’m a big believer in how the physical objects around us influence our use of a space and how we feel in it.  The images help me discover a theme of what my clients like, what they are drawn to.  Usually with as little as 2-3 images I can find elements of that theme.  After a couple of visits,  a few phone calls, and several emails, I knew enough and my clients felt comfortable enough that I could capture what they envisioned that we set a start date.

Redesigning the layout

The first step was to take down the old fence and get the foundation ready for what would come next.  The original gate was next to the garage.  With the changes in the landscaping it made more sense to center the gate with the stone walking path.  I removed the old hinge post and at the clients request, set it next to the garage were he intends to have plantar boxes.  We opted to leave the two posts to the sides as they were in good shape and really didn’t need replacing.  After the wood seasons it will all be painted white.  The tarp catches the dirt from the posts holes and keeps it from getting in to the mulch and is then hauled off.  Details matter.

Sealing end grain.

Every piece of end grain on this project is sealed.  Every piece.  Posts, 2x4s, gate frame work, pickets, each vertical slat in the lattice. Every piece.  This adds a lot more time, but what it does to extending the life of wood that is outdoors cannot be disputed.  End grain is the cut off end of a piece of wood.  It acts like a sponge and absorbs water.  When you see wood begin to breakdown it occurs first at the end grain.  Think of the ends of wood that you see on a fence or other outdoor project.  You start to see the splitting occur here and it only gets worse.  Again, details matter.

Vertical lattice

All of the lattice work is held together by screws.  Each of the vertical slats get a pre-drilled hole to reduce splitting.  The screws make for stronger lattice and and reduce the splitting that would likely occur if using a nail gun.  Quality matters. 


” Did it turn out the way you envisioned it would?” I asked my client as I was finishing up.  ” It is more than I envisioned.  You took something from each of the pictures we showed you and turned it into a finished product.”

Music to my ears.

What can I build for you?