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Installing a privacy screen under somewhat weird circumstances.

By Curt Anderson
June 28, 2021 4:13 pm
Category: How-to

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I recently was tasked with a construction project with numerous and seemly contradictory requirements.

Being in a fire-prone area, for safety reasons we were obliged to remove a misplaced and highly flammable tree from a rental property we own. Because of that, the tenants lost some backyard privacy when people passed by outside the front yard fence.

There is a long and narrow side yard which a person could peer into and see the backyard where the tenants wanted some privacy without be gawked at. This side yard is about nine feet wide. Something to block the view of passers-by was needed. Not that the tenants would be prancing about naked.

The stipulations were that whatever I made that it not be attached to the neighbors fence or to our house, including hooks into the siding or the fence. That ruled out hanging a curtain or similar solutions.

Additional requirements were:

  • That it not impede people walking through including pushing a wheelbarrow or lawnmower.
  • Also that it not be permanent, meaning no fence posts sunk into concrete.
  • Additionally it should not act as a sail and flap or blow over in the wind.
  • Naturally, I had an interest that it not cost a fortune.

    My solution was frame that pivots on a single pole. I made the frame out of one-by-two fir which I doubled up so the corners could be overlapping joints. I used screws and exterior grade wood glue. It took of bit of adjusting and diagonal measurements to be sure the frame was a perfect rectangle. Added some angle corner braces to keep it square.

    My wife gave the frame a coating of weather-resistant stain. The pole I used was a rigid, rust-resistant ten foot, one-inch diameter metal pipe used for electrical conduit. Using zip-ties, we stretched a grommeted shade cloth with good opacity onto the four-by-six foot frame. Below the frame, I placed a 15 inch length of two-inch diameter ABS pipe which acts a spacer between the frame and the ground. Centered onto the frame I placed simple brackets which I allows the frame to spin freely.

    Because I had only visualized this solution, I tested the concept in our backyard first. (Enlarge the first photo below) With proof of concept established it was time to place it at the rental

    One small unforeseen glitch in this project was that the frame didn't fit into the back of our Subaru Forester. Luckily, our rental is only three blocks away so I walked over carrying the rather ungainly frame with the cover on it while my wife drove over with the necessary tools and equipment.

    Then at our rental house, my wife and I found the optimal location to place the contraption. Using a post hole shovel I dug down about a foot. Checking for level, I pounded a two-foot length of two-inch ABS pipe into the ground until it was nearly level with the ground. I placed a cap onto the ABS pipe through which I had previously drilled a hole sized and centered to perfectly accommodate the metal pipe. We replaced the removed dirt around the ABS pipe.

    I placed the metal pole into the ABS pipe again checking for level in all directions. This time leveling was more critical. Once it was exactly level and pushed into the ground, the pipe stayed level. Then with a sledge hammer from atop a ladder I pounded that ten-foot metal pole into the ground leaving something less than 6 feet of it above ground. I placed the 15-inch ABS pipe as spacer onto the metal pipe and placed the frame above that.

    Of course, we didn't want the frame to spin too freely. So I placed a metal stake into the ground about a half foot to the left of the center pole. The stake I used was intended to stake a dog on chain so it had a metal link on it. We never used it for its intended purpose but it was among the miscellaneous odds and ends we seem to collect. To that stake I attached a bungee cord. (Enlarge the second photo below)

    In that way, the default position of the screen obscured the view of any potential peepers. However it easily pushes out of the way when the tenants or others want to pass by and returns to the "closed" position. The bungee can be unhooked if the screen needed to be "open" for an extended period. It also has the advantage of not totally resisting a strong wind. Like a weather vane it moves to offer minimal wind resistance.

    This vision-blocker was positioned so that a person would have to be inside the fence and on the property to see what's in or what's happening in the backyard.

    With the metal pole sunk some four feet below ground level it remains upright like a flagpole but can be removed with some but not a Herculean effort.

    All of those who were interested in this project including my wife and the tenants are very pleased with the results.

    Comments Start Below

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    Comments on "Installing a privacy screen under somewhat weird circumstances.":

    1. by Curt Anderson on June 29, 2021 9:02 am
      Dang, I thought more of you would be interested to see what I look like.


    2. by islander on July 5, 2021 4:42 pm
      Cool !!! Good looking project. It appears to have come out quite well !!

    3. by Donna on July 5, 2021 5:03 pm
      Nice work!

    4. by HatetheSwamp on July 6, 2021 4:26 am

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