Watch this video to find out how to build:
- Privacy Fence: Learn how to layout, set fence posts, install horizontal rails, and attach pressure treated wood fence boards.
- Lattice Screen: See how to construct a screen from pressure treated lattice to hide a central air conditioner unit.
- Fire Pit: Learn how to build a stone fire pit in your yard from a kit.
Read episode article to find out more.
- Fences: Surrounding Your Surroundings (article)
- Fencing Options for Your Yard (7 Part Video Series)
- Adding Lattice to a Deck Foundation (video)
- How to Build a Backyard Fire Pit from a Kit (video)
Danny Lipford: The weather will soon be warming up, so this week, the crew at Today’s Homeowner is headed outside to make over a backyard in this special “Spring Around the Yard” episode. Get ready for the green. Go ahead and grab a hold.
Chelsea Lipford: I’m so scared.
Danny Lipford: As the temperatures begin to warm up, people begin to plan backyard projects so that they can fully enjoy the beautiful weather of spring and summer. My daughter, Chelsea, is no exception. She renovated this house several months ago. Now she’s ready to make some backyard improvements, which sounds like a weekend full of work for me.
As you can see, I’ve got quite a stack of treated lumber here, which we’ll use for our first project, that’s building a privacy fence from the back corner of her property all the way down that side–not only for privacy, but also for a little more security.
Now, the second project we’re going to do is something we get so many requests for information on and that’s how to build a backyard fire pit. Chelsea’s already used the stackable stones to get an idea of how large it’ll be, so that she knows exactly what it’ll look like once we install it in the backyard.
Now another thing we’re going to do, you know, most people have something in their backyard that’s just not that attractive but they have to have. Well, she has a heating and cooling system that we want to, kind of, screen in some way. So, I’m going to figure out some type of lattice, maybe plant a few plants in front of it, to kind of hide it a little bit, make it a little more attractive in the backyard.
I’m also going to see how she likes to play with this little toy, once we start putting in the fence post. But the first thing we have to do is get rid of all of the chain link fencing. The new wooden fence will follow the same path as this ancient chain link one. So the chain link has to go.
Chelsea Lipford: Kind of scary, you can cut it so easily.
Allen Lyle: Somebody over here looking for a fence builder?
Danny Lipford: Yeah, good, you got the shovel.
Allen Lyle: I couldn’t find the batteries, though.
Danny Lipford: Perfect timing. We’re trying to figure out… You know how these chain link fence, sometimes, they got a lot of concrete?
Allen Lyle: Right.
Danny Lipford: So, I can see the concrete wiggling.
Allen Lyle: Well, let’s find out.
Danny Lipford: Removing these posts without breaking the thin wall pipe is tricky. Chelsea, let’s go ahead and grab your lopper.
Allen Lyle: There it is!
Danny Lipford: Let’s start cutting these through here.
Allen Lyle: There it is! They deserted me!
Danny Lipford: And getting through the fence mesh is no picnic, either, since the plants have grown up, around and through it.
Chelsea Lipford: You need these?
Danny Lipford: No, the loppers. Those are hedge trimmers.
Chelsea Lipford: Oh! They cut things.
Danny Lipford: You need to go to 18.104.22.168/~todaysk5 and get your glossary.
Chelsea Lipford: What?
Danny Lipford: Loppers.
Chelsea Lipford: Oh, you still need those? Sorry.
Danny Lipford: Ya’ll roll that around, I’m going to try to clip everything I can behind here.
Chelsea Lipford: Ew, those vines, they look like Jumanji weeds, like they’re just going to take over, start eating us.
Danny Lipford: And some of these obstacles are bigger than others. It looks rotten, but I’m wondering, you know, inside and down that thing, we only need to cut just a little bit of this.
Allen Lyle: Oh, you don’t have to cut, you could almost blow it over. Look at that, that’s just…
Danny Lipford: I don’t know, I got a feeling it’s going to get… Thankfully, Mother Nature has already been working on this stump for some time. Eventually, the line is cleared out and we make a quick check of Chelsea’s lot survey, to make sure all of the new fence is on her property.
By pulling a string between the fence post in the front and the one in the back, we’re guaranteed of a perfectly straight line between the two points. Then we just have to measure out the location of each post at eight-foot increments along that line, so we can start digging holes. How do you like that?
Chelsea Lipford: How about that!
Danny Lipford: All right, measure that.
Chelsea Lipford: We can tunnel to China with that thing.
Danny Lipford: See how deep it is.
Chelsea Lipford: How deep does it have to be, Dad?
Danny Lipford: Two feet.
Chelsea Lipford: Might need to go a little bit more because 24 is at the top of the dirt mound.
Danny Lipford: All right.
Chelsea Lipford: So, people do this with manual post hole diggers?
Danny Lipford: Normally.
Chelsea Lipford: Wow! How do you dig that deep?
Danny Lipford: Okay, we can get the rest of it out. Come here, you try one. Go ahead and grab a hold.
Chelsea Lipford: I’m so scared. What do I do?
Danny Lipford: Just take your time.
Chelsea Lipford: I push the little trigger?
Danny Lipford: Yeah, give it a little bit of gas, hold on. Okay, let’s bump it up a little bit, yeah, turn it on! The auger seems to be working well. Even if my operator isn’t a pro quite yet. The more we dig, more the rain picks up. So, once all the holes are dug it’s time to call it a day. I think this is going to be a day, here.
Chelsea Lipford: Are you calling it?
Danny Lipford: Yeah, it’s just raining too much.
Chelsea Lipford: I know. I thought it was going to get better but it’s getting worse.
Danny Lipford: At least we got all those things done. Do you mind taking this back to the rental place?
Allen Lyle: Yeah, I can do that.
Danny Lipford: And then, we’ll just start back in the morning and put all the posts in.
Allen Lyle: All right.
Chelsea Lipford: All right.
Joe Truini: Chances are sooner or later, you’re going to have to stake out some fixtures on your property, whether it’s a patio umbrella, flagpole, volleyball nets, in this case we’re putting in a portable lawn sprinkler. But if you just stake them up, then they’re always in the way—you can trip over them or have to mow around them.
So here’s a solution where you just make a buried socket out of a piece of PVC. In this case we’re using half-inch PVC, which perfectly fits the sprinkler. But you can get PVC in various diameters, so you can always find one that’ll fit your project.
The first thing you need to do is take the PVC and use a hacksaw to cut off a sharp angle on one end, then cut it three or four inches longer than you need it. Then, drive it into the ground, pull it out, and then tap out the dirt. Then trim it to size.
What you end up with is a perfect size and depth hole in your lawn where you can bury the socket. Just push it in, make sure it’s perfectly flush with the ground, and then you can put in, in this case, the lawn sprinkler. And when you’re done with it, just pull it out, the socket’s always there for reuse, and you can mow right over it and not worry about hitting.
Danny Lipford: This week we’re making some improvements to my daughter, Chelsea’s, backyard. The big project is the addition of a privacy fence. The rain shut us down on the first day as we completed digging all of the postholes, so that’s where we pick it up on day two.
Yesterday was one sloppy mess, but at least we were able to get all of our postholes dug and we were able to take the power auger back to the rental center. Now it’s time to put in all of our four-by-four posts.
Now, of course, when you’re using four-by-four posts for a fence, it needs to be treated. But not all treated is the same or rated for whatever you’re using it for. In this case, since we’re going in the ground, we wanted to make sure we had one, which rated for ground contact.
And also, it’s a good idea to really hand pick the lumber whenever you can. The lumber we got looks great; it’s nice and straight. That’s important and makes for a good fence. Now we can set all the posts in and use a fast-setting concrete so that we can move along on this fence.
Before the concrete goes in, it’s a good idea to make sure the posts are sitting plumb or perfectly vertical and sitting at the right depth in the holes. This may require a little extra digging by hand to deepen or widen the holes so the post fits perfectly in the hole and it lines up with the string above.
To lock it in place, we’re using a fast-setting concrete mix from Quikrete. They’ve designed this stuff so that it can be mixed right in the posthole.
Chelsea Lipford: Whoo! A little dusty!
Danny Lipford: You got the hose?
Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.
Danny Lipford: Pour in the dry mix, add a little water and mix it up. Besides the fact that this formula simplifies the mixing process, it also dries much more quickly.
Chelsea Lipford: So do you have to…how long do you have to support this for the concrete to dry?
Danny Lipford: Oh, about an hour. That’s important with posts because they have to be held in the perfect position until they dry.
Chelsea Lipford: So Allen has to stand there for an hour?
Danny Lipford: That’s not a bad idea, but we need his help setting the rest of the posts. So we’re going to go ahead and start attaching the two-by-four stringers to hold the post in position.
Allen Lyle: And you are plumb here.
Danny Lipford: Later the fence boards will be nailed to these stringers. That way we can continue plumbing the posts, mixing the concrete around them and tacking them to the stringers.
Chelsea Lipford: Do this?
Danny Lipford: Yeah, do that, and then just pull it up and just throw it over on Allen’s foot, right there. Occasionally, we’ll brace a post off to an adjacent tree to add some support in the other direction. These 16-foot stringers will span two posts, but we don’t want all of the joints in one place because that could compromise the strength of the fence.
Chelsea Lipford: Oh, so you’re supposed to, kind of, overlap them like that?
Danny Lipford: Correct.
Chelsea Lipford: Hmm.
Danny Lipford: So we’re starting the top and bottom rows with eight-foot pieces. That way no more than two of the three stringers are seamed on any given post.
When you’re working with pressure-treated lumber, it’s best to use galvanized nails. The nail gun we’re using isn’t a necessity for this job but it sure is nice because you don’t have to worry about banging the post out of position like you would if you were driving nails with a hammer. And it probably won’t take long at all for that concrete to set.
Allen Lyle: Oh, it’ll be real quick.
Danny Lipford: We’ll nail us some fence boards. All right, so you want to block this from the view of your backyard guest. And I don’t blame you.
Chelsea Lipford: Can you wonder why?
Danny Lipford: I remember you planted this.
Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, we had this planted, but I think—I mean, it’s going to take a while, and it’ll never be as wide as the air conditioner is.
Danny Lipford: Well, you know, the most logical thing would be to match the under skirting in the lattice there.
Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, and I think I have some of that leftover. It might be wide enough to cover it.
Danny Lipford: With a few quick measurements we can see if the extra lattice is big enough to do the job. Do you know where that panel is?
Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, it’s in the garage, over here. All right, it’s just right here. You think it’ll work?
Danny Lipford: Oh, yeah! It’s a little short.
Chelsea Lipford: It’s a little smaller, but it doesn’t have to go from the corner of the house.
Danny Lipford: It’s only at eight inches. While we’re digging around, we also find some lattice channel we can use to trim out the panel. Meanwhile, the concrete has dried on the end where we started the fence, so Allen is getting ready to install the fence board beginning there.
Allen Lyle: Put our string on the backside of this. Now we’ve got our line right here, for the height of our fence boards. By the way, any time you work with treated lumber or lumber that’s fairly green or wet still, you want to butt it tight, those joints tight, because they’re going to shrink up a little bit. If you try to put a spacer in there first, it’s going to shrink up and you’re going to have an even bigger space. You don’t want that. So, butt it tight up against each other and shoot it in place.
Danny Lipford: While Allen is making headway on the fence, Chelsea and I have come up with a plan to combine some of the extra four-by-fours that we have, as well as a few two-by-fours from the fence project with the lattice panel we found in the garage to create a trellis that looks like a small arbor. This stuff is treated as well, and any time you use screws in pressure-treated wood, they should be coated like these are.
Chelsea Lipford: My fingernail polish matches the color of the nail. The screw.
Danny Lipford: All right, that ought to do it.
Chelsea Lipford: All right.
Danny Lipford: Now we can cut down a couple of the four-by-fours to support the panel on either side. Map out the location for our posts and dig the holes. There’s only two to dig, one for each of us. Here I’m tired, you do it.
Chelsea Lipford: Well, I’m tireder!
Danny Lipford: I’m not really tired, I’m just saying that. I think Chelsea is already missing that auger we had yesterday.
Chelsea Lipford: All right, your turn. Wait, get back here, it’s your turn.
Danny Lipford: When the holes are finally done, we can set the post and attach the lattice between them so it’s level. We have just enough fast-setting concrete left to anchor these posts before we add the last part of our design to really make it look like a small arbor. That involves making a bevel cut on the ends of two two-by-fours so we can attach them at the top of the post on either side. Okay, you where you need it?
Chelsea Lipford: Yes, sir!
Danny Lipford: It looks pretty good, if I say so myself. Now after the Best New Products segment, we’ll add the climbing vines as the finishing touch.
Jodi Marks: You know, now that the warmer months are upon us, getting out and working in your garden or in your flower bed is my idea of a great weekend. But you also need to make sure that you’ve got good tools to make your projects go a lot smoother.
Take a look at this wheelbarrow by True Temper. What I like best about it is, look how big the tub is. It can hold up to six cubic feet of material. Whether you’re hauling mulch, pea gravel, soil, whatever you need to get to the other side of your lawn or your yard, this is just a great way to haul it.
It’s very sturdy, it’s made out of plastic, so it’s not going to rust. And take a look at this, it’s very easy to control when you’re dumping the content because it’s got these curved handles. So I’m not forced to let go of the handle like other wheelbarrows to gain control of it and dump the entire content out.
This is just a great tool to have around the house. It’ll make your weekend projects go that much quicker.
Danny Lipford: This week we’re tackling some landscaping projects to dress up my daughter Chelsea’s backyard. We have a new privacy fence well underway along one side of her yard, and we just completed the lattice trellis to screen off the view of her air conditioning unit. While the concrete supporting the trellis dries, we decide to check on Allen’s progress on the fence before laying out the fire pit.
Chelsea Lipford: Quality control.
Allen Lyle: Whoa.
Danny Lipford: Let’s check this situation out here.
Allen Lyle: How about that?
Danny Lipford: Looks good, man!
Allen Lyle: Thank you.
Chelsea Lipford: It looks awesome!
Danny Lipford: And isn’t this some great wood?
Allen Lyle: I love this stuff!
Danny Lipford: I think we’re going to jump on the fire pit.
Allen Lyle: Okay, great. S’mores afterwards? S’mores? Please!
Chelsea Lipford: Yes, s’mores.
Danny Lipford: She’s not much on shoveling, but I’ll do my best on it.
Chelsea Lipford: Oh, goodness. Hey, I was thinking about putting it somewhere in here.
Danny Lipford: I’ll tell you what, why don’t you step up, like, over on the deck, and let’s kind of get a kind of an idea here. I got a stick right here. All right, what do you think?
Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, put your stick down. I would go to the left a little bit.
Danny Lipford: Left?
Chelsea Lipford: No, my left. All right, back that way. Okay, to your left just an inch. Come out this way a little bit. Yeah, I think that’s good right there.
Allen Lyle: Did you honestly stand up there and say, “An inch this way”? Seriously? Come on!
Chelsea Lipford: Hey, I can tell.
Danny Lipford: Just taking orders right now. While she’s in the mood to direct, we decide to position the climbing vines that will cap off the trellis.
Chelsea Lipford: I would put them both closer to the trellis and then move that one to that way a little bit.
Danny Lipford: Mostly so that Allen can help with the heavy work on the fire pit later.
Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, that’s probably good.
Danny Lipford: This Carolina jasmine should be the perfect thing to fill in this trellis, and complete the disguise of that air conditioner.
Chelsea Lipford: Will you use your knife to cut off the roots just a little bit?
Danny Lipford: Oh yeah, yeah, you’re right. How did you know all that?
Chelsea Lipford: I watch our show.
Danny Lipford: With the trellis and vines complete, we can finally get to work on that fire pit.
Chelsea Lipford: I’m just going to do three high.
Danny Lipford: Man, I heard that it was kind of quiet over there.
Allen Lyle: 90 feet of fence, done!
Danny Lipford: Awesome!
Chelsea Lipford: Yeah!
Danny Lipford: There you go.
Chelsea Lipford: I would give you a high ten, but you got a hand full.
Allen Lyle: I know. That would be dangerous.
Danny Lipford: Moving this small mountain of debris we created while clearing the fence line will make it a lot easier to work on the fire pit.
Allen Lyle: Anybody else remember when we started this project, and those two left me to pull that concrete out by myself?
Danny Lipford: I was finally able to get her to decide where she wanted the fire pit. Now we’re about to get started on it. All right! There you are!
This fire pit kit from Pavestone includes this metal bowl with a fire screen, as well as all the rumble stones necessary to complete the structure it rests on. Allen’s sounding tired.
Allen Lyle: Allen is tired.
Danny Lipford: That’ll do it.
Allen Lyle: All right.
Danny Lipford: Good job!
Chelsea Lipford: Excellent. Thank you!
Danny Lipford: Good job there! Get the defibrillator out.
Chelsea Lipford: Isn’t he older than you?
Allen Lyle: He is older than me, yes. All right, I’ll give you a rock.
Chelsea Lipford: I’ll do the little ones.
Danny Lipford: This part seems simple enough. You just set the stones in place, alternating between the keystone shaped ones and the smaller rectangular ones. I love this stuff. Don’t tell me this is perfect. It’s perfect. How do you like that?
Chelsea Lipford: Oh, it’s great!
Danny Lipford: Then, when we get the first row completed, we spread a layer of construction adhesive over it before we begin applying the next course of block, then the third row. And when we reach the top, you get the honor, it’s time to add the bowl and the accessories.
Allen Lyle: There you go.
Chelsea Lipford: All right.
Danny Lipford: We need some firewood and a few chairs.
Chelsea Lipford: Maybe some chocolate and marshmallows?
Allen Lyle: Oh, yes!
Danny Lipford: Amelia wants to know, “What could have caused my water bill to triple?”
If you’ve experienced a significant increase in your water bill, this could be the culprit. The toilets in your home account for about 25 to 30 percent of your total water bill. So a small leak here could represent thousands of gallons of wasted water.
Now, the most common problem with a toilet that causes it to use that kind of water is the seal between the tank and the bowl. Now, you can test that a couple of different ways.
First of all, take the lid off the tank, put just a little bit of food coloring in the tank, and if it shows up right away in the bowl, you definitely have a problem with that seal. Another way to check it is just before you go to bed, turn the water valve off for the supply, right at the wall, then the next morning, check the tank. If it’s not full, you have a problem.
The good news, to solve the problem, it’s only about five dollars’ worth of materials, and about ten minutes of your time.
Danny Lipford: Boy, it didn’t take you long to start using your fire pit!
Chelsea Lipford: No! I couldn’t wait! I was so excited!
Allen Lyle: Oh, I’m excited! I see s’mores.
Chelsea Lipford: Yeah! I came through on my promise.
Danny Lipford: Let me get this off the top, and we’ll have a few of those.
Chelsea Lipford: Did you guys see my new addition over there, the little tree face bird feeder? Isn’t that funny?
Allen Lyle: Oh, look at that!
Danny Lipford: I’ve seen those around but I’ve never seen one that was an actual bird feeder.
Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, me neither, and then I saw that one and I had to get it.
Danny Lipford: Well I’ll tell you what, the fence made such a difference here because that old chain link fence just didn’t look very good.
Chelsea Lipford: No, especially after I cleaned out the brush over here and all I could see was the chain link. I couldn’t even see the camellias so the wood fence really makes the camellia bushes pop.
Allen Lyle: I’ll tell you what I like is the trellis over there. That screen trellis over there? Think about when all those vines grow on it. But even right now, that looks great!
Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, yeah. Much better than the air conditioner for sure!
Danny Lipford: You know, I was amazed. I’ve seen these fire pits a lot, but never realized that it was so easy to put together. I understand it costs less than $200?
Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.
Danny Lipford: Wow. Some great ideas here, you’ve got a better backyard now.
Chelsea Lipford: I know! I can’t wait to enjoy it!
Danny Lipford: Well, here’s some great ideas for you that you can use at your house, and we’ll have a lot more great ideas for you next week right here on Today’s Homeowner.
Allen Lyle: Your tree, you need to name it Don!
Chelsea Lipford: Don Juan?
Allen Lyle: Don Knotts.
Danny Lipford: That’s worse than I’ve ever imagined. Looks like our director is checking it out.
Allen Lyle: Where’d he come from?