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While front yards can be great for gathering with neighbors and catching up on the latest community news, backyards are often a place of refuge, where privacy is treasured. If your backyard is a bit too open for your taste, consider adding features that offer a sense of seclusion and intimacy. Whether you turn to nature for a living border, get out the carpentry tools to create a structure from wood and nails, or bring in the soothing yet muffling sound of water, you have plenty of options for achieving the backyard privacy you and your family desire.
1. Construct a Classic
Common in neighborhoods across the country, wood fences are practically an outdoor staple. With a variety of woods to choose from, ranging from light to dark, and just as many style choices, wood fencing does more than boost backyard privacy—it also boosts design. Compared with other fencing materials, wood is also relatively inexpensive and, with proper construction and routine maintenance, long lasting. So long as you have basic woodworking knowledge, a DIY wood privacy fence is well within reach.
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2. Grow a Living Fence
Hedges have been a privacy landscaping hallmark for centuries, particularly along property lines. One advantage is that, depending on your choice of plant material, including backyard privacy trees, a well-planned screen of green can reach virtually any desired height. The downside? It takes either lots of money or lots of time to establish a long, high hedgerow. Plus, hedges need a fair amount of maintenance. But with the right placement, even a hedge of modest proportions can be very effective.
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3. Fill In With Bamboo
A built-in bonus of turning your backyard into an exotic tropical retreat? Natural privacy. That’s because bamboo, an essential for any tropical space, grows tall enough to shield your cozy hideaway. Plant it on its own or use it to fill in gaps around pergolas and fences. Take care, though: Bamboo is invasive and should be planted only in beds or in containers with strong barriers.
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4. Fold Out a Private Enclave
Wide-open yards are great for a lot of reasons, but they’re not ideal for private outdoor spaces. Build an intimate corner into an expansive backyard by bordering a patio with small trees and shrubs. Then, anchor your patio furniture with a simple structure like the one shown here (to get a similar look, try MyGift’s 8-foot folding outdoor privacy screen). Unlike a traditional privacy screen, the open frame permits light and wind to pass through, resulting in a space that’s both breezy and cozy.
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5. Put Up a Pergola
For a little privacy without the worry of blocking a stunning backyard view, consider building a pergola. Even though it stands without walls, its wood columns and beams still offer some obstruction for neighbors who might be looking in. A pergola is an exceptional choice for placement atop an elevated deck, as seen in this lofty example.
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6. Plant Your Pergola
If you want a pergola with a little something extra—specifically, coziness and shade—fill in the structure’s sides and open top with twining plants. The crossbeams and posts make the perfect base for climbing greenery, especially in a sunny site. The overall effect is serene and romantic as well as intensely private. It may take a while for the vines to make it to the top—but it’s worth the wait!
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7. Hang Out With Your Greenery
Here’s another take on a living fence: a custom-made vertical garden. Fill it with vegetables and herbs or flowering plants ready to overflow. No matter your choice of greenery, the decision to garden in hanging planters will both screen your yard from outside view and free up space for lounging, grilling, and other outdoor activities.
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8. Elevate Your Style
If you’re rethinking your backyard altogether, you may be able to build privacy from the ground up. Cascading landscapes achieve this in a discreet yet picturesque way. Here, a backyard’s multilevel design showcases bushes and trees planted at varying heights, creating a secluded retreat that still feels open and airy in the middle. These terraced setups can also increase backyard decor options by spacing out elements such as hanging baskets and bird baths on different levels so that all are highlighted without crowding one another.
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9. Go Modern
Corrugated metal is one of the more modern-looking fencing options on the market. Its industrial quality seriously shields your backyard from curious onlookers while contributing yet one more texture to the common palette of stone, gravel, and concrete. Found at home improvement stores and purchased in budget-friendly sheets, corrugated metal fences are also extremely durable, ensuring a long-lasting privacy solution for your space.
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10. Try a Trellis
Whether simple or elaborate, store-bought or custom-built, a backyard trellis provides a direct yet self-effacing solution to the privacy problem. Even as the structure interrupts sight lines, it admits softened breezes and dappled sunlight. Plus, as the ideal support for any number of climbing plants or flowering vines, a trellis can become an attention-grabbing focal point in the design of your outdoor living area.
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11. Conceal With Curtains
Just as valuable in your backyard as they are in the bedroom, a few opaque panel curtains will both block your view of neighbors and further establish the sense of an outdoor room. If you’re able to mount them, curtain rods are the easiest way to keep your panels in place. Consider hanging curtains along the sides of a porch, pergola, or custom corner unit like this one.
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12. Hog Wire Fencing
Consider framing welded wire fencing, sometimes known as hog wire or field fence, to create beautiful one-off panels or contiguous fencing. Various panel sizes with various apertures are available so you can build custom privacy that’s perfect for your backyard. You can even buy some field fencing material in rolls. After the panel or fencing is in place, plant quick-growing evergreen vines to scramble up the wire and provide even more privacy.
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13. Gabion Walls
Wire cages filled with rocks or stones, gabions are an attractive blend of modern and ancient: Egyptians used them 7,000 years ago as flood-control devices. DIYers can fashion their own cages using field fencing or can purchase ready-to-use cages. Source rocks from your own property if you’ve plenty, or purchase stones from a local rock yard to complete your project. Either way, you’ll have a substantial, statement-making backyard privacy wall.
RELATED: What is a Gabion Wall, and How Do You Build One?
14. Ski Fence
If you live in an area where snow- or waterskiing is a favorite activity, you may want to consider a fence or privacy screen crafted of discarded skis. Simply build a frame as you would for a typical picket fence, but instead of using pickets, attach skis. Not only will you have a new backyard privacy screen, but you’ll also make a striking artistic statement while honoring an avocation beloved by your community.
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15. Love Lock Fence
Perhaps you already have a chain-link fence that needs a little personality? Consider adorning it with an assortment of padlocks, in emulation of Paris’s famous Pont des Arts, the “Love Lock” bridge. Copied the world over, the bridge had been a magnet for tourists who affixed padlocks to its iron mesh sides and tossed the key into the Seine as a demonstration of undying love. While that bridge is now lock-free—French authorities removed the locks in 2015 and installed plexiglass panels to put an end to the practice—you can use this idea to turn your chain-link barrier into a personality-filled privacy fence. Start with old locks in your garage, find more at junk stores, and invite friends and family to contribute, too.
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16. Shade Sail
If you’re looking to block the view from above—maybe your next-door neighbor is uphill or has a second-floor balcony that offers an expansive and unwelcome view into your backyard—consider installing a shade sail over your outdoor seating area. These large durable-cloth screens are often, but not always, triangular in shape and are secured at multiple points to the fascia of your home’s roof or to a fence or other tall structure. Available in a variety of sizes, colors, and styles, they offer an updated look while providing shade and privacy.
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An alternate solution for overhead privacy is a retractable awning, which you can unfurl when needed and then close it. Awnings typically attach to the siding of your home and can be found in modern designs that will complement your home’s aesthetic. Awnings can be great solutions for homeowners with neighbors whose homes or apartments sit higher than your own—no more birds’-eye views of your deck!
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18. Water Feature
If you have the visual privacy you desire but would like to have a conversation in your backyard without the neighbors eavesdropping, consider adding a water feature, such as a fountain placed strategically against a common fence. (This outdoor water fountain from Hamiedun is 40 inches tall and made of durable resin.) The soothing sounds of a gurgling fountain will likely mask your private chats, giving you additional peace of mind. You might also consider a water wall, purchased or DIY, which can offer both visual and sound privacy.
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19. Artificial Greenery Panels
If you don’t have a green thumb, there’s no reason to stress out about training plants to climb trellises. Instead, you can buy large sections of backyard privacy panels that are covered with artificial greenery. Joining a few of these together to create a privacy screen between you and the neighbors will add an attractive, easy-care wall of green to your space. (The Mercury Row faux boxwood hedges pictured above are weather-and fade-resistant.) Also consider fake-plant “fabric” that you can roll out and attach to an existing fence to upgrade the look of a faded wooden fence.