Cinder block walls are affordable and seem to be common in older homes in our area (like our previous home) — which means they’re still functional and stable but definitely not the prettiest fencing option available. We’ve previously covered up our old cinder block fence with paint which helped a lot, but when we saw how today’s guests transformed a basic concrete block fence into a gorgeous wood slat garden wall with hanging planters, we were floored by the transformation! The added greenery and wood tones livened up the patio area so beautifully. Give Steve and Kathy a warm welcome — you’re going to love this cinder block wall update!
How to Update a Concrete Block Wall to a Wood Slat Garden Wall with Planters
by Steve & Kathy from The Garden Glove
Hey Remodelaholics! We’re Steve & Kathy, and we are so excited to be here at Remodelaholic doing a guest feature of one of our favorite garden projects! We would love to have you visit us over at The Garden Glove where we make & feature DIY garden projects and give out our best gardening tips! Today we are going to share with you our really cool DIY plant wall. I know this project looks a bit complex, but if you have basic woodworking skills, or are willing to learn a few (anyone can!) then you can do this project in just a few days. So let’s get to the details on how to build our modern and amazing DIY Living Plant Garden Wall!
We built this plant wall over an existing concrete block wall. (Ugly, right?) But if you don’t have an existing wall, you can still make this by installing a couple of posts to create a freestanding version of this project. You could even install this over a chain link fence.
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- Power Saw
- Countersink Bits
- Stain brushes
- 1×4 Lumber (We used hemlock because it had a more modern feel, but you could use select cedar too.)
- 5/4 cedar planks (They call 1 1/4 inch cedar “five quarter”. Go figure. :))
- Black Coated Drywall Screws
- Landscape Adhesive – Not all adhesives are equal. We used Dynagrip Heavy Duty and it has held up well.
- Ikea Kitchen Storage Containers – The smallest ones are called “Sunnersta”. The medium and larger size containers are called “Variera”. All of these containers have a built in “lip” that worked perfectly for hanging on our wood slats. If you use a different kind of containers, you will need a plant hook to hang the planters over the fence slats.
- Rubberized Spray Paint – We used “Plastidip”.
- Penetrating Oil Stain – We used a wood stain called PPG Timeless in Cedar. This must be an exterior grade stain for weather!
First, prep your plant containers. You could just leave them white if you prefer, but we wanted a different look. First we drilled a hole in the bottom of each container for drainage. Next, we spray painted them with the rubberized spray paint. This spray paint is intended for auto use, so it is great protection from the elements. So far, these planters have lasted through 2 winters and 2 blazing hot summers, and we think the spray paint is the reason why.
So if you have an existing wall you are going to attach this to like we did, prep it by cleaning it and letting it dry thoroughly so the landscape adhesive will adhere to it.
Using the measurements of your existing wall, cut your 5/4 boards to the height that you want your upright posts. Cut (or have the home improvement store make the cuts) your 1×4 planks all the same length, from outer edge of upright post to outer edge of upright post. (See photos of finished garden wall, it will make sense when you see it.)
Ok, so we learned the hard way that some wood just doesn’t like to take stain evenly. Basically, after talking to a bunch of experts, we discovered that when certain wood is cut, it creates something like a burn. That “burned” surface must be sanded away in order for the stain to take evenly. So, off we went to buy a decent palm sander, because we had 44 pieces of wood to sand! This was actually the most time consuming part, but so worth it.
Pre drill the holes for the screws in the horizontal planks. We knew we wanted a really modern, consistent look. So, we needed a jig. A jig is a simple tool you make out of wood scraps to allow you to repeat the same spacing over and over again, like a template. No need to be fancy, we just put ours together based on the measurements of our wood. We made a jig “box” to slide over the end of each board for pre drilling our screw holes. After that we used counter sink drill bits so that the screws would be flush with the surface of the wood. Once we got it going assembly line style, it went really fast. Check out the photo to see how we made this simple tool.
Stain all the wood pieces, including the uprights. Be sure to wipe the wood down with a tack cloth before staining. This turned out so much better after we did all that sanding! Allow to dry overnight.
Ok, so now we start assembling the plant wall. The first thing we did was to attach the upright posts to the block wall, as shown in the photo. We applied a really generous amount of landscape adhesive to the back of each upright, then clamped it into place. Use a level to make sure that they are straight . Allow to cure at least overnight, depending on your temperature and humidity. A couple of days wouldn’t hurt! Remember, this may be the most important step. This upright will be holding a lot of weight, and they need to be completely adhered.
Ok, so now that the upright supports are ready, let’s finish this garden wall! We decided we wanted our slats to be one inch apart, so we cut a scrap wood spacer to help us get it right every time. Another thing we did was to use a level with every board before we screwed it in place. We chose black screws for the modern look , and it turned out they were the perfect choice for us. The experts at the home improvement store recommend coated drywall screws, and they have stood the test of time, even with snowy winters!
Note: When you decide how far apart you want to space each slat, makes sure you test your planters with that spacing. If the spacing is so tight that your planter hooks can’t slide over the slats, then you will need to adjust. It’s a lot easier to remove two screws and adjust your spacing at the beginning, then to install the whole wall and find out you can’t get your planter hooks to slide between the slats!
Hang your planters, and enjoy that gorgeous living plant wall! You did it! – Steve & Kathy
Didn’t Kathy and Steve do a wonderful job! Be sure to visit The Garden Glove to see more of their projects.
For more garden projects, try these tutorials: