How to attach trellis to a fence

Adding trellis to existing fencing

Often, people are looking for a way to increase the height of their existing fence, whether it be the presence of new neighbours or a move into a new home. Adding trellis is the ideal solution to add height to your fencing without creating an ugly solid boundary. Trellis can be used to allow climbing plants to grow into the fence which can create an attractive garden addition as well as being practical.

Purely decorative or solidly practical, trellis is the mainstay of many garden walls and fences. Put it up right and it will last for decades.

Putting up trellis is a relatively easy job for a DIY novice to tackle, but our How To guide below will guide you through how to choose the right trellis, what tools to use and how to attach trellis to your fence.

Get it right

Trellis is easy to put up but it takes time and a bit of thought to get it right. First thing is to fix battens of wood to the wall using plugs and screws. This creates a strong framework to which the trellis can be fixed. The most important benefit to the battens is that it 'holds' the trellis away from the wall. The gap can then be capitalised on by climbing and twining plants. Without the gap, you won't have a space to tie plants and the plants themselves will simply flop forward. It also allows a whiff of air to circulate and reduce stagnant conditions loved by fungal infections.


This batten framework should be solidly affixed to the wall. Ideally, the size of each batten shouldn't be wider than the wood used in the trellis – this means the batten will be hidden by the trellis. Fix a batten at each end of the trellis and if the trellis is big, put one horizontally across the middle. That means lots of fixing points for the trellis and that will make a solid structure. One little point to bear in mind is not to fix battens to a wall below the damp-proof course. If you do this, moisture could skip the damp-proof membrane and cause damp problems. Only choose wood for your battens that is pressure-treated with preservative. It gives a long guarantee against rot and, lets face it, you won't want to be replacing the battens – ever!

Get the right gear

Quality trellis is paramount to the success of the project. If a panel warps and bends when you pick it up, chances are it is a little too flimsy for the job. Sturdy is the watch word. Galvanised screws or nails are vital to avoid rust and consequent run marks. When drilling I always like to invest in a new drill bit – especially if you are drilling into older bricks that tend to be tougher to penetrate than newer versions. I won't even mention getting the correct drill bit to suit the wall plugs to suit the crews - No one would ever try and mismatch those. Would they?

Add a little

It's often the case that a stretch of trellis is what's needed on top of an existing panel. I have seen such paneled trellis simply plonked on top and a few screws inserted vertically into the fence panel. What I haven't seen is that type of arrangement lasting longer than a month. The best way to 'extend' a fence panel is to fix a batten on the rear of the upright supports and then fix sideways into those - It's sturdy and will last for years (only try this if the existing panel is strong, sound and in good condition).


You can sort fencing and trellis out all on your own. However, it will take speed, dexterity and a few bricks to wedge the other end. It's much better to get a friend to hold everything steady as you fix battens and trellis. They can also reach the elusive spirit level that always falls just out of reach at the all important moment.


I once put hinges on a run of trellis because I thought it would make it easier to re stain and paint - It worked! Obviously, I couldn't move the trellis too far as it would have ripped the plants, but a few inches allowed the brushes to get in the small spaces of the lattice work resulting in a lovely painted finish (I carefully un-clipped the rose and gently laid it down before painting the trellis). It's worth a thought – or at least, ensure the wall behind the trellis is sound and painted (if required), and that the trellis you are using is exactly as you want it to look.

Weighty problem

A newly planted climber is usually small and therefore lightweight. But plants grow (or that's the general idea!) and, therefore, put on weight. A fully grown rose or wisteria has the capability to pull away poorly fixed trellis from a wall. It can also break through poor quality trellis after a few years. Only choose pressure treated trellis or a top quality (=thick!) metal trellis for a fifteen year guarantee against rotting. Spend the money on day one and the years will fly by pain-free.

Check out some more handy tips