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Information and Tips On Building Garden Arbors

Painted white wood arbor with a gate

There's nothing quite like a beautiful garden arbor to dress up an otherwise dull garden or lawn. Whether it's towering and ostentatious or small and unassuming, a decorative archway can highlight the natural beauty of your backyard. In fact, no garden is really complete without it! Not to mention, an arbor is a great addition to any home – improving its value with little cost of money or time to you.

There are a few projects that just about anyone can do, despite their limited do-it-yourself skills. And building garden arbors from a kit is one of those. You can also build an arbor from scratch but you will need more tools, knowledge and an arbor plan would be helpful.

The good news is it is really fun to shop for a garden arbor – as there are so many styles out there – and you can do all of your shopping from your home using your computer. Arbors come in a wide range of material to suite your tastes and budget. Here's a list of the different kinds available: cedar, wood, wrought iron and vinyl.

I mentioned cedar and wood because a lot of arbors are made with cedar but you can also make an arbor with different kinds of wood other than cedar. Cedar is a common wood for arbors because:

  • It is easy to work with
  • Even without staining or painting it is resistant to rot and mildew
  • It is a very strong but light wood

If you decide to build the garden arbor yourself, here is a quick overview and tips on what you need to do.

You will probably want to secure the main posts in the ground with concrete. You will want to ensure the holes are larger than the posts so you have room for the concrete. You want the concrete to encase the post water can't get to the posts and rot them. You should also have enough room in the bottom of the holes for 4 to 6" of gravel. This is for drainage. This is where wrought iron and vinyl have an advantage over wood, they won't rot.

Before pouring the concrete, you should brace the posts and make sure they are level. Once the concrete starts to harden you don't want to try and adjust the posts. If the posts are plum when the concrete goes in they should be nice and straight for a long time. Once the concrete hardens you can remove the bracing. When you attach the brace make sure you don't hammer the nails in all of the way, this is to make it easier to remove the bracing.

If you are going to grow heavy vines or plants on your arbor you will want to ensure your arbor is very stable. I saw and arbor that was crushed under the weight of heavy grape vines. Once you get old vines the weight of the stock, leaves and fruit can be quite heavy.

After that, you can connect the posts with two crosspieces (one on the inner side, the other on the outer side). Rafters will then be placed on top of these crosspieces, which will then be topped with more lumber – perpendicular to the rafters! The sizes and dimensions of these materials will vary, but the smaller the arbor, the easier it will be to install yourself. For example, stick to posts that are about three and a half by three and a half feet, crosspieces that are one by six feet, and rafters that are one and a half by three and a half feet.

If you want to grow vines on your arbor you might want to add trellis or crosspieces on the side. For one arbor I build I attached pre-fabricated trellis and it look great and the grape vines like growing on it.

As mentioned earlier your garden arbor can be constructed with a variety of material. It could also be made using pressure-treated lumber. So just gather the right sizes of wood for your posts, rafters, etc. As well, you'll of course want to invest in some mixed concrete, screws, bolts, etc. There are a number of other tools you'll need as well, including a shovel, circular saw, level, drill, tape measure, and a hammer.

This is a simple overview for how to build a garden arbor. As there are many kinds of garden arbors and of course detailed, complex steps to accomplishing the task of building them, you'll want to investigate further. But if this sounds like a project you can handle, then why not get started today? It might be the best decision you ever made, as it will breathe new life into your backyard and make it all the more welcoming for you and your guests.

To learn more, please read these articles:

Information on cedar arbors.

Choosing your arbor plans


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