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How to Build a Trellis

Make your own simple wall trellis in an afternoon.

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Cultivate living wallpaper by training a flowering vine up a trellis mounted against a wall. The result: a wall treatment that's lively as well as artistic -- watch for the bees and butterflies to be drawn to the flowers.

Use rot-resistant wood, such as cedar or pressure-treated pine, to give your trellis durability. Use exterior-grade stain or primer and paint to protect your trellis. Painting before you assemble pieces may spare you brushwork later.

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Materials and Supplies

  • Three 1x4s (8 feet long)
  • Crcular saw or table saw
  • Two 2x4s (25 inches long)
  • Exterior-grade wood glue
  • 1¼-inch #8 deck screws
  • Roofing nails
  • 30 feet of 14-gauge solid bare copper electrical wire
  • Posthole digger
  • Shovel
  • Gravel
  • Vining plants

1. Cut and Prepare the Posts and Rails

Begin by preparing the 1x4 posts. The posts used here are 96 inches long. The lower 30 inches of the posts will be below ground when the trellis is in place. Cut decorative groves into the front faces of the posts using a table saw or circular saw with a rip guide.

Next, prepare the rails. Cut the rails to span the width of the trellis. The trellis pictured here is 19 inches wide. To make a similar trellis, cut two 19-inch-long rails from a 1x4. Rip the upper rail to 2-1/2 inches wide.

2. Prepare the Caps

Prepare the caps by cutting a 2x4 to span the width of the trellis plus four inches to create a pleasing overhang. The trellis here is 19 inches wide. To make a similar trellis, cut two 2x4s 23 inches long. One section will serve as the upper cap and the other will serve as a lower cap. Notch the 2x4s with a jigsaw to accommodate the posts. Cut additional decorative upper and lower caps using 1x4s or 2x4s as you see fit.

3. Assemble the Wood Structure

Assemble the posts, rails, and caps, fastening the wood with weatherproof glue and deck screws. The upper and lower rails are approximately 52 inches apart on the trellis pictured here. Make your trellis large or smaller as desired. 

4. Add the Wire

Place the trellis facedown. Partially drive ½-inch roofing nails around the perimeter of the opening every 4 inches. Secure a wire end to an upper rail nail; loop the wire end twice around the nail, then wrap it around itself to secure. String the wire to a nail in the lower cap. Pull the wire only taut enough to straighten it. Loop the wire once or twice around the nail and string the wire back up to the next nail on the upper rail. Continue in this manner for all the vertical wires. Then repeat the process for the horizontal wires.

5. Place the Trellis and Plant

Dig 30-inch-deep postholes and fill the bottom 6 inches of the holes with gravel. Place the trellis posts in the holes and plumb them. Backfill with soil, tamping every few inches to ensure the posts are stable.

Plant vining annuals, perennials, or shrubs at the base of the structure. Morning glory, black-eyed Susan vine, and sweet peas are particularly easy-to-grow and striking when grown on a trellis against a lackluster wall. They'll quickly light up the wall with a colorful flower show. Remove the spent vines at the end of the growing season.

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