Of all the useful garden structures, arbors offer modest scale and endless style variations. Arching or standing straight and squared, there are many arbor designs that fulfill many functions in the garden, from creating a private hideaway to defining a path. Joined with fencing, an arbor shapes a classic garden entry. When coupled with a swing or bench, an arbor beckons you to take a break from garden chores.
Chose an arbor style that blends with the surrounding plantings and garden rooms. For durability, select an arbor crafted from pressure-treated wood, metal, or plastic. Use the materials list and instructions below to learn how to build an arbor.
What You Need
- Shovel or posthole digger
- Two 4x4 posts (11 feet long)
- Two 2x6s (6 feet long) for the crossbeams
- Eight galvanized lag screws
- Framing square
- Two 2x6s (7 feet long)
- Galvanized nails
- Twenty-six 2x2 rails (45 inches long)
- Exterior-grade stain or paint
Step 1: Prepare and Set Posts
Begin building an arbor by staking out the space. Space the posts no more than 6 feet apart for greatest stability. If you want to extend the width of the arbor, increase the beam size to 2x8. Use a posthole digger or an auger to make the holes 2-feet deep. Rent a posthole digger or auger at your local hardware rental store. Pour 6 inches of gravel into the holes, insert posts, and fill with concrete.
Step 2: Attach Crossbeams
Cut two 6-foot-long 2x6s into four 3-foot-long crossbeams. They will define the depth of the arbor. Standing on a stepladder, use lag screws to secure the 2x6s to both sides of each post. Use a framing square to align the crossbeams with the posts before tightening the screws.
Step 3: Shape Beam Ends
Using the architecture of your home has a guide, shape the decorative detail at the ends of the 7-foot-long 2x6 beams using a jigsaw. Look to the framing details around your windows and doors for inspiration. Other garden structures also will lend ideas for your DIY arbor. A garden shed, pergola, or trellis might offer inspiration.
Step 4: Attach Beams
Securely attach the beams to the crossbeams by driving at least two galvanized nails through the 2x6s into the ends of the cross beams. You'll need help with this step. Have your partner hold the loose end of each 2x6 until you nail it into position.
Step 5: Add Arch
Purely decorative, arching cross pieces installed below the crossbeams add a pleasing curve to the straight lines of this simple arbor. First design your arch on a large piece of paper; several sheets of newspaper taped together will work well for this step. Next, cut out the arch and secure it to the posts.
Step 6: Install Rails
Cut 2x2 rails to length. Position the first one carefully, then drive one nail through each end of the rail into the 2x6 beams beneath. Lay an extra piece of 2x2 against the first rail to determine spacing for the next and subsequent rails; ensure that each rail extends equally over the beams before nailing in place. These rails form an arbor roof perfect for vining plants.
Step 7: Paint and Plant
If you have not already done so, stain or paint your design after building an arbor. Plant vines, such as climbing roses, honeysuckle, or jasmine, to create a passageway that's filled with fragrance. For extra floral accents, hang a hanging pot from the center of the arch.