I apologize up front because I don’t have any pictures of the building process for this one, but I’ll do my best to explain. Lucky for you, I built this DIY garden arbor from a tutorial in Family Handyman magazine. What’s even better is that the tutorial is also online! I mostly followed the directions, but I’ll expand a little and tell you what I did differently. Now you might be thinking that this project is too hard for you, but it’s really only 6 pieces of wood. And those arch pieces — easier than you probably think!! Be sure to check out my post about the garbage can lattice enclosure, you can see it on the left. And there’s also a tutorial on how to build a gate.
- 2 – pressure treated 12′ 6×6 for posts (or cedar if you want to be fancy) – $80
- 2 – pressure treated 10′ 2×8 for headers (length depends on your needs) – $25
- 1 – pressure treated 8′ 2×10 for arches
- concrete mix – $30/6 bags
- gravel – $4
- 3 1/2 in deck screws
- tape measure
- carpenters square
- circular saw
- electric sander
- post hole digger/shovel
Total cost $139 (because I already had all the other supplies)
How to Build a DIY Garden Arbor:
1. Notch the posts
You can check out family handyman’s photo 1, but keep in mind they have this step labeled incorrectly as “notch the beams.” Beams (or headers) are the horizontal pieces that go across the top. You’re making notches in the posts (the big vertical supports) to give the beams a place to rest and attach.
You need to cut out a piece that is 1.5 x 7 in. The easiest way to do this is to set your circular saw to 1/5 inches and make several passes into the wood, on the side of the 6×6, to notch it out. You can chisel out the notched area to make it even. Then set your circular saw at regular depth to cut into the top of the post. You can also use a hand saw.
2. Cut the headers (beams)
Cut your 2×8 to the proper length, which will depend on your design. My arbor/arch is wider than the Family Handyman model. Figure out how wide you need yours and plan accordingly. Mine are 105″. The length of your header doesn’t effect any of the other measurements or cuts, so don’t stress.
Cutting the curves at the end is so easy it will make you chuckle! All you need is a tape measure, jigsaw and a 5-gallon bucket. And I guess you’ll need a pencil, and some saw horses would be nice, but definitely not necessary. Family Handyman doesn’t have a picture of this step, so let me draw it out for you.
Mark 5.5 inches in from the corner of your 2×8.Then place a 5-gallon bucket up against your marks and trace around it.Now cut along the line with your jigsaw. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look absolutely perfect. It’s an overall look your achieving, not the perfect curve. Definitely sand it, it will look much better after you sand it down. Repeat step 2 for the other end of this beam, and both ends of the other beam. That’s 4 curves all together.
3. Cut the arch pieces
I thought this part was a lot of fun!! But then again, I used to be a HS geometry teacher. I followed the Family Handyman directions here because I had never done anything like this before. But they’re a little confusing, so I’m going to try to draw it out for you a bit. It’s easiest to lay a 2×10 across two saw horses for this one. The first part is easy — there’s no measuring. Just lay a framing square on top of the wood and draw the 3 lines as shown.
This part is a little trickier. Nail a nail into your saw horse 20″ from the board. If you’re like me and have plastic saw horses, you’ll have to devise another plan, like marking the spot with a Sharpie. You’re not actually tying anything to the nail, although you COULD use a string instead of a tape measure, but it’s just more work. So anyway, make a mark 20″ from the board, then wiggle the board around until both corners (marked with a green circle) are 24″ from the nail/mark.Still tricky… attach the end of your tape measure, or have hubby hold it, on the nail. Starting with the 24″ mark on one “corner”, arc around to the other corner, tracing along with your pencil. Photo 3 on Family Handyman shows both arcs being drawn.
Good! Now without moving the board (or nail) do the same thing at 29″ length. There aren’t any corners this time, you just start and stop where the 29″ arc meets the pink lines.You’re almost there and this part is easy… draw a bracket at the top. This is simply a 3×9″ rectangle.If you erase all the lines you don’t need, you’ll have this.Now cut it out. I used a circular saw for the straight portions and a jigsaw for the curves. Then sand it. Sand it good. Great news…. you don’t have to do all that nonsense for the other arch, just trace this one onto another piece of 2×10 lumber and cut. Then celebrate, because it’s smooth sailing from here!
4. Check the fit of the headers (beams) on the posts
It’s good to double check that everything fits correctly and to give yourself an idea of what it will look like. Do this while the posts are lying on the ground, but don’t screw anything together.
5. Set the posts
This is where I veered away from the Family Handyman directions, as hubby and I (definitely a 2-person job!) set the posts next, then attached the other pieces. Really, I think you’d be crazy to build it on the ground first and then try to maneuver it into two holes. There’s no way, unless you lifted it with a machine. The posts alone were heavy as hell! We also anchored our posts in a lot more cement than recommended because I planned to attach a gate to the arch. You need a really well anchored post if you’re going to attach a gate, you know, for all those physics kinda reasons. You want to dig a pretty massive hole for each post using a post hole digger, and probably a shovel, in this case, because the hole is so wide. I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever set a 4×4 post before, and these were definitely harder to maneuver.
The principles are the same for setting any post — Dig the hole 3x wider than the post, so a 4×4 post gets a 12 inch hole, while an 6×6 post gets an 18 inch wide hole, at least. Depth wise, 1/3 to 1/2 the height of the above ground post needs to be buried, so if you want an 8 ft post, you need to sink another 3-4 feet in the ground. Add an extra 6 inches to that length (for gravel), then dig your hole that deep. Also make sure you check any building codes, call 811 before you dig, yada, yada. Our holes were about 18″ wide x 50″ deep.
Add gravel to the bottom of the hole (for drainage), then stick the post in the hole and check that it is plumb (perfectly vertical in both directions). Try to recruit some help, because lifting a 12 foot 6×6 high enough to stick in a 4 foot hole was a bit of a challenge, but hubby and I are bad ass like that. I like to use Quikrete fast setting cement, which is super easy, and fast, duh. Just pour the powder in the hole, being sure to get it around all 4 sides. Don’t go all the way to the top, stop a few inches before ground level. Then add water, straight from the garden hose is easiest, and give it a little “mix” by stabbing at it with the end of an old shovel or something. Don’t try to attach the headers until the concrete is completely set, otherwise you might pull the post out of plumb. Once the cement is dry, around 4 hours, you can fill the remaining few inches to match whatever surrounds the post. In my case it was gravel because the posts are actually inside a gravel path, but for you it might mean dirt and grass.
6. Attach the front header
Clamp the front header in place making sure it’s level and centered between on the two posts, then attach from behind so you don’t see the screws. You’ll be drilling through the notched (thinner) portion of the post. Be sure to drill pilot holes first so you don’t split the wood.
7. Attach the arches
The arches get attached only to the front header. Photo 4 of the Family Handyman tutorial shows this step, sort of. There will be a gap between the arches and the back header, just an FYI. Clamp the arch to the header so that the bottom of the arch rests snugly against the post. Drill and screw the top first. To attach the arch at the bottom, drill and screw at an angle through the bottom of arch and into the post. Do the same for both arches.
8. Attach the rear header
Position the second header on the back side of the notch you cut out of the post and make sure it lines up perfectly with the front header. You can’t attach this one from the inside, so go ahead and screw it in from behind. Take a peek from above to make sure your screwing into the notched part of the post. Here’s what both headers look like from the side. Don’t mind the snow! I ran out and took some pictures today.
Here’s what it looked like before the arbor.This is what it looked like after the arbor was finished. You can still see the concrete holes at the bottom. I built a gate for it a few months later. Plenty more pictures from the 2011 yard renovation can be found here.This is what it looks like now. Well, that pic’s from last summer, but you know what I mean.
It looks a lot better now, huh? Here are a few more shots from last summer. This should give you a sense of how big this thing is. Smart Jr was 11 in this shot.Again, more on the garbage can enclosure can be found here.I will have to write a separate post for the gate. Check back soon. This is what it looks like from the front. Update: The post about the gate is HERE.And the back.
Be sure to check out more of my outdoor projects!