Introduction: Front Door Arbor

About: When I'm not waking up at 5:30 in the morning to feed my cat. I am designing homes and professional offices for my clients. I enjoy pushing the boundaries of 3D software and VR applications.

This project was originally designed to add shade at the South facing front entry which was uncovered. The design addresses providing shade without tying into the existing walls or roof. This approach made it an easier project to tackle. The end result also creates a sense of entry and adds curb appeal. The before photo was taken 3 summers ago. The after photo was taken June 2016 and shows the growth achieved on the grapevines.

Step 1: Tools Used

Drill with assorted bits

Hammer Drill with 5/8" masonry bit matched to the wedge anchor size.

Jig saw, for cutting the curved shapes

Belt sander and orbital sanding, for smoothing out the cut edges

Kreg Jig and Kreg screws, for reinforcing wood joints on the curved pieces

Exterior grade wood glue

Latex caulk

Skill saw, for trimming the 6x6

Chop Saw, for cutting the side lattice work

4' minimum level, for setting the 6x6 post plumb

My favorite CAD softwares AutoCAD and SketchUP

Step 2: Coming Up With a Design

I began by looking around in my neighborhood for inspiration on the arbor design. I then took the dimensions of the existing front entry elements and began to draw the house as it was using SketchUp. If you are unfamiliar with using CAD programs and wish to try this project you may want to enlist the help of someone who can draw the design for you.

I have also included a complete CAD file in Step 3 that you can use as you wish.

Step 3: Drawing the Blueprints

I like to draw my projects, prior to starting, so I have an idea of what it will look like when it is done. Always consider the scale of your existing elements so the new arbor will look like it belongs. Modeling the project in 3D allows me to make adjustments in the design and assists in mapping out special cuts. The attached "Arbor.skp" file will open in the newest version of SkethUp Make. You can use the measuring tool within this program to get all of the dimensions you need to recreate this project. If you find that you will need another sized arbor for your particular application you can adjust this model accordingly.

Once I had modeled the arbor and fine tuned the design, I exported some straight on views (2D) to AutoCAD so I could plot out a full sized template of the curved shapes. Keep in mind you could also model your project entirely in AutoCAD. There are many fine Instructables on the subject to get you started.

Step 4: Choosing Materials

When beginning this project, I considered the pros and cons of the material choices that I had. Here is a list of what I came up with. There may be others of course. I did end up using a combination of materials as you will see.


Advantages - Strong posts, easy to cut, costs less than synthetic materials

Disadvantages - Must be painted, must be maintained

PVC or Composite

Advantages - Weathers well, light weight, Less maintenance required

Disadvantages - Must be supported more often, Costs more than wood

For the posts I ended up using 6x6 cedar for it's strength over PVC and relative insect and moisture resistance. The cedar post we're also much straighter than a treated counterpart. The side panel lattice was a combination of cedar and reclaimed redwood. For the arches I used 1x12 cedar and the dowels at the top ended up being PVC pipe.

Step 5: Creating the Arches

The four large arches at the top of the arbor are each assembled from four different pieces of 1x12. I will explain my method here, but as an alternate you could also make these by laminating thin strips of wood together. Transfer pattern to 1x12's to be cut with a jig saw.

I transferred the curve shape to the 1x12's using a full sized template to trace on wood. As and alternate you can also use a grid system transfer method.

Once the pattern is on the material use a jig saw to cut the shapes, you will sand everything after it is cut out.

To minimize waste I constructed the arches with 4 pieces of 1x12 cedar. Each joint was secured with exterior grade wood glue and Kreg pocket screws. I like using the pocket screws in this case because they hold the joint together while the glue dries and it would have been nearly impossible to clamp the joint because of the curved shape.

Fabrication tips for the arches...This design requires 4 complete arches that are identical. I suggest that you create one and use it as a template for the remaining three. When drilling the holes for the dowels, clamp all of the arches together so you can be sure your dowel holes are in alignment.

Step 6: Creating the Side Panels

I liked the idea of round portholes in the side panel lattice work, so I printed out templates to trace the round shape on to cedar 1x6's. Each porthole is created out of 4 sections of 1x6. Again I joined these using exterior grade wood glue and Kreg pocket screws. The drawing here shows how I oriented a 1x6 to create 1/4 section of the porthole. You will need 8 of these sections to create 2 portholes.

The remaining lattice structure was cut and installed after the posts we set in place. For this lattice I used salvaged redwood, but cedar would work just as well here.

As an alternate you could use pre-made lattice in either wood or plastic to fill-in the side panels. These side panels could be made with synthetic materials without concern for structural support.

Step 7: Fabricating the Dowels

For the dowels I chose 1-1/4" O.D. PVC piping. I purchased the material in 10' lengths and was able to get 3 dowels per length. Once I cut the PVC to desired length, I wet sand the surface to get rid of most of the dyed stamping. The resulting surface also allows paint to stick better to the PVC. After sanding the surface I prepared some Bondo body filler to fill in the ends to give the PVC pipes a solid "dowel" look. When the epoxy dried I used a belt sander to sand the Bondo flush with PVC. From there you just need to clean off the PVC and make sure everything is dry, then you are ready for paint. I found a spray paint that was formulated to stick to plastic and it has performed well so far.

Step 8: Mounting the Posts

This design takes into account the existing concrete stoop which was examined to determine if defects existed prior to proceeding. Consult a local professional if attempting this project under different conditions.

For my project, I considered two ways to mount the posts. One way would have been to dig in frost footings along the stoop and mount the posts using a metal column base anchored to the footings. My soil is very rocky and hard to hand dig so I opted to mount the post to the side of the existing stoop using wedge anchors.

In mounting the posts I determined the centerline of each post and marked them out on the side of the stoop at each post location. Then I used a jig to mark location for boring in wedge anchors. The jig allowed me to keep the boring distance uniform. By having uniform anchor locations, I could bore the 6x6 cedar posts each in the same location.

A Hammer drill and masonry bit matched to my anchor size were used to create the holes in the side of the stoop. Take care when drilling the concrete to keep the hole square to the side of the stoop. This will assist in an easier installation of your posts. Once the holes are bored I installed 5/8" x 7" wedge anchors into each hole.

When mounting the posts it is a good idea to have an extra set of hands to help stabilize the 6x6 while you fit it to the wedge anchors.

Step 9: Assembling the Arbor

With the 6x6 cedar posts in place, I was ready for final assembly. I started by double checking to see that the posts were plumb and parallel with each other. Once confirmed I added the lattice strips in the side to help keep the posts aligned. The final steps are installing the arches and dowels. This is another step where an extra set of hands would be beneficial.

Mark a line on the top of one post that represents the bottom of your arch. For me this line was 6'-5 1/2" off the top of the stoop. Use a level to transfer this line to the other posts. Have someone hold one end of the arch at the marked line while you fasten your end to the first post. Move to the free end of the arch and fasten it to the post. Repeat this for the remaining three arches.

With all four arches in place it is time to insert the dowels in the pre-drilled holes. If the holes are lined up correctly this should be an easy step. Once the dowels are in place use some latex caulk where the dowels meet the arches to keep the dowels in place. You will also notice how rigid the structure becomes with the dowels in place. My assembly so far has weathered many thunderstorms.

Assembly tip:

Clamp a board on each post at the bottom line of the arch. This will give you something to set the arch on while you screw it into place.

Step 10: Finishing Touches

Once everything was assembled I applied primer to any unfinished wood and allowed it to dry. After the primer, I applied 2 coats of a good exterior grade paint to all surfaces. My arches and posts were pre-painted which made this step a lot easier.

After the paint step is complete you are ready to plant your vines. Plan the vine type and locations to take advantage of your new structure. For my project I chose a red seedless grape variety for my vines. The vine does well in the full sun and drops it's leaves in the winter so I can get a little more solar gain on the front of the house.

Thank you for viewing this Instructable and let me know if there are any questions you may have.

Outdoor Structures Contest

Participated in the
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Outside Contest 2016

Participated in the
Outside Contest 2016