Garden Arbor




My Dad is a gardener.  More specifically, he grows roses.  Needless to say, he is outside a bunch.  When he wasn't in the flower beds tending his roses, he was was sitting underneath the large arbor in his backyard.  This under-engineered arbor supported four enormous Lady Banks Roses.  This October, my Dad had an emergency double-bypass.  The surgery went great and he was recovering nicely.  His recovery included sitting at the back window looking at his neglected garden.  Then, on top of that, his under-engineered arbor collapsed.  Needless to say, it wasn't a great fall for my Dad.

Luckily, Thanksgiving was going to be at my Dad's house this year.  That meant there would be lots of family members, a.k.a. free labor.  We decided to rebuild the arbor while everyone was there.

Step 1: The Demo

After the collapse, I demolished what remained of the old arbor. I was lucky that all the posts were in good shape and could be used again. This meant that we only had to worry about the overhead structure.

Craftsman Reciprocating Saw:

Craftsman Work Gloves:

Step 2: The Plan

The new arbor had to be strong enough to support the four Lady Banks, but easy enough to be built in two days by various levels of carpentry skills.

The overall footprint of the 8 4x4 posts was 16'-6" x 23'-0".  The 16'-6" dimension was a pain since most lumber yards max out at 16' for dimensional lumber.  I was finally able to track down some 2x12x20' pine.  This meant I could have three double-beams going in the 16'-6" direction and run 2x6x12' joists in the other direction.  This seemed to be not only an easy plan, but also good looking.

Step 3: The Prep - Prime and Paint

I was not able to find pressure-treated 20 footers, so this meant I needed to prime everything.  The most difficult part was trying to find enough space to lay out six 2x12x20' and twenty six 2x6x12' pieces of lumber.  After I primed four sides, (I didn't prime the ends since they would all be cut soon and would need to be primed then.) I painted them.

Step 4: The Beams

1) Cut the six 2x12's to length.
2) Cut the profile.
3) Clamp one of two 2x12's in place.
4) Check height and level.
5) Use nailgun to temporarily hold in place.
6) Clamp second of two 2x12's in place.
7) Level with the first 2x12.
8) Use nailgun to temporarily hold in place.
9) Mark for two 1/2" hex bolts (8" long) at each post.
10) Drill two holes per post.
11) Insert bolts and tighten with socket set
and open end wrench.
12) Repeat for the two other double beams. Be sure to level the beams to the first beam.

Step 5: The Joists

Set up a nice work area for the joists, there will be a bunch of cutting.

1) Put up the first joist to mark where the two notches go.
2) Cut the length and end profile with a circular saw.
3) Cut as much of the notch cuts with a circular saw. This will give you a cleaner cut. Finish the cut with a jig saw
4) After you make sure it fits, use it as a template for the other joists.  ATTENTION!  Do not blindly use it as a template.  Variations in lumber (warping, twisting, bowing, thickness, etc.) make it necessary to check it in every position and adjust it.
5) Start placing and attaching the joists.  We attached them using a pneumatic nailer.  We toe nailed it on both sides, and each end of the joist.
6) After 26 joists, we were done.
7) Sink any nails that are sticking up.

Step 6: Caulk, Prime, and Paint

Step 7: The Final Touches

Now the fun stuff.

Clean up and move the furniture back.

Add the hanging plant hooks to the posts with a  cordless screw gun:

Although the Lady Banks Rose were cut back to three feet off the ground, by this spring, they will start to cover the arbor.  My Dad tells me in two years they will be as full as they ever were.  Thankfully, they will now be supported by a structure that can handle the weight.  Now my Dad can safely enjoy his wine outside.

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    15 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Love this one! I just used it to do one in my yard. Little changes since i could not get some of the required wood. Thanks for the writeup!! Here are some of my pics.


    8 years ago on Step 7

    Very nice! Clean and simple! I love it! One question - are the base posts you started with concreted into the ground? I hope your father is doing better!!!



    8 years ago on Introduction

    very beauty desgin..
    it looks great!

    i need do the same in my yarn...



    8 years ago on Introduction

    I love the photo of your dad watching from the window, hilarious! Great job, the arbor looks fantastic.

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Introduction

    "tighten with... open end wench" made me lol. Sorry, not making fun of spelling errors, but this was as good one.

    Great job on both the arbor and the instructable.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Hahaha...I missed that one. That gave me a good chuckle. I'm not sure if I'm going to correct it now or not.

    Thanks for the comment.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent work, a true craftsman's job. I'm sure your dad is proud of all of you and will cherish the arbor for years to come.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Your Dad's a lucky man to have such a thoughtful son. A great instructable and a heartwarming story too :)
    I would love to see a picture of the roses when they were blooming over the old arbor.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you so much. The old arbor collapsing couldn't have happened at a better time, two weeks before Thanksgiving when everyone in the family would be there. It was enough time to plan for it and it was a fun project for everyone to help out on. If it collapsed after Thanksgiving, I don't know when we could have gotten together to rebuild it.

    It's hard to believe, but my Dad promises that it will be covered with Lady Banks this spring and in it's full glory the following spring. I will definitely post an update photo in the spring.