An arbor ( also know as a pergola or trellis ) is one of the most enchanting structures you can create for your garden!
It not only defines an outdoor room and creates shade, but also offers the perfect structure to grow flowering or fruiting vines such as wisterias, roses or grapes.
No wonder there was an arbor in almost every garden design project I have worked on!
This grape arbor is located in a public garden near our home. I really like how attractive and DIY-friendly it is.
I decided to draw up a plan for you all to use as a guide if you decide to build a similar arbor / pergola for your backyard oasis!
The drawing below shows the dimensions of the arbor and all the above ground components.
Here’s a list of lumber you will need:
posts: (4) 4×4 @ 7′ 6.5″ . (8) 2×6 @ 8′ .
beams: (2) 4×6 @ 12′ , option: 45 degree decorative bevel or corbel cut at ends
braces: 2x4s size varies, see Step 4.
runners: (11) 2×4 @ 5’8″ or 6′ , option: 45 degree decorative bevel or corbel cut at ends
The arbor starts with footings. Instead of trying to cover the huge topic of how to create footings for arbors and pergolas, I will list some good resources at the end. However, I do want to emphasize this important first step:
Before digging any holes for the post footings, it is really important to call your local utility and cable companies (such as Blue Stake ) and have them mark the location of any underground services. Smart, safe digging is a must.
As a general rule, the depth of the footing should be about 1/4 of the height of your post.
This arbor uses Simpson post base PBS44Ato connect the posts to concrete footings. ( See more in resources section at the end.)
Step 1 ( after the footings are set ): install 4×4 posts.
The drawing shows the center to center of these posts.Before securing all the posts, hold each post plumb in place, or brace the posts so they stay plumb, use a 2×4 and a level to make sure the top of all the posts are at the same height. Trim posts if necessary.
Use wood screws to attach each post to the base. Simpson Strong Tie, the manufacturer of these awesome post bases and other connectors, has put together an Installer’s Pocket Guide which you can download here for more details.
Step 2: Add 2×6 beams
Rest the first 4×6 beam on center over a pair of 4×4 posts. The overhangs should be of equal length. Secure the beam to the posts with pocket hole screws or Simpson mending plates. These will be covered by the 2×6 trim pieces as shown in next step.
Step 3: Add 2×6 trim pieces
These 2×6 trim pieces serve two functions: they add more details and richness to the design, and they help strengthen the post-beam connection.
Each trim piece is attached to the beam with 4 screws, and to the post with 8 screws spaced vertically at 12″ on center.
Step 4: Add 2×4 braces
These braces also add beauty and strength to the structure. They can be screwed onto the post trim with pocket hole screws.
First install the two horizontal 2x4s on each side. Use a plywood or even cardboard template to cut out the shapes of the four 2x4s that form the diamond pattern. Feel free to improvise on the center designs.
Step 5: Add 2×4 runners
Space 11 runners at equal intervals along the length of the beams. Take time to measure the spacing and overhangs to keep the whole set of runners in alignment. Simpson Strong-Tie RTU2 is used here to connect two 2x members – the beam and the runner – intersecting at 90 degrees. First mark each of the connectors and secure them to the beams. Then insert and screw each runner to the connectors.
This grape vine climbing onto the arbor is going to set some delicious fruits soon!
Helpful tips and resources:
- REPEAT: Before digging any holes for the post footings, it is really important to call your local utility and cable companies (such as Blue Stake ) and have them mark the location of any underground services.
- Because an arbor / pergola is an overhead structure, check your local building codes on size / load / height restrictions or any engineering requirements!
- Simpson Strong Tie not only has great products but also lots of information and booklets for builders and DIYers here.
- There are many good books on how to build an arbor / pergola / trellis, such as these- Trellises and Arbors: Over 35 Step-by-step Projects You Can Build, and
Making Arbors & Trellises: 25 Practical & Decorative Projects for Your Garden
- Follow good safety practices while working with hand tools and power tools. Take the time to learn the important basics. Always wear eye goggles and work boots while building.
Other garden projects you may enjoy- 25 beautiful DIY friendly garden paths
Wish you many happy hours in the garden! xo