Monday, June 15, 2009

Quick and Easy Rustic Arbor

What does building an arbor have to do with ceramics? Truthfully nothing at all, although I do get a lot of inspiration from my garden for my ceramics work. I just thought you might enjoy seeing this rustic arbor in my garden and might want to learn how to build this arbor very quickly and easily yourself. All you need is a little brains and brawn and a few dollars and you'll be looking at the arbor you built yourself in no time at all.

The first photo is just after I built the arbor. Yes, that's correct it was just me and a guy who used to help me pull a few weeds who built this arbor. Start to finish it will take two people, brains and brawn, two hours to build this arbor, not including the time to purchase the materials. Once this arbor is built it doesn't need painting either, just let it rust away.

You will need a sledge hammer, fence pliers, an eight foot ladder, a metal T-post driver (you can rent one or borrow one to save the cost), duct tape, one scrap piece of 6 inch 2 x 4 wood, bailing wire, four one foot lengths of galvanized pipe one inch diameter, three 3 x 6 foot sections of flat welded wire concrete reinforcing panels, six 10 foot sections of 3/4 inch rebar. Be sure to use welded wire mesh and not woven wire mesh panels. Welded wire mesh panels are stronger and keep their shape when placed under stress (wind and weight of vines) much better than woven. Hauling 6 foot sections of welded wire and a 10 foot length of rebar means you'll have to think ahead if you have a car and see if a neighbor with a truck or long SUV will pick up the supplies for you.

I almost forgot to mention, please call before you dig for the underground people to mark electrical or gas lines so you don't choose an unsafe spot to hammer metal into the ground for your arbor.

For the brains part you must consider the type of vine to grow over the arbor, the prevailing wind directions and the placement of the arbor in the garden. Height and width are important, height is important because you want to be able to walk underneath and as any vine grows it droops down and lowers the ultimate height of the arbor and sometimes encroaches on the width too. Width is important because it's nice to be able to drive your lawn mower underneath, or even a small tractor. Keep in mind the type of vine you choose is limited to those types of vines which are not too heavy or prolific since this type of arbor is not set in concrete in the ground and the metal cannot hold an extremely heavy weighted vine.

There are plenty of vines you can choose to plant, like clematis for instance. I chose a Joseph's Coat rose to plant on either side. My winds come from the East and West, so the arbor allows the wind to blow underneath through the arbor. At my location, we occasionally get heavy winds so I would not trust the arbor with the heavy winds we have here, if I had built it with the sides facing East and West.

Next cover one end of each length of galvanized pipe with duct tape. Now measure the distance you need between the posts which is the width of your welded wire mesh. My welded wire panels are three feet wide, I marked one spot and then measured three feet from that and marked the spot with some flour. Then move to the other side of the arbor nine feet over and mark one corner and then the other three feet from that one. If your welded wire panels are a different width adjust for that from these measurements. That's the easy part.

Here's where the brawn comes in. Take one galvanized pipe length with the taped end facing towards the dirt and place the scrap piece of 2 x 4 wood over the top of the pipe and hammer on top of the wood with the sledge hammer driving the pipe into the ground at the pre-marked flour spot. Ideally you want the soil to be somewhat hard so the pipe and rebar are more stable when hammered into the ground.

There is a reason why I am posting this at the beginning of summer. Hopefully the ground is still soft enough to hammer into, but not so soft that the pipe is loose in the soil. Do this for the three other pipes on the pre-marked spots. To make it easier to hammer the pipe into my ground, I hammered a pilot hole a short distance into the ground with a metal concrete stake which I withdrew leaving the pilot hole.

Get your ladder and place it at a comfortable and stable spot to hammer one length of the 10 foot 3/4 inch rebar into one of the metal pipes sunk into the ground. The rebar should go in about a foot without much force. Now comes the hard part. Take the T-post driver and place it over the top of the rebar and start slamming it into the ground. You want to get the rebar into the ground about one foot more. The rebar should puncture the tape at the bottom of the pipe and go another foot into the ground. That should make your arbor about 8 foot in height. Repeat this process for the other three lengths of rebar, hammering each into the remaining pipe receptacles in the ground.

Now place your ladder at one corner of the rebar and take one of the top rebar sections and wire the top rebar piece across the top using the bailing wire in a figure eight fashion around the two pieces of rebar, the top and side. Double wrap the wire at each intersection and tighten the wire with fence pliers and bend the ends in against the wire. Move to the other side of the arbor and repeat. When you wire the side and top pieces of rebar pull in the side pieces of rebar about two or three inches so they lean towards the center from each side.

Now place the welded wire mesh side panels between the two pieces of rebar on one side of the arbor and double wrap it with bailing wire in several places in a figure eight fashion around the rebar and the cross member of the welded wire panel several times to be sure it holds and twist the ends of the wire and bend them in so no one gets snagged on them. Repeat for the other side.

The top welded wire mesh panel is the hardest to put up since it is awkward and weighs the most. At least two people are needed and an additional step stool or ladder would help. If another ladder or step stool are not available one person can use a length of wood to extend their arm to hold the rebar panel in place till it is secured with the bailing wire. Once you have wired all the panels, you can back fill inside the galvanized pipe with some fine soil to take up the slack between the rebar and the pipe to make the uprights more sturdy. Now dig the holes for your plants on either side of the arbor and train them up the side panels and enjoy your handiwork. My arbor has been up for four years and it is doing fine.

I'm still recuperating and my creature of the night isn't ready yet, he will be forthcoming as soon as I muster up some more energy. If I haven't explained this well enough, just ask, I may have neglected a detail or two which would make this more clear. Questions or comments are always welcome.


  1. okay, you are my arbor making expert; hopefully, I'll make one someday and will DEFINITELY need to be in touch. what will you think of next? Yeah... So creative, you are!

  2. p.s. one of my favorite parts was 'call before you dig'. of course, that was written for me!

  3. Thanks Gary.

    Hi Amy, thanks. I read a lot and ask lots of questions and I've lived a good long while too, he he.

    Hi Amy, yes, the call before you dig number is very important and it is free for them to locate underground utilities. Puncturing a gas or electric line can cost a life and a lot of money to repair too.

  4. Amazing and so beautiful. The flowers you will plant for it are sweet as well pluse with that mtn back drop. It takes my breathe away. You are gifted!

  5. that's awesome Linda! Your place looks lovely. I'm going to show the arbor to my hubster... just in case he wants to build one! Planting the seed anyway!

  6. Sounds like you are feeling a bit better. But don't overdo it now.
    I wish I had a garden to make a pergola, but it is lovely looking at yours.

  7. Hi Mary, thanks, yes the views really enhance everything.

    Hi Patricia, thanks, this arbor is so easy it is unbelievable and if you have the space it quickly and inexpensively adds structure and height to the garden.

    Hi Kitty, yes a bit better and my night creature I worked on last night and will photo him and post tonight. Thanks, sometimes a large garden is a drawback though since I have to take care of it all. I am trying to take it easy, but the hot weather is just around the corner.

  8. Beautiful place for an arbor and tall enough to be incredible to walk/sit under when it is covered. The Joseph's Coat rose is so beautiful. It grows all over the porch of the house just across the street from me. I get to enjoy it and my neighbor takes care of it.

  9. Hi Barbara, thanks, I was just thinking this type of arbor could also be made as an allee, my brain never stops I guess. I was unfamiliar with this rose till I saw it at HD four years ago and was impressed with it's vibrant and multi-changing blooms. The hot colors hold up well in our summer heat and bright sunlight.


I love suggestions, questions, critiques, thanks for your comment