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How to Build an Outdoor Shade Arbor

Building an outdoor shade arbor can offer several advantages to your garden or yard. An arbor is typically a four-posted structure with open walls and a thatched, lathed or ivy-covered roof. Built to any size, an arbor might cover a table and chairs, a hot tub or a simple chair swing. An arbor offers protection from sun and rain and creates a secluded spot where you and your family can enjoy nature. Putting one together may seem challenging, but with a friend and some elbow-grease it can be done in just a few hours.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 six-foot 6"x6" posts
  • 2 six-foot 6"x6" beams
  • 6 four-foot 4"x4" rafters
  • 12 six-foot 2"x2" laths
  • 8 wooden braces, 4' to 5' (scrap wood is fine)
  • 8 wooden stakes
  • 4 post bases
  • 4 anchor bolts
  • Nails
  • 4 lag bolts, 1/2" x 10"
  • 12 lag bolts, 1/2" x 7"
  • 16 washers
  • 3" screws
  • Ladder
  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • 7/16" drill bit
  • Socket wrench
  • Level
  • Measuring tape
  • T-square
  • Electric hammer-drill
  • Concrete drill bit
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    • 1

      Mark a 3'x5' rectangle on your porch or a concrete slab where you plan to place the arbor. Use a level and T-square to ensure the rectangle is precisely sized.

    • 2

      Place post bases in each of the four corners. Mark the spot on the ground where each post base anchor hole will need to be drilled. Remove the post bases.

    • 3

      Use your hammer drill to drill a hole into the concrete where you marked the anchor bolts positioning. Drill it straight down and use a drill bit that is the same diameter of the anchor bolt you are going to use. Drill all four holes, and then reposition the four post bases back to their planned placement.

    • 4

      Screw the anchor bolts into the concrete, securing the post bases in place. Use a socket wrench to tighten them, and activate the mechanism that locks them in place. Do this for all four post bases.

    • 5

      Place a post in a post base, pointing it straight upward. Use your T-square and level to make sure the post is perfectly perpendicular to the ground. Once the post is in place, nail two support braces into the wood, angling them outward and affixing them to wooden stakes pounded into the ground. The two braces will keep the post level and in place while you do the remaining three posts in the same fashion.

    • 6

      Place your 6-foot beam across the two posts that make up one 5-foot side of your arbor. Make sure that it is level and that each end of the beam sticks out past the posts six inches. You may need a friend to help support and lift the beam to complete this step.

    • 7

      Using your drill, make a 9-inch hole through the top of the beam and into the center of your post. Do this for both posts along the beam.

    • 8

      Screw your 10-inch lag bolt into each of the holes, with a washer between the wood and the bolt head. Use a socket wrench if needed to tighten them. Repeat steps 6 through 8 for the other side of your arbor (the opposite 5-foot side of the structure).

    • 9

      Place your six rafters atop the beams. Lay them perpendicularly to the beams so that they go from one wall frame to the other wall frame, connecting the two beams. Space them evenly so that they rest approximately one foot apart. There should be a 6-inch overhang on each end of the rafter, past the beams.

    • 10

      Drill a 6-inch hole through the top of the first rafter and into the beam below it. Do this for both ends of the same rafter. This step (and the following step) will be easiest to complete one rafter at a time. This will ensure that each rafter remains square and parallel to the adjacent rafter.

    • 11

      Screw your 7-inch lag bolt (with washer) into each of the two holes created in step 10. Tighten them in place with a socket wrench. Repeat steps 10 and 11 with the remaining five rafters, making sure to measure and square them off before each hole drilled.

    • 12

      Place your laths on the top of the rafters in a perpendicular fashion (actually parallel to the beams two layers below). The number of laths you use depends on the amount of shade you want for your arbor. Bear in mind that for complete shade, you can also put on a plywood roof that measures 6'x4' and this will ensure complete shade. Or you can install a covering of thatch or intertwining ivy to create shade. Laths simply need to be screwed into place with 3-inch screws. Place the screws along the length of the laths, and drill them through and into the rafters below. If you have 12 laths, position the laths approximately four inches from one another for even spacing. The distance apart will change depending on the amount of laths you use.

    • 13

      Remove the braces from the posts.