How to Build an Arbor

An arbor provides shade to a patio.

Find out how to build an arbor and you have the means to shade your patio and increase its utility. Building an arbor is labor intensive, but an ambitious homeowner can complete this project without help.

How to Build an Arbor for a Patio

The most important part of building an arbor for your patio is the arbor design. Not only should the design for your arbor be aesthetically pleasing, but it must also adhere to sound principles of structural design. There are certain construction conventions, such as the spacing of joists and the nominal sizes of lumber, that require knowledge to understand and implement. If you do not possess this knowledge, look for plans for an arbor that is appropriate for your patio. If you are searcgubg for ideas to incorporate into your arbor, be sure to consider covered patio designs to explore further options. Once you have a viable design, follow these general steps of how to build and arbor and erect it.

  1. Start by locating the position of all of the posts required to support the arbor. You will need at least four posts for a small arbor, and six or more for larger arbors.
  2. Dig holes for each post. The depth of the post holes should be specified by your plan, however 24 inches is standard. For areas with heavy frost the post holes should be deeper, preferably below the frost line. Remove patio pavers near to the posts; plan on replacing them after the arbor is completed.
  3. Mix concrete to secure the posts. When the concrete has been mixed, have an assistant hold the post into place as you shovel concrete into the surrounding hole. The concrete should be thick enough to hold the post into place without supports. Use a level to make sure that the post is perfectly perpendicular to the ground. Allow the concrete to cure for at least 48 hours before proceeding.
  4. Notch the arbor beams. These are the pieces of lumber that are the largest horizontal supports. Usually they are attached to the posts using the trench method. This involves creating a notch in the beam that fits over the posts. The notch should only be about one to two inches deep. For those without a router, multiple cuts of the same depth can be used to create the notch. To do this, set the depth of a circular saw blade to the depth of the notch. Make two cuts on the beam to delineate the edges of the notch. Then make additional cuts between these two areas, spaced an inch apart to break up the lumber. Finally, use a chisel to remove the cut sections and finish the notch.
  5. Bolt the notched arbor beams into place using appropriately sized carriage bolts. Plan on using at least two for every intersection between the beams and posts.
  6. Notch the arbor rafters. These pieces are the smallest pieces of lumber used in the arbor construction. They rest on the arbor beams. In order to notch several rafters quickly, clamp them together. Then you can use the saw and chisel method to quickly notch several pieces at once.
  7. Put the arbor rafters into place, measuring carefully to insure that they are appropriately spaced. Use galvanized nails to fix them into place. If you have a nail gun, use it to save time for this step.

Final Considerations

While many homeowners will be pleased with the shade that a simple arbor provides, other homeowners may want more shelter. In these cases, knowing how to install a patio roof over an existing arbor is essential. If the arbor structure is well built, making such an addition should be simple and require few modifications to the arbor itself.

How to Build an Arbor