How to Build a Shade Arbor
Building a classic shade arbor for the backyard
Looking for an attractive outdoor project that won't take all summer to build? The shade arbor shown on these pages is a worthy example, even though this particular project actually took nearly three weekends to build. That's because we chose to paint it before screwing it together so we could cover all the surfaces and avoid having to work on a ladder 8 ft. off the ground.
We spent the first weekend cutting the lumber to length and applying two coats of primer to all surfaces. The next weekend, we dug and poured concrete footings and applied two topcoats of paint to the parts. Then we took one more day to build the arbor and paint the posts, which arrived the day before construction began.
The arbor was built entirely of construction-grade redwood, which resists rot and insects. Although cedar and pressure-treated pine are also rot- and insect-resistant, redwood is friendlier to work with. It's lightweight, soft and very easy to cut and shape. It's also less likely than pressure-treated pine to warp or twist, and it holds paint beautifully.
The total cost for the redwood was about $1,500. Western red cedar costs about the same. If you're willing to sacrifice some dimensional stability, use pressure-treated pine, which runs significantly less—just about $600 to $700.
Dig footing holes
Dig each footing hole about 18-inches-wide and 24-inches-deep, or to the frost line, whichever depth is greater. Fill each hole with concrete, then insert a 42-inch-long piece of ½-inch-diameter galvanized-metal pipe. (The pipe has an outside diameter of 1 ½ inches) Leave 18-inches of pipe sticking up from the middle of the footing. Allow the concrete to cure at least 24 hours. Next, use a long, 1 ½-inch-diameter auger bit or spade bit to bore a center hole into the bottom end of a post.