better outdoor living at home spring

Arbors – Adding a Classic Feature to the Yard

This is an arbor we designed as part of a residential project a number of years ago, and we thought it may help give a little inspiration to anyone who may be thinking of putting one in their own yard. This type of outdoor architectural structure can be used as a focal point, and to separate outdoor areas. It also adds a high level of visual interest to outdoor spaces.

In this design, the arbor and the accompanying square lattice fence were positioned near the rear of the yard to serve, not only as a backdrop to the outdoor living space (separating spaces of different uses), but also as a portal to the future summer vegetable garden beyond. Both the arbor and the fence act as a screen, or ‘wall’, to obscure the more utilitarian garden area.  The height and scale of the arbor create a focal point as well.



Specifics of the Design

Creating a beautiful and interesting arbor is accomplished by layering the overhead wood pieces (which should decrease in size with the smaller boards at the top) and by giving the ends of the boards decorative detailing. This arbor has 3 layers of wood overhead and the inside height from the ground to the bottom of the beams is 7 ft. The side fence is about 3 feet in height to the top rail. All the posts were routed with chamfered edges and fluted on the fronts and backs of each post to give a more refined level of detailing to the over all design. The ends of the overhead horizontal pieces were given patterned cuts, as well.

Materials that were used were:

  • 4 x 4 treated wood posts
  • 2 x 8 cedar beams
  • 2 x 6 cedar joists
  • 2 x 2 cedar
  • post caps and ball finials
  • concrete footings for the 4 posts

The two ends of each of the four 2 x 8 beams were finished with an intricate scroll pattern which was cut with a jigsaw. The seven 2 x 6 cross joists and the eight 2 x 2 pieces were given an upward quarter circle shape which was cut with a jigsaw, also.




The posts and 2 x 8 beams are the structural part of the arbor. The beams were attached to the posts with carriage bolts (2 per post), each fastened with a washer and nut on the back side of the inside beam. All the fasteners used in the construction were exterior grade. The bolts were countersunk and concealed with wood plugs on the outside face of the beam. It is not necessary to countersink and plug the bolt heads. It was just the look we were going for. Leaving the heads of the bolts visible and not countersinking them can look attractive, too. The remaining cross layering was attached with exterior grade nails.



The photos show the structures almost completed. The fence posts and the 4 arbor posts were finished with post caps and ball finials. The entire structure was finished with a neutral color exterior stain.

Arbors make great first and lasting impressions of an outdoor space. A well-designed and well-built arbor is a feature that can certainly add value and enjoyment to your home.

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