Project overview: Benefits, materials and cost
This corner arbor turns empty space on a patio or
deck into a leafy green sanctuary. Use it to create
shade and privacy, to screen an unattractive view, or
to add color to a concrete patio or wood deck—even a second floor
deck. Our arbor is covered with a tropical vine called
mandevilla, a great plant for walls, trellises and arbors.
The entire arbor is made from pressure-treated wood, but
coating it with a penetrating stain and hiding the fasteners
makes the project look more like a piece of furniture than
decking. The stain will also help keep it from cracking and
warping as it weathers.
Using pressure-treated wood keeps the cost reasonable too.
All the materials for this project cost $250. The project can be
built over two weekends—or one if you don't stain it.
Treated wood lasts almost forever, but it can be gnarly to
work with. Take your time picking through the lumber pile for
good pieces. Look for dry (lighter) pieces without too many
knots. You'll need straight pieces for the uprights and benches,
but you can use nice-looking, moderately warped pieces for
the planters. Let the lumber sit for a few weeks so it all shrinks
uniformly. Remember to put the best sides out when you
assemble the planters and benches.
3 Simple Components: Trellises, Planters and Benches
To build this project, just cut lumber to length and screw the parts
together. If you can handle a tape measure, a saw and a drill, you can
do it. Customization is easy, too: Build shorter seats to suit a small
space or add components to surround a big space. If you don't need
shade or privacy, leave off the trellis.
Step 1: Assemble the planter boxes
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Photo 1: Cut the parts
Cut the planter box pieces and bench parts quickly and
accurately using a stop block.
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Photo 2: Assemble the fronts and backs
Assemble the front and back of the planters against
a square. Use spacer blocks to align the planter box
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Photo 3: Add the box sides
Stand the front and back up, then attach the sides, screwing
through the planter box corners. Predrill to avoid splits.
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Photo 4: Stain all parts
Stain the bench and trellis parts and the completed planter
boxes before assembly to save time and mess.
Each planter box is made by alternating
10 short and 10 long lengths of 2x4 and
joining the inside corners with 2x2s. The
overall size is based on 16-in. square plastic
planters (actual size 15-1/2 in.) widely
available at home centers. If you can't
locate that exact size or you prefer a different
style, make the planter supports (D
and E) larger or smaller, or build a base
inside the planter box to support the
planter. You can also change the size of
the planter box.
Use a stop block to cut all the pieces
quickly and accurately (Photo 1). Set
three long and two short pieces against a
square clamped to the worktable, using
short spacer blocks for alignment.
Predrill the 2x2 corners with a No. 8
countersink bit to avoid splitting the
wood (Photo 2). One 2-1/2-in. screw per
2x4 is sufficient.
Make a front and back for each planter
box, then set them upright and join them
with interlocking 2x4 pieces (Photo 3),
again attaching them from the inside.
Although screwing from the inside is
fussier, it enables you to avoid the cracks
that often occur when pressure-treated
wood is screwed near the ends.
Finally, screw the bench supports on
(see Figure A in “Additional Information” below).
Stain the planter boxes and all the
other pieces now to avoid drips on the
deck or patio. It's also easier to coat all the
bench pieces on all four sides at this stage
Note: You can view and download the Cutting List, Materials List and Figure A in “Additional Information” below.
Step 2: Construct the benches
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Photo 5: Assemble the benches
Clamp the bench front and bench end against a square
corner. Screw the bench pieces together from the back to
keep fasteners hidden.
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Photo 6: Connect the benches and planters
Set the benches on the bench supports, then fasten the
planter boxes to the bench ends.
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Photo 7: Level the benches
Shim the planter boxes to level the benches. Install hidden
legs to hold the planter level, then remove the shims.
Clamp the front and one of the sides of
the bench to a square edge. Clamp the
first set of spacers and the first 2x4 slat to
the front piece, then drive two 3-in.
screws through the slat and the spacer
into the front piece. Continue fastening,
clamping the slats in position to keep
them aligned before screwing them in
(Photo 5). Check to make sure the bench
stays flat as you assemble it. Toe-screw the
bench ends to the front of the bench, then
drive two screws into the end of each slat
(see Figure A).
Put the benches in place flush with the
back of the planter boxes (Photo 6). Screw
the benches and planter boxes together
with four 2-1/2-in. screws, then screw on
the planter supports inside the planter box
with three 2-1/2-in. screws each.
Level the planter boxes if necessary,
adding hidden 2x2s or 2x4s for legs
Step 3: Assemble the trellis
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Photo 8: Attach the trellis posts
Attach the posts to the sides of the support blocks with
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Photo 9: Attach the top rails
Screw the right and left top rails to the posts. Mark the
post spacing first to keep the posts plumb.
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Photo 10: Install the lattice
Mark the bottom edge of lattice on each post, then nail
the lattice with siding nails.
Screw support blocks to the backs of
the planter boxes 3 in. in from the corners,
then attach the posts (Photo 8).
Cut the posts 7 ft. long plus the distance
(if any) the planter box was shimmed
up, so that they sit on the ground but are
level with each other at the top. Drive
two additional screws into the posts
from the inside of the planter boxes, but
don't worry if the boxes are still a little
wobbly—the top rail and cap lock everything
Set the top 2x4 rails on the ground
next to the posts, leaving a 1-1/2-in.
overhang at the outside ends. Mark the
position of each post on the top rail, then
clamp the rails flush with the top of the
posts and fasten them with 3-in. screws to
the posts and to each other (Photo 9).
Nail on the lattice, overhanging it 1-1/2
in. on the outside edges and butting the
pieces at the corner (Photo 10).
Screw on the 2x6 cap pieces to finish the
structure, mitering them at the inside corner
and screwing the two sides together.
Drop in the plastic planter boxes (from home centers or garden supply
stores), fill with dirt, and plant with a mix
of climbing flowers and vines.