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By: Marko Vuorinen
It may difficult to believe, but building an arbor for your landscape can actually be quite inexpensive. If you keep the arbor small, to a two-post size, you can have a very attractive landscape feature for a small cost. Even the novice landscaper can build a small arbor without too much trouble in about two days (three at the most). It can be a very rewarding project that provides a sophisticated sense of beauty to your over all landscape design.

Essential to building your arbor is thinking of it as five distinct phases. This will help you break the project down into doable goals and help you accomplish the task better. Breaking projects down into sections also aids the landscaper, as he or she will find that the task does not seem so daunting when done in bite-sized pieces. Additionally, a sense of accomplishment at the end of each stage can help the landscaper stay motivated throughout the project.

The first layer is to prepare the site for concrete placed under ground to secure the structure. In order to lay the concrete, you need to first get some things out of the way. Dig two holes where you want the posts to stand. The holes should be one inch wide and three inches deep. Put half an inch of gravel or crushed stone inside the holes. This will help water drain away, preventing cracks in the concrete. Set one post in each hole and lay a board on top of them. Use a carpenter's level to determine whether or not your posts are standing at equal heights. Adjust, if necessary, until the level shows that your posts are equal in height. You can use scrap lumber, nailed to the posts, to form temporary stabilizers.

The second layer is anchoring your arbor posts (they should be 4x4 posts) into the concrete. Before doing this, check again for equality in height with the stabilizers in place and make your adjustments to the stabilizers to adjust the height. Next, mix your concrete using concrete mix and water from a garden hose in a wheelbarrow; a shovel stirs the concrete to mix it well. Pour the concrete to fill each of the holes and allow at least a day for the concrete to dry. You can remove the stabilizers after the concrete has hardened.

Layer three of building your arbor consists of laying two 1x6 pieces of wood along the sides at the top of the posts. These crosspieces should be perpendicular to the posts, and they will be opposite each other, one on the inner side and one on the outside. This creates a sandwiching effect for the tops of the arbor posts, as they are surrounded by the 1x6 pieces of wood. If you would like, you can cut designs into the ends of your crosspieces with a jigsaw for a piece of added flair.

The next layer, the fourth, consists of using 4x4 rafters to lie on top of your 1x6 crosspieces. These will be perpendicular to the crosspieces, and parallel to the line of the posts. There are five of them, only four inches long, so you will need to cut your 2x4s into pieces of the proper length. They should also be notched so that they fit tightly across the crosspieces. Notching can help you adjust for level differences in the rafters as well.

The final layer is the actual assembly of the arbor. Making sure that everything is properly aligned can help you as you bore the holes necessary for the arbor construction. You will need bolts that will go through the posts and the crosspieces on either side, making sure that the one bolt holds all three pieces of wood together. Additionally, you will need to secure the rafters in place and add any finishing touches you would like to add.

Different plans for simple arbors exist, with variations on different themes and looks (using similar principles it is possible to build an arbor that has four posts). Looking on the Internet for plans and instructions is very simple, and can help you find an arbor that would complement your landscape design. Once you have found that, acquiring the lumber is simply a matter of searching for a good deal in lumberyards or warehouses. It is possible to get your wood for $30 to $40, and most of the other tools needed are commonplace and usually found around the house or easily rented. Once you have your arbor, you can use it as a backdrop for intimate weddings and for entertaining. An arbor can quickly become one of the focal points of a classy landscape.

Marko Vuorinen
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