Cedar Arbors

Cedar arbors are constructions that you’ll find in gardens and can best be described as a cross between a pergola and a gazebo - with a seat. In the strictest terms an arbor is a shady retreat with sides and a roof formed out of trees or lattice work with climbing plants. So, you could construct an arbor from any material capable of forming a lattice - metal, plastics etc. However, you really should use timber for this construction and using cedar wood will add that delightful fresh scent to the arbor when it is being used.

Materials for an Arbor

Wisteria ArborA visit to a timber merchants store or website will quickly reveal to you the choice of cedar timbers available for you to build the arbor from. Some gardening purists believe that an arbor should have a rustic look to it, in which case you’ll need to source unfinished and natural looking cedar poles for the uprights, roof supports and lattice work.

A rustic arbor will look fine if it is to be built so as to blend in with existing features of your garden, such as a wall or woodland area or a part of the garden that already has established climbing plants. However, if you want to build an arbor that will be highly visible from many aspects of the garden, then using finished cedar will enable you to build something with a more contemporary feel to it.

Finally, choosing cedar to build an arbor from is a good choice as, unlike softwoods like pines, it will not rot away within a few years. Presuming you’re building a cedar arbor with four uprights, a roof, lattice sides and a seat, you need to order the following timbers in lengths according to the size you’re building to.

75x75mm square uprights, 75x38mm side rails and roof beams, 38x25mm roof laths for the lattice work trellis, a length of 125x25mm for a back-rest, a couple of 150x25mm pieces for the seat, possibly some 25x25mm lengths to create an edge to the roof and either feather edge boards or shingles for the roof and gable ends. Plus, you’ll need various sizes of coach screws and I’d buy some metal sockets for the corner posts.

Building your Cedar Arbor

Having measured up and marked out the base, dig four holes for the four uprights and pour concrete in the metal sockets. You can then fit the uprights to them and secure them in place with coach screws. Remembering to leave the front of the arbor open, fix side rails to the other three sides about 250mm from the floor and 50mm from the top.

You’ll have to decide if you want a single pitch roof from front to back or a double pitched roof across the arbor, although obviously you need to make this decision before cutting and installing the four uprights.

Double Pitch Roof

For a double pitched roof cut four equal lengths of the roof beams, then using a miter, cut pairs of them to create a good angled joint. Use another length of this timber to join these two end sections, screwing it all together with locking blocks or metal angle brackets. Cut the feather boards or shingles to size as required and nail them in place, also using some to create gable ends.

With the roof in place, you can add the lattice work to the design of your choice, alternatively you might have been able to buy some prepared cedar lattice work that just needs nailing in place. Then fit the seat and its backrest to heights that you will find comfortable, using lengths of the 75x38mm cedar timber to act as side-batons to fix the seat to and as arm rails if you wish.

Photo by David Sim, Creative Commons Attribution License