A Garden Abor
Arches and arbors can be used to dress up a path, frame a view, support climbing plants, or mark an entry, as the one shown here does. Garden gates with an arbor roof feel welcoming and protected, marking the transition from one setting to another—from driveway to backyard, for instance.

The clean lines of this arch echo those of the house and the spindle-style picket fence. The curved top offers a break from the rectangular geometry of the surrounding structures, putting even more of a spotlight on it. Eight to 10 feet is generally a good height for a garden arch. And if it's to hold a double gate, as this one does, it should be at least 6 feet wide for a gracious entry that could accommodate two people walking side by side.

Arbor Building Know-how

A natural cedar or redwood arbor is pretty low-maintenance. But if you want it to be a crisp white (or another color), skip the paint and coat it with solid stain instead. Solid stain fades over time without blistering and peeling, making for much less of an upkeep hassle down the road.

Sink the posts properly
You see them all the time at the garden center: wooden arbors with feet that sit on the ground. These might serve as a trellis for vines or a roof over a freestanding bench, but they won't stand up to the stresses on a fence line or a swinging gate. To take that load, sink the posts 30 to 36 inches below grade, says Pro Fence's Mike McLaughlin, who custom–fabricated and installed the arbor here. Where soil is naturally gravelly, using it to backfill the hole—hand-tamping it every few inches—may provide enough stability and drainage. But where soil is sandy or clay, a better bet is to sink the bottom of the post in 4 to 6 inches of tamped gravel, then fill the hole with a tamped mix of soil and gravel, packing it around the post slightly above grade and sloping it away from the post. Where a post bears the stress of a hinged gate, using concrete helps stabilize it even more. Just be sure to sink the post end in gravel first so it won't stand in water, then fill the hole with a sloped concrete footing. Driving two 12-inch lengths of 1/2-inch rebar through the part of the post to be buried will help keep it anchored. Surround the joint where wood meets concrete with silicone caulk to seal out moisture that could cause the post to rot.

Brace the gate. Even a well-built gate installed with high-quality stainless steel hardware has to fight the pull of gravity. To keep it from sagging, install a diagonal wooden brace that runs from the upper latch-side corner to the lower hinge-side corner to stiffen it. Or, if a gate is already starting to sag, attach a turnbuckle along the opposite axis that allows you to tighten threaded rods to bring up the corner that's sinking toward the ground.

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