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Build an Arbor Made from Doors

Happy hump day!  I thought I’d get you through this day with a project we squeezed in over the weekend after having some family fun and attending a wedding!  For almost three years, we’ve been living with this side yard next to the driveway that is full of weeds and tree roots.

Lovely, isn’t it?  In an earlier post we removed the weeds and replaced the irrigation system in order to attach drip lines for the new landscaping.  New landscaping you ask?  A few weeks ago I got busy in Punch Home & Landscape and created this design:

The home and landscape program has a lot of plants, but not everything under the sun.  The plants in the images above are close to what we’re doing but not quite right.  Anyway, once I felt the design was ‘close enough’ off I skipped to show the hubby my new creation.  He looked at it and was silent for several seconds.  I knew what that meant.  In his head he was thinking how long the honey-do list would be.  Then, he snapped out of his moment of paralysis and said, “I like it.  What does this mean for me?”  He really does love projects, I promise.

A few years ago when we were visiting our favorite reuse store, I had an idea of making an arbor or pergola using doors.  I filed it away in the old noggin in the hopes to pull it out one day.  Recently, I saw this image floating around Pinterest.

(click on picture for source)

Isn’t it great?  Here’s our version and I’ll show you step-by-step how we did it!

The first step was to find the doors at the reuse store.  We looked at several and couldn’t quite find two we liked together.  Their stock was a little low on the type of doors we wanted.  We went over to the screen door section and found five of these babies:

It’s hard to see but there’s an iron decorative piece on each side of the door.

We chose the two best doors (paid $12.50 each), picked up 18 feet of 2 x 6 wood ($5) for the top beams.  We paid for this using our prize winnings from the contest. Woot!

Next was the stripping process.  We had to take off the decorative iron pieces and hardware (hinges, knob, and top locks).  While one would think this would be an easy process, it all came to a screeching halt when the screws started snapping in half as we were trying to take the iron pieces off.

They were so old and rusted we had no chance.  We then attempted to unscrew with vise grip pliers.

No such luck.  The screws snapped in half again, but at least they were flush with the door now.  I also have to mention there was a tee nut (an anchor placed in wood to accept a machine screw) we attempted to remove with a flat head screwdriver.  Yeah, right.  Attempt failed!  All this meant is we were presented with the challenge of figuring out a new way to attach the iron pieces back on the door.  Challenge accepted!

Removing the knob.

Look at this lovely rotting mess.  No need to unscrew this hinge.  It pulled right off.

Next was the screen removal.  It was stapled in, had very sharp edges, and was rusty.  Instead of cutting it out and leaving sharp edges on the frame, we decided to pull the staples which meant the screen would come with it.  I mentioned to the hubby he should protect his hands and wear gloves, but he chose to walk on the wild side and risk getting cut.

You expected a picture with a giant bloody gash, didn’t you?  Luck was on his side – no injuries this time!

The top of the doors weren’t flat and flush, they had lips.

We had to cut the lips with a circular saw to make the top flat to accept the arbor beams.  To make a straight cut, the hubby clamped a metal level to the door and ran the edge of the saw against it.

Finished edge:

Sanding came next.  First with an 80 grit, then a 120 grit.

 Half way through the project, a little short guy wanted in on the action (of course under our supervision).

Would you trust this guy to build your arbor?  By the way, the mustache was his idea.  Hilarious!  

Next, the doors were ready for priming and painting.  To make the process quicker, we used hooks (two on the bottom of each door) and eyes (screwed into the garage beams) and hung them. This allowed us to paint both sides at one time instead of having to wait for one side to dry and then flip to do the other side.

While the hubby was painting the doors, I was spray painting the decorative iron pieces.  It took three cans to completely cover.  Lucky for us, we had exactly three cans of white on hand.

In-between coats we worked on making the arches on the beams.  We first had to determine how long the beams would be.  We knew the doors would be three feet apart, so we then picked what we felt to be an aesthetically pleasing overhang at 7.5″ on each side.  We cut three 2 x 6’s 51″ in length (36+7.5+7.5).

To create the arch, we measured 2 inches down from the top edge and made a mark.

To make the “perfect” arch we placed string around the pencil, put the pencil on the mark, pulled the string taught to the bottom corner of the beam, then drew the line.

The arch was cut with the jigsaw.

One arch done, five more to go!

Once the arches were finished, the notches to accept the top of the doors were cut.  To figure out where to place the notches, we determined the center point of the beam, and then measure out 18″ to the left and right.  These marks were the outside notch lines.  We then measure the width of the door and carried that measurement over to the beam that created the inside notch lines.  A notch depth of 2″ was our choice based on aesthetics.  We then cut with a jigsaw.

We checked to see if the beams fit prior to painting just in case some slight modifications needed to be made.  And they did.  A little more was taken off the notches here and there.  Once everything fit nicely, the beams were primed and painted.

Time for the corner braces.  We used an inside 10″ measurement (long enough for proper stability, short enough not to bump your head on) and cut 2×4’s (we had on hand) at a 45 degree angle.

The corner braces were pre-drilled with two holes each…

…and fastened with 3″ screws.  You’ll notice we didn’t prime and paint prior to attaching.  We were losing daylight and wanted to get the structure together.

We then reattached the door knob, hinges (used 3″ screws to get past the rot to grab good wood), and the top locks.  Instead of placing the locks on the top, we attached them to the bottom to make it look as if they were ‘locking’ into the ground to secure the arbor.

Remember all the issues we had taking off the iron pieces?  There were only two we weren’t going to be able to reattach using the original screw holes.  The hubby decided to use some mirror clips we had lying around.  You don’t even notice them when looking at the structure as a whole.

Piece of cake!  Only one problem.  I didn’t like how they looked being doubled up, back to back.  It felt like it was too much.

Almost immediately the light bulb went on and I suggested placing them on the top as well.

Ah, much better!

After that, we caulked all the gaps using an indoor/outdoor flexible and paintable caulk.  Then, we painted the corner braces and did some touch up painting where needed.

To anchor it in the ground we decided against cementing it.  We felt like it would be overkill.  We bought six 4″ 90 degree channel brackets and twelve 12″ spikes for $35.  The brackets were fastened, one in the back and one on each side toward the front, with three 1.25″ screws.

The arbor was ready to be placed in its permanent location.  First, we leveled the ground, or so we thought, and carried it over.  The hubby checked level (all four ways).  Not so much – it tilted to the front right.  We dug a little more and checked level again.

Success!!  Time to secure it with those spikes.

And there you have it!  Not bad for $65!

I’m sure you can tell we still need to paint the brackets at the bottom so they don’t stick out like a sore thumb.  We have a little more touch up painting to do.  We also need to add wire in-between the iron pieces (for vines to grow up) and furring strips across the top that run perpendicular to the 2 x 6’s.  When planted, this’ll allow the climbing vine to better secure itself to the structure.  Then, of course, we need to finish all the rest of the projects in that area before the planting can begin.  I’ll keep you updated on our progress!

Have a great day!


This post is linked up to the Pinterest Summer Challenge at Centsational Girl, Young House Love, and Ten June.


Vicki Robillard Dubois - just beautiful, great work!

Melanie - Thanks, Valerene!

Valerene Matthews, Malaysia - This is just so awesome!! Love it!

Melanie - Thanks, Amelia!! My husband has some good tricks up his sleeve. 😉

Amelia@nightgarden - Wow! Your arbor turned out great! My favorite innovation, though, has to be the eye hooks to secure it to the garage beams for painting. So clever!

Designed on Sunshine - Luigi was the exact look he was going for! He’ll be so happy to hear someone recognized his disguise!

Designed on Sunshine - Well, I guess I have to agree – no moss here! 🙂

Shelly Warden - Also forgot to mention how nice of “Luigi” the carpenter to offer up his services. Good help is so hard to find!

Shelly Warden - All I can say is, “A rolling stone gathers no moss”. And there is not a speck of moss at your house unless you’ve planted it! Ha ha. Great looking arbor and a terrific anchor to a new part of your landscaping.

Melanie - Thank you!!

Joni Holland - Another awesome job. Detail, detail, detail!! Everything you need to know for such a clever project!!!

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