Thursday, May 5, 2016

DIY Small Shade Arbor

Shade Arbor

What is the difference between a shade arbor and a pergola?  I pondered the question and decided to consult professor Google on the subject.

According to the fine folks at "Design You" I came across the following,

"...arbors are traditionally smaller and are not really suited for sitting beneath"

I have no affiliation with that website.  It's just a random one I came across on a simple Google search, but it seems reasonable.  I'll take it.  To be honest its not really imperative to the project at hand anyway.

On to bigger fish.



7 - 2x4s

4 - 1x4s (plus whatever you have decided for your trellis design.)

3 - 2x6s

Shade Cloth

Deck Stain

3" screws

2" screws

1-1/2" screws

Cut List

4- 2x4 Post Pieces @ 84"  (You may want to cut this an extra 6" longer if not using concrete to set the posts in the ground.)

4 - 1x4 Post Pieces @ 89.5" (Same thing for this measurement as well.)

2 - 2x6 Cross Beams @ 72"

5 - 2x4 Rafters @ 46.5"

4 - 2x6 Diagnal Cross Braces @ 24"

If you decide to design and build a trellis like I did you will need extra material for that.  I used 1x4s and ripped them into strips 1-1/2" wide by 27" long.  I spaced them 1-1/2" apart and attached them to a ledger secured between two posts.

First, I can not cover every possible scenario, outcome or concern here in this one blog post with a project like this.  In the absence of building codes, one has to rely on a certain level of experience and understanding of their own circumstances.

Keep in mind that a lot of the techniques and ways of doing things depicted in the video are simply the way that I have come to realize gives me the best and longest lasting results based on my experience.  They may or may not be appropriate for you or your geographical location.

 Case in Point

It seems to be well known that when setting posts you set them with concrete footers.  However, in my experience, I have found that not using concrete gives me a longer useful life.


Because all materials expand and contract, even concrete.  It just does it at a different rate than the lumber it is surrounding.  This inevitably leads to areas between the concrete and the wood where water can pool.  The concrete then acts as a cup holding the water in place leading to premature rotting of the wooden post.

Including treated lumber.

By placing gravel in the bottom of the hole I help aid the drainage of water away from the lumber.

Then I just fill the rest with dirt or I may even mix a bit more gravel in with it and be sure to compact the soil well after plumbing and leveling.

It also helps to dig a little deeper than normal to set the post if you can.  In my area 12" is the recommended depth but I usually go 18" or even 24" depending on the soil characteristics and ground level.

If I'm digging close to or on a slope, I'll always go 24"or more if possible.

After a hurricane rolls through, fences always lean, if they're still standing at all.  Not using concrete allows you to just stand the fence back up.  Reset the soil around it and move on to other repairs.

This technique works for me in my setting.  If you live in Alaska it may not be the best for you, I don't know.

DIY Shade Arbor

 The Question

Alright some of you may have noticed that when I attached the diagonal braces, I flushed it with the side posts but not for the top of the cross beam.

What gives you ask?

It was actually a last minute, on the fly, design change.

I had planned to cut notches into the bottom side of each of the rafters to fit over the cross beams.  I measured 2" down from the top of the beams to allow for clearance depending on the placement of the rafters.  Then as the project progressed I realized that time would not permit, so I switched to pocket hole screws instead.

I may still go back and cut the notches as I originally intended when I get time but for now the pocket holes seem to work fine.


  1. Why did you not use treated lumber? Love your projects!

    1. My kids will be playing on and around our shade arbor. I do not want them getting treated lumber splinters. Plus I hate that green color.

  2. First off thanks for the DIY info! I really enjoy your content. Do you have any other tips for using untreated lumber outdoors? I'm building a playset for my kids and obviously can't used treated. Cedar was out of budget so it's pine. I'm painting, staining, and keeping the posts above the soil. Any other general tips/thoughts? Thanks!

    1. That's a fairly broad question and I could write a book on it. I guess just giving bullet points I would say, don't use glue for structural joints. Be mindful of grain direction. Don't let the expansion of boards running one way put excessive pressure on boards running another way especially at joints. Allow for expansion and contraction of the lumber instead of trying to stop it. This is probably the number one reason outdoor projects fail prematurely. People often equate premature failure to the type of lumber used when it was actually a design problem. I could go on but I'll stop there. Good luck.

    2. Thanks that helps. I'm still a novice and have more experience with plywood where expansion & contraction isn't normally a concern. It's a good reminder for me and seeing you use untreated gives me confidence I can make it work. I'm making a raised Fort with a slide and monkey bars and sticking with common deck designs for the platform. I just can't find info on people building things like this without PT or cedar so I questioned my decision. I think you've identified why my outdoor side tables failed. I didn't give it room to move nor protected the wood properly.


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