How to Build a Grape Arbor

A grape arbor creates an excellent balance of form and function. The simple lines of the arbor will fit into any landscape and the shade (and grapes!) are a welcome treat on warm summer days.

A grape arbor is constructed in a similar manner to a pergola: vertical posts provide support for the roof, which is created from sturdy beams and rafters that are attached perpendicular to the beams. While a pergola's major function is to provide shade, a grape arbor is designed to proved support for growing plants. With this in mind, the rafters can be placed farther apart when constructing a grape arbor.

Constructing Your Grape Arbor

  • Start with a design. You'll want to lay your grape arbor out on paper to establish its dimensions, generate a materials list and submit it for permit approval. Pre-designed arbor plans are available from many sources if you're unsure where to start. Generally, keeping the outside dimensions of your arbor under 10' will make it easier to buy lumber at the proper size. Most areas of the country consider a garden arbor to be a structure that requires permitting and inspection. Check with your local building code office and your homeowner's association as required.
  • Position the posts. Your arbor must be able to hold the weight of your grape vines as well as beams and rafters. 6"x6" posts will create a sturdy foundation. Lay out the location of your posts with twine and stakes or landscapers paint. For postholes, dig a one-foot diameter hole at least 2 feet deep or below the frost line depending on which is deeper. Deeper postholes may require longer posts to maintain a suitable height for your grape arbor.
  • Set the posts. Place the posts into their holes, plumb them on two sides and brace them with stakes and 2"x4" angle braces. Fill the postholes with concrete and allow the concrete to dry for at least two days.
  • Attach the beams. 2"x8" lumber should suffice for your beams. The beams should be attached to posts along parallel sides of your grape arbor with galvanized lag bolts. Use two beams (positioned on either side of the posts) per side of the arbor for a total of four beams. Check to make sure the beams are level before permanently attaching. Note: these are heavy boards and you should never attempt to raise them alone. A friend (or two) will make this job easier and safer.
  • Attach the rafters. Rafters can be made from 2"x4" lumber and should be placed at 24" intervals. Rafters should be installed across the beams at regular (16" to 24") intervals. Attach the rafters by toe-screwing them into the girders using 3" screws or by notching the rafters to fit over the beams and then screwing them into place.
  • Optional slats. To add more shade or to provide more support for vines, 1"x2" slats can be nailed across the rafters at regular intervals.
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