How to build a garden arch from junk

Written by beth asher
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Arches are commonly used to separate utility areas from the regular garden. They can also be used to force a perspective, making a path seem longer by fronting a short bend. Flea markets and salvage yards offer a wealth of possibilities for spotting building materials usable for garden construction. Architectural junk like old doors, gates, corbels and columns can be used to create unique arches that reflect your garden style.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Two salvaged corbels
  • One salvaged 4 foot wide fanlight
  • Decorative salvage medallion or other object
  • Two 4 foot by 4 foot by 10 foot posts
  • One 4 foot by 4 foot by 8 foot post
  • Two post finials
  • Two Simpson Strong Tie HUC44 4x4 heavy duty concealed/reverse flange joist hangers
  • 16d nails
  • Deck screws
  • 2 stakes
  • Scrap board
  • Four bags of quick setting concrete
  • Gravel
  • Tape measure
  • Posthole digger or rented auger
  • Shovel
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Power drill
  • Lead test kit

Show MoreHide


    Cutting, Staining and Post Setting

  1. 1

    Cut one of the 4 inch by 4 inch by 8 foot posts into two 4 foot pieces. Paint the posts, including the ends, with a non-toxic wood stain or preservative.

  2. 2

    Measure and mark the post sites. Set the posts 4 feet apart (not 4 feet OC), and straight on to each other. Dig two holes 3 feet 6 inches deep and 10 inches in diameter with your post hole digger. Put a 6 inch layer of gravel in each hole. Set a 4 inch by 4 inch by 8 foot post in each hole and plumb it.

  3. 3

    Make sure the post tops are level with each other by putting a board across the tops and setting a level on it. Shim and level both posts so the tops are even and then brace the posts in position.

  4. 4

    Mix the concrete and pour around the posts over the gravel. Work as much concrete as possible into the gravel without disturbing the posts. Fill the rest of the hole with concrete. Draw the concrete up slightly higher in the middle to provide a runoff slope.

  5. 5

    Leave the bracing on the posts for 6 hours or until the setting time of your concrete mix has elapsed.

    Assemble the Arch

  1. 1

    When the cement has set install Strong Tie joist hangers at the top of each post on the inside face level and straight on to each other. Set a 4 inch by 4 inch by 4 foot beam in the joist hangers and secure by nailing.

  2. 2

    Mount the salvaged fanlight on top of the cross beam securing with deck screws. Mount your salvaged medallion or other decorative object to the centre of the cross beam. Put the post finials on the posts.

  3. 3

    Mount the corbels under the cross beam on the insides of the posts. Hold the corbel against the post with the top against the cross beam. Mark the corbel, post and cross beam for drilling at one point on the upper end of the corbel and one on the lower end.

  4. 4

    Using your marks, measure to the middle of the corbel at those points and drill pilot holes. Use the marks on the post and cross beam to line up the pre-drilled corbel. Screw in place using deck screws.

Tips and warnings

  • Specific construction methods will vary depending on the size and type of your junk objects.
  • Local lawn and garden centres will help you with advice on fasteners and basic construction.
  • Architectural salvage yards and recycle organisations that accept large items are two good places to get garden construction elements.
  • Wear gloves and safety glasses when using power equipment and working with salvaged materials.
  • Before using salvaged architectural elements be sure they are in good condition and will withstand weathering. Splitting wood, old lead paint or broken glass are dangerous.
  • Use a lead test kit like the First Alert LT1 Premium Lead Test Kit to check the paint on salvaged objects. Lead in the soil is toxic to children and pets.

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