DIY Garden Arbor

Transform an existing gate into a grand DIY garden arbor and add some drama to your yard!

Nothing says “welcome” like an old-fashioned DIY garden arbor covered in your favorite vine or climber. This project might look intimidating, but it can turn anyone into a do-it-yourselfer—all you need are old ladders and a handful of screws. Transform an existing gate into a grand entryway and add some drama to your yard!


  • 3 wooden ladder sections (stepladders, extension ladders or library ladders)
  • 2-in. wood or drywall screws
  • Screw gun or screwdriver
  • Drill and drill bit
  • Sandpaper, rough or medium and fine grit
  • Palm sander (optional)
  • Exterior-grade primer
  • Exterior-grade paint
  • Stiff wire (optional)

Step-By-Step Instructions:

Step 1

If using extension ladders or stepladders, separate them into individual sections. The upright or supporting ladders should each be at least 7 ft. before mounting; the overhead ladder can be shorter, depending on the width of your gate.

Step 2

Lay out ladder sections on the ground before you cut them to size. Make sure the rungs of the overhead ladder won’t interfere with mounting to the uprights. Once you have lined up the pieces, mark the edges where the overhead ladder should be cut, if necessary, leaving an overhang of about 5-6 in. on each end.

Step 3

Trim the supporting ladders to the same height, unless you are accommodating a steep grade at the site.

Step 4

Sand the ladder sections, first with rough- or medium-grit sandpaper and then with fine-grit for a smooth finish. Prime and paint the ladders. I chose a vivid red for an Asian garden look. Allow paint to dry thoroughly.

Step 5

Position one of the uprights against a front gatepost. You may need to excavate the ground at the base so the ladder stands level and is well-supported. Drill pilot holes (slightly smaller than the screw width) through the ladder piece and into the post. I used 4 screws per ladder, 2 at the lower end and 2 at the top end of the gatepost. Attach ladder to post with the screws. Repeat for the second upright on the opposite gatepost.

Step 6

Lay the third ladder over the 2 uprights. Mine was wider than my supporting ladders so it slid right over them. I bent S-shaped hooks out of rigid wire to hold it at each end. If the overhead ladder is the same width as the uprights, place 1 side along the outside front of 1 upright and the other end of the same side along the inside front of the other upright so the overhead rests on the uprights’ rungs. Screw pieces together where they meet, drilling pilot holes first.

Step 7

Plant your arbor. I chose ­Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) with profuse yellow blooms in spring. It is also an evergreen vine, a rapid grower, lightweight and noninvasive. Passionflowers, clematis, and other jasmine varieties are great choices, too.

Heidi Hess

Alison Auth
Alison Auth makes crafts with her love of wildlife in mind. She enjoys beckoning birds to her backyard and creating an oasis for butterflies with beautiful plants.