Build a garden gateway pergola

Frame the entrance to your green plot

By Steve Maxwell

Photo by Roger Yip

I’ve learned a few 
lessons over the past 18 years, not the least of which is how fast 18 years goes by. When I built my first arbour on the spot where this new one stands, I simply stepped into the forest for a few hours with a chainsaw, cut some balsam fir poles, then used deck screws to assemble them into a structure that eventually became engulfed by climbing bittersweet. If someone had told me back then that this original arbour would last until my then-toddler son would be driving my truck on his own, I would have thought that this lifespan was more than enough. As it turns out, as this same “toddler”—now taller than I am—helped me rip the rotting old arbour out to make room for this new one, I realized that my original ideas about building for the long haul didn’t take a long enough view.

The design here is not only more refined than what I originally created, it’s designed to last much longer than a mere two decades. It uses standard, pressure-treated lumber, with several joinery tricks tailored especially to suit this material.



Part Material Size (T x W x L*) Qty.

Posts Pressure-treated lumber 5 1/2" x 5 1/2" x 12' 4
Crosspieces Pressure-treated lumber 5 1/2" x 5 1/2" x 1 12" 2
Lattice top/bottom Pressure-treated lumber 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" x 30 1/2" 4
Roof boards Pressure-treated lumber 1 1/2" x 7 1/2" x 68 1/2" 7
Long lattice strips Pressure-treated lumber 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 76"** 12
Short lattice strips Pressure-treated lumber 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 30 1/2" 14

**Vary length to create a pattern

* Length indicates grain direction

Recommended Tools

circular saw






socket wrench



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