Pergolas & Archways

In sunny climates, pergolas are traditionally used to give shade to a path. In less sunny climates, such as in the United Kingdom, pergolas are more often used as a roof transition from the inside of the house to the garden or, alternatively, they can act as support for climbing flowers and rambling plants.

In urban areas, where gardens are often overlooked, a pergola can create a measure of privacy, without giving a 'blocked in' feeling. A pergola structure over a terraced area or patio also helps to create the sense of an 'outdoor room'. A well-positioned archway over a path not only breaks up a long, uninterrupted view but, at the same time, also makes a frame for a portion of the garden that can be seen from a distance.

The design of pergolas and archways should be as simple as possible because their true function is to support plants and those should be the stars of the show, not the fancy details in your construction. Arches and pergolas are available as standard-sized kits but in a variety of styles, so with a little research, it should be relatively easy to find a size and design that suits your taste and requirements. Many kits come with trellis side panels. If you are constructing your own archway, you may need to cut them to size and add a supporting framework if you don't construct to 'standard' sizes.

Remember to treat all timber with wood preservative prior to construction. This will keep it strong and attractive for longer.

• Treat all timber with wood preservative before construction and reapply regularly afterwards to maintain its condition.
• You can attach a pergola directly to the side of your home more easily if you sit the timbers in 'L'-shaped metal shoes plugged into the walls.
• Trained vines or hops over pergolas and arches will give shade in summer and let in light in winter.
• Consider the scale and proportion of pergolas and arches in relation to the garden features - large trees or changes in levels - as well as your house.

Step-by-Step Instructions

1 Measure and mark

Select the location of the archway and measure and mark the position of the supporting verticals. Most kit-form arches are easy to assemble and the verticals are supported in the ground by metal brackets like those used to support fence posts.

2 Drive in the supporting brackets

Drive in the metal supporting brackets - these normally have spiked ends to make it easier. Make sure they are vertical - check with a spirit level. If you use a mallet to drive in the spikes, place a piece of protective wood over the top so you don't damage them.

3 Attach the posts

Slip the posts into the brackets and fix them in place. This is done either by driving in nails or screws or, sometimes, by tightening the special bolt that comes with some brackets. After securing the posts, check again for verticality with a spirit level.

4 Archway joists

Depending on which style of archway you have chosen, the 'roof' may be flat or pointed. If it is the latter, it is better to secure the two sides of the point 'on the ground' rather than try to attach them individually to the supporting posts

5 Fix the 'roof'

Offer up the archway 'roof' joists. You may need some help, depending on the height. If you need to use a ladder, make sure you position it on level ground for safety. It may help to pre-drill holes so you can fix them quickly and easily.

6 Offer up the trellis panels

Trellis side 'panels' are simply fixed to the vertical posts with galvanized nails to protect them from rust.

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