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Create a special place in your yard with this arbor and swing made from common boards.
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Locate the arbor in a nearly flat area. Ask your local building code enforcement office whether a building permit will be needed and find out how deep to dig the holes to get below the frost line. Next call 811 to have the underground utilities marked around the arbor site.
Now select the swing you want to hang. The arbor is designed to hold a swing with the hanging chains 51 inches apart. The hanger beams can be adjusted up to 4 inches in either direction to account for a variety of swings. If the swing hanger chains are greater than 59 inches, increase the length of the front/back beams (F) and center trellis panel (K) accordingly. Check that the swing manufacturer’s rated weight limit will accommodate how you plan to use the swing.
Cut two 2 x 4s to 43 inches long and cut two at 86 inches long to create a frame that matches the outside faces of the posts (Project Diagram, Drawing 1). You’ll use this as a guide to dig the postholes and align the posts. Assemble the frame with 3-inch deck screws. Set the frame where the arbor is to be located, and measure across the frame twice diagonally. When the diagonal dimensions of the frame are equal, the frame is square.
Drive wooden stakes into the ground beside the inside face of the frame. Raise the frame so it is level, and drive screws through the stakes into the frame. On the ground, mark the inside the corners of the frame 1-3/4 inches in each direction to locate the center point of the holes for the posts.
Mark the location of the stakes on the setting frame. It will be removed to make digging the holes easier, and then it needs to be set back in position.
Remove the screws holding the setting frame to the stakes and set it aside. Dig the 10-inch-diameter postholes to the depth required by your local building code plus 4 inches for a drainage layer of crushed stone. Reattach the setting frame to the stakes.
Pour 4 inches of crushed stone in each posthole and cut the four corner posts (A) to length (Project Diagram, Cutting List). Set the posts in the holes. (Project Diagram, Drawing 2). The length of the post should allow for slight variations in the grade -- you will adjust the height later to make them even.
Cut 2 x 4s to brace and level each post, and secure the braces to the post and the setting frame with 3-inch-long deck screws. Mix concrete following the manufacturer’s instructions and fill the holes. After placing the concrete in each hole, check the post for level, adjust as necessary, and allow the concrete to cure overnight.
At a corner post where the ground is highest, place a 2 x 4 flat on the ground and measure 84-90 inches to find the top of the post wraps (Project Diagram, Drawing 3). The height will vary based on the length of post used, depth of frost in your area, and the slope of the ground. Maximize the height based on your site conditions and the actual post heights after they are set in concrete. Transfer the height to the remaining three posts with a 2 x 4 and a level. The temporary 2 x 4 ground spacers will keep the wraps off the ground to avoid ground contact.
The grade between the arbor posts will be leveled later. By setting the top of the wraps at a consistent height, the beams can be attached level, and the grade can be adjusted after the carpentry is complete.
Cut the front/back wraps (B) and side wraps (C) to length (Project Diagram, Cutting List).
Attach the front/back post wraps (B) to the posts (A) with construction adhesive and 6d galvanized nails with the top of the wraps at the layout mark on each post (Project Diagram, Drawing 4). Now add the side wraps (C) -- these boards will slightly overlap the front/back wraps you applied earlier – and center the boards on the post assemblies.
Because the post dimensions can vary slightly, cut the caps (D) from 1 x 2 cedar boards to fit around the post, and secure with adhesive and nails on top of the post wraps (B) and (C) (Project Diagram, Drawing 5).
Cut the side beams (E) and the front/back beams (F) to length (Project Diagram, Cutting List).
To cut an arch in each beam (Project Diagram, Drawing 6), first draw the 1-3/4-inch end circles and the arch centerline (Project Diagram, Drawing 6). Mark each centerline 5-1/2 inches down from the top edge. Bend a long scrap until it touches the radius points of the end circles and the centerline mark; then clamp it in place. Trace the arch with a pencil and repeat for the remaining beams.
Cut the arch cutouts from the beams (E and F) with a jigsaw. Use a random-orbit sander with 100-grit sandpaper to remove any saw marks.
Screw the side beams (E) to the post (Project Diagram, Drawing 7), aligning each end with the outside face of the posts (A), and then add the front/back beams (F).
Cut 2 x 4s for the side rails (G) (Project Diagram, Cutting List), and set the lower rails with the top surface 4 inches above the bottom of the post wraps (B and C) (Project Diagram, Drawing 7). Secure by driving angled 3-inch deck screws through the rails into the posts.
The side rails panels and trellis panels we will cut from six foot pre-assembled deck rail sections for quick and easy installation. For the side rail panels (H), cut two 32-inch-long sections from the treated deck rails (Project Diagram, Drawing 8). Cut the panels so the spindles are evenly spaced over the length of the side panels. Secure to the bottom rails with screws, and install the top rails (G).
Adjust the layout for the hanger beams (I) based on the center points of the hanging chains for your swing (Project Diagram, Drawing 9). Based on the hanger beam locations, cut the outside trellis panels (J) from the treated deck rail sections as you did with the side panels. Secure the trellis panels and the outside hanger beams (Project Diagram, Drawing 10).
Cut the center trellis panel (K) to the length needed, add the hanger beams to the end of the trellis panel, and attach the assembly to the front/back beams (F).
For the remaining parts of the arbor (L – S), it’s best to cut the parts to fit the actual dimensions of the arbor you have built. Slight variations in construction and materials will occur, and the resulting dimensions may vary. Cut the end arch panel boards (L) and front/back arch panel boards (M) to length by placing the boards in position and marking the exact length; then trim the parts to fit (Project Diagram, Cutting List).
Clamp the arch panel boards in position with the bottom edges aligned with the bottom edges of the end beams (E) and front/back beams (F) (Project Diagram, Drawing 11).
Trace arch cutouts from the end beams (E) on the end arch panels (L) and the arch cutouts on the front/back beams (F) on the front/back arch panels (M). Now offset the traced shape by 1/4 inch to the inside of the beams to make the arches slightly smaller. Cut the shape with a jigsaw and sand smooth. By creating this slight offset, the parts do not need to fit perfectly, and they will create a shadow line after the arbor is painted.
Attach the arch panels to the arbor with construction adhesive and 6d galvanized nails. Cut the end spacer (N) and front spacer (O) to fit, and secure to the arbor so the top edges of the parts are even with the tops of the beams.
Cut the end trim (P) and front spacer (Q) to fit (Project Diagram, Drawing 12), and secure to the so the top edges of the parts are even with the top of the beams.
From a 1 x 6 board, cut the beam bottoms (R) to cover the spaces between the hanger beams (I). Glue and nail the boards in position (Project Diagram, Drawing 12).
To close the gap between hanger beams on the top of the arbor, cut 2 x 4 treated boards to fit between the hanger beams. Secure the beam fillers (S) with 3-inch deck screws.
At the center point of the two inside hanger beams, drill a 1/2-inch-diameter hole to receive the eyebolts (Project Diagram, Drawing 12). Add the washers and nuts, and secure the eyebolts in position.
Attach the clevis hangers to the eyebolts, and hang the swing using the chain provided. Adjust the chain length to a comfortable height for the swing. Now that the hardware is set, remove the eyebolts and clevis to prepare the project for painting.
Fill and seal nail holes and gaps between the boards. If painting, apply a white latex caulk to the gaps; if applying a deck stain, use an exterior wood filler. For the finish, apply a paint color or stain color following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Level the ground between the posts and add the landscaping of your choosing. Reinstall the hanger hardware and the swing.