how we built our vintage door arbor

You know the old saying, "do as I say, not as I do?"
Well, that's kind of what this post will be!

Today I'm sharing how we built our vintage door arbor.
We are fairly novice DIYers, so those of you who are really good at building stuff may find some better shortcuts or ways of putting this together, but this is how we did it.
We also realized in our stumble-along method (no plans, just winging it off the Pinterest photo) some better ways we could have constructed this if we were doing it over again.

I'll try and give you some of those ideas in *italics where you can learn from our DIY project!

Building Supply List:
2 x 8' boards
We used pine.
Determine whether or not you want two or three boards for the arbor top-we opted for two.
2x4' boards for support brackets.
Vintage doors with windows.
outdoor zinc screws
tools for cutting your wood 

Make sure that both doors are the same height.
The width of the doors is important to know too, but not as big a deal.
Ideally you want them as similar as possible to make the construction process easier.

 We measured how wide the entrance needed to be- so we could get the lawn mower through and the yard debris cart.
Make sure it is wide enough for any equipment you regularly use to get through.

Measure before you begin cutting because it will determine where your notches need to be on your arbor header.

*We did all our measurements on the spot where we were constructing.  It would be easier if you have a level, firm surface like your driveway or garage to ensure everything is level, and not moving around while you're constructing.  We had the triangle wood feet on the doors from when I was using these at shows, and it helped.  You could also use thin wood strips and tack them to the bottom and /or tops of the doors to keep them the width you need while you are building the header.

We started out by removing the glass from both doors.

I wore safety glasses and gloves, and used a hammer to break out the glass.
As you can see, we had a tarp underneath, so it made it lots easier to clean up and not have tiny shards all over the driveway.
Just scoop up the tarp and dump it all in the garbage.

Before you cut the notches in the header, set the 2x8 on top and use a pencil to mark out the width of each door.
It makes it really simple for cutting.

*again, having a level surface makes this much easier!

I took the 2x8's to my dad's shop since he has a lot more tools for this project than we do!
I didn't get photos during the process, but I'll try and map it out for you here.

Cut your notches for the arbor top that will fit over the doors.  
*You want to allow about 1/8" extra on your notch measurements.  A snug fit is good, but as we learned the hard way, too snug will end up splitting your header.  
Just enough to allow your header to sit comfortably on the top of the door.

We used a bandsaw to cut the notches and then chiseled out the remainder of the pieces.
Using a compass, determine your edge circle and draw your cut line onto the ends of the 2x8 boards.
We made sure there was 1 1/2"" between the outside notch edge, and then a 1/12" top.
Like this:

Next, because we get a lot of wind in our area, I felt like it would be good to have something securing these into the ground.  
The arbor is probably fine without this step- once we got the header on, it adds quite a bit of weight, and with the openings from the windows, the air circulation probably makes it safe as-is, but we still did this next step anyway as a precaution.  

I couldn't find anything that would fit the door width and act as a spike to drive these into the ground. I didn't want something ruining the look of the vintage doors, and wanted it to be completely hidden.  My solution was to use metal shelf brackets.  

They were narrow enough to add to the bottoms of the doors,

and the pointy edge acted like a spike that we could push into the dirt.
We drilled pilot holes into the bottom of door, and then secured the brackets with screws.
It's probably not ideal, but it gives us a little more peace of mind that there's a little bit of an anchor.

We used a metal rod to get the holes started in the dirt for the brackets to be pushed in, and then set the door into it's spot.

*I also want to note here that we used a manual grass edger to carve out some excess grass.  This helped with keeping the arbor level.  
It also looks better when it's done, and saves you a lot of headache with the lawnmower! 

Once the doors were in place, we added the headers.  
As you can see, from my tip I shared earlier about not making your notches too tight, we had a split.  
We opted to use some Gorilla glue and painters tape to hold it in place while it dried.
If you're a perfectionist, you will be having a fit seeing this. 
My arbor, my repairs. 

With your 2x4's, cut your support brackets with a square ruler, (the triangle ruler).
Drill pilot holes on the outside of the door through the bottom (but not all the way through the bracket) and then set your screw.
Do the same through the corner of the top of the bracket into the header.

Once everything was set, and the glue from our repair was dry, I used an exterior grade white paint and primer, and painted the arbor top.

The final step to our arbor was adding some screw hooks to the top of the door windows and adding some pretty hanging baskets.

These were from Lowes.  
This would also be beautiful with hanging lanterns.  

Because we used only two 2x8's for the arbor top, I thought it would be really beautiful to add little twinkle lights strung over the top when we have company over.  

I hope this tutorial was helpful!
We keep it real around here- sharing our mistakes along the way.  
We really love how this turned out, and even though there was a bit of frustration along the way. When all is said and done, we both love how this turned out and are so glad we did it.

Let me know if you have any questions, and I will try and answer them for you.

xo Denise

Let's Connect!


  1. There are always lessons learned along the way, but the end result was so totally worth it. I just love your arbor Denise! It adds so much charm and character to your garden - enjoy!

  2. You did a GREAT job and I love it. It turned out just beautifully! You did a wonderful job! xo Diana

  3. Really clever....enjoy it!!...come on over for a visit!

  4. Oh my goodness, how cute and super-clever is that for an arbor -- wow, I love it!

  5. Denise thanks for this post, I would love to do this for the new house. Maybe next spring, LOL, now if I can only find doors as pretty as yours. PINNING!


  6. I so appreciate this step by step tutorial. I have the perfect place for one!

  7. I think this is amazing and just so pretty. I wanted to ask how would it hold up in a humid climate? We have moisture galore to lend out and still have much left over. LOL

    1. Hi Anna! We've had it up for almost a year now, and so far it's held up pretty well! I don't expect it to last forever (mostly because the doors are pretty old). We live in Oregon where we get a pretty good amount of rainfall, so the humidity here is pretty significant as well. I think I'll just need to touch up some of the white paint on the arbor top, but that's about it! Thanks for your comment and question!

  8. I am planning on making an arbor very similar to yours this spring and was wondering how well the shelf brackets you used as anchors for the arbor have held up(especially in high winds)?


Thanks for taking the time to leave me a note!