Reality is that we needed a gate in this spot. The fence was thrown up in a hurry when deer began chowing down on the three Pomegranate "Wonderful" trees. Before the gate and arbor were added the area was accessed by unhitching the temporary fence from the side.
So how do you build a cedar post arbor? (Note: Texas Cedar is actually Ashe Juniper). Enter DH. Today I present a guest post from Mr. Rock-Oak-Deer who built the arbor and has agreed to provide details.
Required tools: chain saw, drill with bits, wheel barrow, shovel, digging bar (in Texas caliche soil), step ladder, level, extension cord if needed. Required materials: 4 each 9 - 10 ft cedar posts, 4 cedar cross members (mine were approximately 40 inches each), several 5 inch screws, a couple large sacks of concrete, one gate. We bought an old iron gate at Yeya's in San Antonio. Difficulty level: Easy to build, harder to make it look good. Your mileage may vary (YMMV). Note that cedar can be heavy and stuff can fall down on your noggin' if you aren't careful.
We have access to cedar trees, so "we" cut them ourselves with a chain saw. Posts should be about 4 - 5 inches at largest diameter (bottom of post) and taper to no less than 3 1/2 inches at top. Needless to say, straighter is better.
Step One. Lay out and dig four holes. Make sure they face the proper direction, and are the proper distance apart. Proper width side to side depends on the gate size. If you do not have a gate, make it 36 inches from post to post inside measurement. Front to back can also be 32 - 36 inches apart. Be sure to also check the "X" distances with the tape measure (front right to rear left, and vice versa should be the same distance) Check with Gardener-in-Chief to get approval for layout -- in writing, then dig holes a foot deep and about 9 - 12 inches across.
Step Two: If using a gate, order of poles is important. If no gate, order is not important. Instructions assume a gate. Insert rear poles into holes, support with rocks or such. Check with tape measure and level. Check with Gardener-in-Chief for approval to proceed, then pour concrete to ground level leaving supporting rocks in place. Check again with tape measure and level after pouring. Concrete lasts long a long time. Pour wisely. Wait at least 24 hours so poles are not bumped and moved before they set since that would loosen them and create gaps for water to lay in the holes and rot the posts. While waiting I could recommend a few blogs to read....
Step Three: Put into place the front post which will support the gate, and stabilize post with rocks. Check with tape measure and level. Then pour concrete and wait 24 hours. Hey, this is a process not a race. Read some blog posts or something. I cover the concrete with plastic to slow the curing process. It makes the concrete harder when it cures slowly.
Step Four: Put final pole in place supported by rocks. Before pouring concrete, put gate in place between the front posts supported underneath with boards, allowing adequate space underneath for gate swing. Level gate vertically and horizontally then screw gate (or attach however) into the concreted post. Then screw gate into non-concreted front post after leveling and before pouring concrete. Last chance to tape measure and level front post. Check with Gardener-in-Chief for approval to proceed. Pour concrete and wait 24 hours. While you are waiting read Pam Penick's book "Lawn Gone!". The concrete needs to harden before cutting the tops of the posts.
Step Five: Measure and cut poles to the "same" height. Since ours in on a slope, the pole lengths vary in height, but the level shows where to cut. We chose the shortest post and cut the other three to a height level with it.
The importance of gate selection shows up here. This gate is an old security door and still had its original door frame which will keep the heavy gate from sagging and pulling the cedar poles sideways over time. A lightweight gate can be supported by one post, but a heavy one needs a full frame supporting both sides.
Measured with a level, marked with chalk, cut with a chainsaw, and spot on!!!
Step Six: Now the required length of the cross members has been determined. Use approximately 3 inch diameter cross members. Cedar is a natural material, and vertical posts will vary in distances at the top more than at the bottom. Nothing is exactly straight and level, even though you need to try. Cut front-to-back cross members to proper size and leave extra room sticking out -- you can always cut off extra later. We notched the top of the posts so the cross members will lie in a V for added stability. Drill and screw in cross members to vertical poles on both sides front-to-back. Then install side-to-side cross members underneath the front-to-back cross members. Tie in place first with twine or wire, then drill and screw into both cross members and vertical posts.
Step Seven: Install topper cross members. We used curved cedar branches about 1 1/2 inches diameter and tied them on with wire which is easier to work with on the curved pieces. Any wire will do, but thicker is better as long as it is workable. A center cedar branch keeps the curved branches secure. After topper is built, railing cross members can also be added, if desired. We added them at railing height and just pounded then into place without screws. Then add walkway.
Step Eight: Gardener-in-Chief is happy. For now....
Gardener-in-Chief note: Thank you sweetie! The arbor looks great. We still need to add decorative touches to the side rails and the fence will be set with cedar posts as well.