The DIY Blogger House is located within the Daybreak development in South Jordan, Utah. Daybreak strongly advocates the concept of “sustainability” and are big believers in using recycled products. Knowing this, I decided to test that resolve by creating an arbor for the home from vintage recycled doors which I purchased at “George’s Architectural Salvage“.
If you have time and you’re patient, you can likely pick up the doors for this project over time at a cost somewhere between cheap and free. However, I’m not patient nor did I have time to wait so I bought a well-matched pair from George. Here’s what they looked like when I bought them:
The doors you use for this project MUST be solid wood- not modern ‘hollow core’ or plywood materials. I wanted the sides to have openings so I chose doors which previously had that but you could just use a solid door or remove panels from a solid door to create a similar effect. Doors of slightly different widths are okay but the height must be the same. We actually used the table saw to remove 1/2″ from one of the doors to make them equal. Since the doors are solid wood, this should be an easy adjustment if your doors are slightly different heights.
Before starting the clean up process on the doors, check for lead paint. Kits for this are available at home improvement stores. Luckily, the original finish on my doors was varnished wood (the white one above is a botched more recent paint job). If the doors DID have lead paint, I would have called my local disposal agency to ask what the local regulations require for mitigation. It’s really best just to avoid using lead-painted items.
Once you’ve verified whether or not there is lead paint involved, you’ll need to prep the doors. In our case, this involved scraping off the 80-year old varnish!
One of the doors had sustained some damage in the past and the mouldings around the 3-lite windows were missing and replaced with some sort of putty-like window glazing. I went ahead and removed the glazing and we placed some new wood strips in that location.
Next, you’ll want to apply exterior grade, paintable silicone caulking to any place where water could infiltrate and potentially rot the door. Fill the crevices created where glass is missing or has been removed. Our doors were missing all the glass except one little panel. I waged a little internal battle as to whether or not to remove that really cool piece of old glass and opted to leave it- I’m not trying to hide the fact that they’re old doors. You could absolutely remove the glass in your own doors- it’s a personal decision. Obviously any damaged glass SHOULD be removed.
To determine the length of your rafters, measure the width of your path then add an 2 inches to provide clearance. Our path is 38″ wide so the doors will be spaced 40″ apart. Given these measurements, we were able to use 2- 2 x 6 redwood boards, cut in half, for the rafters. Each board measures 48″. This yielded 4 rafters. The ‘leftover’ on either end is 4″ so we created a rafter tail design that would fit within that space. We then created a pattern out of a scrap piece of wood, cutting it out with the same tool we’d use for the real rafter tails to make sure we could cleanly cut the design before we started cutting the more expensive lumber. Cut each board in half then use a jig saw, bandsaw or scroll saw to cut the detail for each end.
Measure the thickness of your doors. Draw the notches on the rafters then remove them. We used a saw to cut the perpendicular cuts and a chisel to remove the remainder.
If your arbor will be free-standing instead of attached to fence posts etc., use a 2 x 4 to create ‘skids’ or feet which will attach to the bottom of each door and extend beyond the door to provide extra stability. This will also keep the doors themselves from coming in direct contact with the ground which increases the longevity of the structure by reducing rot potential. We left the skids for our door as natural wood to better disguise them then covered the skids with bark mulch.
Prime and paint the arbor. Now, I know that the sunshine yellow we used here is a little scary for some BUT it matches the front door color of the house and draws attention to the arbor- which was our intent.
It’s also less vivid in the overall landscape- see?
Once the paint is dry, attach the skids to the door or attach the doors to the fence. Add the notched rafters, using an outdoor 2 1/2 inch screw to attach each rafter to the top of the doors. Add triangular corner blocks to increase the strength of the arbor. In hindsight, ours were too small. We should have made them a little bigger to improve the stability of the whole unit. Do that part better than we did!
We also attached some vintage hardware that had a very cool patina. I considered stripping the hardware back to the original brass but decided against it- I didn’t want to risk making it look ‘new’. Instead, we left the hardware exactly as it was when we bought it at George’s Architectural Salvage and we’ll let Mother Nature decide how and when to strip the paint.
Originally, the arbor was intended to be attached to a picket fence but the fence was not installed so that left it hanging out there a bit. We added a gorgeous pot from Home & Yard Pottery planted with dark-leaved and flowered plants to contrast against the bright yellow and help the arbor visually meld into the landscape better.