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Easy DIY Fan Trellis to Spruce up Your Vines & Creepers

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This year I decided to finally spruce up our lil' yard.
After fixing neglected areas and making a much longed-for window box, it's time to tackle one last project:
A fan trellis that will both separate our front from the neighbor's and add interest to the fence -- all while holding our trumpet vine in place!
Time: 2-4 Hours Cost: $20-30 Difficulty: Medium
So, now you want a new trellis, right?
Stay with me to learn how to learn how to make yours!
STEP 1: DECIDE ON YOUR TRELLIS HEIGHT/SIZE/PLACEMENT
Here are a few questions that will help you figuring out your trellis dimensions.
1. How large is the vine or creeper you want to train?
2. How much will that plant grow? (I know, you can always trim it, but every vine grows at a different speed and has different space needs.)
3. Will the trellis be free standing or can you attach it to a wall or fence?
4. And finally - How large is the area where you'll place it?
Turns out, I want to train a trumpet vine: these are fast growers, but my space is rather small. I also have a (now) small Magnolia tree that will grow taller in a few years.
A standard trellis ranges from 5' - 7.5'. I want mine to be almost 7'. You can make yours anything in between.
TIP: Once you've decided how tall and wide you trellis needs to be, WRITE IT DOWN. Because, really, I can assure you that by the time you get your tools and materials ready, these measurements will have flown away from your mind!
Time for a trip to your Home or Gardening center! Here's what you'll need:
(3-5) 1" x 2"x 8' pressure treated board
T-square or Tape measure
Pencil
Power saw or hand saw
Nail Gun or Hammer
1" (preferred) - 1 1/4" galvanized finish nails
Drill or Hammer Drill
Mask - recommended
Goggles - recommended
Paint or stain (optional)
Brush or foam paint sponge (optional)
STEP 2: SELECT BOARDS
Check the boards before you buy to make sure they're straight and well dried. Often times they're a little bent: it pays to be selective.
TIP: If the wood is still moist, wait a week or two before using it. You can lay the boards for a couple of weeks on a flat surface while they dry.
Before you start cutting, take a look at your boards and pick the one that looks the worst for your crosspieces (i.e. horizontal parts).
For my trellis, I'll be cutting the knot at the bottom, and saving the one with a few dings for the crosspieces.
STEP 3: MARK CUTS
Begin by lining your boards next to each other and aligning the ends. Depending on your trellis height, you'll likely be able to trim off knots or dings if they are in the ends.
Mark the tip (or tips) you want to trim off.
TIP: Unless you have a very long working table, it's easier to work on the floor. Use a clean, flat area as your working surface.
I'm making my trellis 7'. Since boards are 8' long, I'm going to get rid of an ugly knot.
Also, keep in mind that one end will be placed in the ground and board defects won't be as noticeable as in the tops.
Use your judgment to decide which end you want at the top.
STEP 4: MARK THE TRELLIS HEIGHT
Now it's time to pull out the measurements you wrote down in STEP 1 (or, did you not?) and mark the boards length.
Start by placing your measuring tape on one end and pull the tape down to whatever length you want your trellis to be.
STEP 5: TRANSFER LENGTH TO ALL YOUR VERTICAL BOARDS
Transfer that length mark to the other boards. Two ways of doing it:
1. With the tops still lined up, place your T-square ruler on the mark and transfer that measurement to the other boards.
2. If you've already cut one board, line up the top and overlap the end to another board. Then mark it.
TIP: When marking your ends, don't forget to factor in the few extra inches that will go in the ground: 6" - 10". For instance, if you want your trellis to be 6.5' tall, you'll need to cut your vertical boards at least 7' long.
How deep into the ground depends on the height, width, and also whether you'll be attaching the trellis to a vertical surface.
Either way, I'd leave at least 6". If taller and free-standing, you may want to add up to 10".
TIP: If you're not sure how deep (tall or wide) yours should be, peruse trellises in your garden center and check.
My trellis will be attached in two points to a low fence. It's 6.5' tall, so I'm leaving 6 additional inches to go into the ground.
STEP 6: CUT. CUT. AND CUT.
You know I love my power tools, but this is one easy project where a simple hand saw will do the trick. Grab the board and the saw, and start cutting. You can also use a miter saw if you prefer.
I'm keeping it low tech this time!
TIP: To avoid splinters, lay your board on a flat surface, approx. in the middle of your workbench.
If you cut a board with the long end "floating" off the table, you're more likely to get splinters. Placing it on a flat surface should prevent that.
STEP 7: MAKE THE CROSSPIECES
Ok, so you have your three vertical boards cut, and have decided which end will go into the ground.
Next: Move your boards to the floor. Bring the ends closer together and spread the tops, to make the fan shape. For now, eyeball it.
Step away, and grab that piece of paper with your dimensions-Remember STEP 1?-Check the width and evenly spread the boards to whatever width you chose. Then add a couple of inches to each side.
I made my top 4' wide plus 3" more on each side.
Next: Place your bottom crosspiece.
TIP: Again, remember to leave below the few inches that will go into the ground.
With your top and bottom crosspieces in place, I'm adding 2 more in the middle. If your trellis is 7.7', you may want to do 3 instead.
Get your measuring tape and pencil, divide the space between top and bottom crosspieces into 3, and mark each height.
Place your boards on the marks and decide how many inches you want each to stick. Mark and Cut. (Follow STEP 6)
STEP 8: ASSEMBLE TRELLIS
So you've cut your crosspieces and placed them on your marks.
But before we start nailing I need to do one more thing: DOUBLE-CHECK measurements!
TIP: That's right! Now is the time to correct any mistake you may have done.
Get the measuring tape again and double check the distance between the middle vertical piece and the sides, as well as the position of the crosspieces on each side-to ensure they're centered and horizontal.
So. Ready to go?
Grab your nail gun (or hammer) and galvanized 1" long nails, and start nailing.
TIP: start by putting one nail in the middle of the bottom crosspiece. Move to the sides. Then go back to the middle and add 1-3 more, to make a triangle or square shape on each intersection.
Repeat the same process on each side of each crosspiece.
STEP 9: NEXT IS THE TOP. THEN FINISH WITH THE MIDDLE CROSSPIECES!
Do the top crosspiece next the same: start with one in the middle, move to the sides, and move back to the middle for a few extra nails.
With the top and bottom done, get to the middle crosspieces and repeat the same sequence (middle, ends, and additional nails.)
Once you're done, flip the trellis and add 1 or 2 nails on each crossing.
STEP 10: FINISH IT!
Get your pliers ready: we're going to trim a few nails that came out crocked, and stick out a little.
I'm using a small set of long nose to cut level stray nails. You can use any pliers to trim nails so they're level with the board.
TIP: Before you cut, try to get the pliers as close to the board as you can.
And you're done!
Since you're using treated wood, you can skip the next steps and go to the last, or add a coat of sealer instead of paint.
STEP 11 (OPTIONAL): PAINT OR SEAL YOUR TRELLIS
Hubster requested a white trellis, so I'm going to take an extra step to make him happy. You can skip this step and move to the last.
Before you paint (or seal), put newspapers under the trellis, so the floor doesn't get messy. Get your paint-1 quart can is plenty-a small tray or dish, brush or foam brush (preferred), mask, and gloves.
TIP: Make sure your get exterior paint for wood-preferable water based (most are anyway) for easy cleaning.
Oh, make sure it's not a windy day! (Or even breezy.) If you're working outside, the wind will likely carry dust and speckles that may stick to the fresh paint. If possible, work on a sheltered area.
Ready?
Stir well the paint and poor a small amount into the tray /dish. Dip the brush and start painting. You can start anywhere and move up, applying only one coat for now: apply and let it dry. Do not reapply yet.
TIP: Use small scrap wood pieces to lift the trellis to prevent paint from going under the boards: it'd make the newspaper stick to the wood.
To speed up the process, try to finish each coat in one stretch. Each side should take 30-45 min. You'll need to wait before applying a second coat.
TIP: Read paint instructions for drying time: it usually takes 30-60min for a coat to fully dry.
With one side done and well dried, flip the trellis and paint the other.
STEP 12: FLIP AGAIN & REPEAT (OPTIONAL)
Repeat STEP 11.
Usually 2 coats are enough, but it's up to you to decide whether a third one is needed.
TIP: It doesn't need to be perfect! The trellis will be covered with your vine or creeper, which will hide small imperfections.
STEP 13: PUT THE TRELLIS UP
Get a shovel or trowel and dig a hole deep enough to anchor your trellis - in my case, about 6" deep. The hole should be a few inches wider than your trellis. Remember: the deeper it is, the better secured.
TIP: Put it in place and see how it looks.
Then, decide whether you need to dig a little deeper or wider, or you're ready leave it there and fill in the hole.
I realized it'd have been a lot easier to do this with a dormant plant.
Still, I'm so glad I added the trellis: It looks great! And with summer around the corner, that trumpet vine is not only growing fast but also starting to flower.
Nothing like a fan trellis to bring attention to this beautiful vine!

Materials I used for this project:

  • (3-5) 1" x 2"x 8' pressure treated board   (Home or Garden Center)
  • T-square or Tape measure   (Home Center)
  • Pencil   (Craft Store or Home Center)
See all materials
  • Hannah V
    Hannah V Brooklyn, NY
    on Jun 29, 2016

    Looks so much better now! I need to make one for my backyard vines badly!

  • Elena K, Hometalk Team
    Elena K, Hometalk Team Ozone Park, NY
    on Jun 29, 2016

    Hi Hannah, you should definitely do! This is one easy project - and so gratifying :-)

  • Annie Doherty
    Annie Doherty Canada
    on Jun 30, 2016

    Your trellis and vine look awesome, thanks for sharing.

  • Elena K, Hometalk Team
    Elena K, Hometalk Team Ozone Park, NY
    on Jun 30, 2016

    Thanks Anne! It was an easy project to do too :-)

  • Sue Sanders
    Sue Sanders Broken Arrow, OK
    on Jul 16, 2016

    Good job on the trellis. The trumpet vine is a vigorous growing vine that can grow to 35tft and can be invasive. In some places it is called Hellvine and Devils Shoestring and is thought of as a nuisance vine. It is welcome in other places and must have stems thinned during the growing season so the buds can have sun and must be cut back to the ground in Winter season for greater managibility in the next season. I love the bright Orange flowers and its attraction to birds..

Inspired? Will you try this project? Let the author know!