Easy DIY Fan Trellis to Spruce up Your Vines & Creepers

Elena K, Hometalk Team
by Elena K, Hometalk Team
9 Materials
2-4 Hours
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!
Can't wait for the trumpet to bloom!
So, now you want a new trellis, right?

Stay with me to learn how to learn how to make yours!
How large should your trellis be?

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!
Materials you'll need to make yours
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


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)
Select best boards for the vertical pieces

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.
Ready? Let's begin by marking the ends

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.
Next: Let's mark boards length!

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.
Now transfer length to all boards. So easy!

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.
Time to do some cutting!

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.
Coming along: Crosspieces are next!

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)
Cutting's done! Are you ready to assemble?

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.
I'm getting excited - It's almost done!

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.
Let's make it real neat!

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.
Almost done! Let's get this trellis finished.

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.


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.
Ready for the second coat?

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.
Here it is! Can't wait for the vine to flower

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!
Suggested materials:
  • (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
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  1 question
  • Marilyn Peters Marilyn Peters on Jul 17, 2016
    1) Wouldn't it be easier to paint the boards before assembly? That way the paint will protect the wood all over. 2) Wouldn't it be easier to drill holes and use screws instead of nails? You could take apart in the future, but drilling holes and using screws is far less likely to split the wood.
Join the conversation
2 of 21 comments
  • Ellis Ellis on Jun 06, 2021

    Lovely trellis. If you like flowering vines, try clematis. There are many different colors and types of flower, and they're much better mannered than trumpet vines!

  • Annie Annie on Jun 07, 2021

    My niece was telling me I should try one and now I have your idea and great directions. It looks pretty. Well done.