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The Cheapest Approach for Adding An Outdoor Trellis

The Cheapest Approach for Adding An Outdoor Trellis

Trellises are great for supporting vegetable plants and can also add a decorative element to your garden. But they can be expensive to purchase from nurseries or hardware stores. Because of that, most people always wonder if there is an inexpensive way to build a trellis.

The cheapest way to build a trellis is by using unfinished wood, nails, and some screws. By using this method, you can build a sturdy trellis of any height. Also, the wood can be painted or stained to increase durability.

Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to build a trellis without breaking the bank and a comparison of the costs of various cheap ways to make one.

How To Build a Cheap Trellis Using Unfinished Wood

Estimated cost: A project like this should cost about $15-$20 if you use inexpensive materials picked up from hardware stores around town. This is much better than purchasing a trellis from a nursery or hardware store for over $100, not to mention that you will be able to customize the dimensions of your frame.

Tools needed: To build an inexpensive trellis using unfinished wood, you need:

  • Four 2x2s, 8 feet (2.43 m) each
  • Screws
  • Nails
  • Handsaw
  • Hammer
  • Drill (optional)

Once you have gathered these tools, follow these steps:

  1. Cut the pieces of wood into the desired dimensions. Cut your two pieces of wood into the desired height for the trellis. This will depend on how tall you want it to be and what kind of plants you plan to plant in it, but usually, a good size is 16-24 inches (0.4-0.6 m) high.
  1. Attach the boards to create a frame. After cutting the boards to length, it’s time to attach them with nails and screws. I recommend using at least two per joint or four total (one on each side of your frame). To place a nail correctly on the board, use your corner clamps as guides for where you need to position the point of impact. 
  1. Attach the frame to a pole or sturdy surface. Attach one end of the frame to a pole, tree, sturdy surface like brickwork with bolts (the hardware store has these), or metal brackets. If attaching it directly onto concrete without any reinforcement, then be sure to use long enough bolts to go into concrete at least an inch for added strength.
  1. Add sides for stability. Add sides if you want more stability on windy days or when using tall plants inside your trellis by attaching them permanently with wood glue and framing nails along both edges where boards meet and attach tops via joints that are already in place.
  1. Paint or stain. Paint or stain your trellis for increased durability. Paint is preferable because it doesn’t require sanding to have the color display properly like a stained piece of wood does. Plus, painting is just quicker. You can also combine these two steps by using a paint that will both adhere and seal at once, then applying with a roller applicator (this may take more time, but the results are worth it).

Tip: Be sure to add trellis netting to support your plants. In this case, I recommend this De-Bird Trellis Netting from It is durable, thanks to its UV-treated plastic construction. Besides, installing it is a breeze, and you can customize it.

Alternatively, you could follow the steps described in the following video to build your trellis:

Pros and Cons of Using Unfinished Wood To Build a Trellis

The pros of using unfinished wood to build a trellis are that it is inexpensive and sturdy.

The cons, however, include having to paint or seal the surface before placing anything in contact with it because the boards are not sealed already.

Tip: If you don’t want an unfinished look for your trellis, then there are other ways you can go about building one without breaking the bank on materials:

  • One method includes using old pallets by attaching them securely at their corners and tops to create a frame.
  • Another option would be a framework made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes if they’re available near where you live. This material is durable and lightweight, which makes it easy to move around as needed.

Cheapest Trellis Building Methods 

Here is a comparison of the typical costs of building a trellis using some of the cheapest methods:

  • Unfinished wood method: $15-$20 depending on materials used (including nails, screws)
  • Plywood method: $28-$45 (depending on how many supplies are needed; trestles can be purchased separately, which would reduce the total cost)
  • Foam boards: $30-$50 (this method will require other tools like foam board cutter, hot glue gun)

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can I Use Instead of a Trellis?

Instead of a trellis, you can use overhead wires, arbors, hedges, fences, cages, or shrubs. Wires are the best choice for high orchards, and cages can help prevent animals from eating your plants. Avoid using arbors in wet climates, as rainwater reduces their durability.

For similar results as a trellis, you can also grow your plants up vertical strings or cables nailed into the ground at an angle instead of planting them in the earth.

How Far From a Wall Should a Trellis Be?

A trellis should be placed at least three inches away from a wall. This ensures the plants still have enough room to grow. This is also true for trees, bushes, and vines, which take up more space than their flowers or fruit indicate.

Trellises are especially helpful for vines like grapevine or morning glory because they provide extra support for growth.

The benefit of this is that the plant will produce more fruit with less weight pulling down on it. So if you’re planting alongside your home’s exterior, keep in mind how much space there will be for your vines to develop!

You’ll want to make sure they can spread out and create enough humidity in this location.

Bottom Line

Building a trellis can be expensive and time-consuming. However, if you want to save money, materials, and labor, try building one yourself using unfinished wood or scrap lumber. The process is simple but requires some DIY know-how for assembly.

Once the frame is assembled, add your choice of paint or stain coat to make it last longer. Once you do that, place your trellis at least three inches (8 cm) away from any objects that might deny your plants enough room for growth, such as walls.


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