Clothesline Bean Trellis

Build a clothesline bean trellis (and reduce your energy footprint).

Credit: Webb Chappell

A backyard clothesline harkens to childhood days, but can also reduce your energy usage

Let it all hang out with this distinctive addition to the garden – and reduce your energy footprint while freshening your household laundry

Old-fashioned clotheslines not only remind us of freshly washed sheets smelling of the outdoors and of playing in the backyard as children but – with the rising cost of energy and concerns about global warming – reduce our energy footprint on the environment. Making one that also serves as a trellis for flowering vines affords a welcome sight even when it’s not in use.



– 3 wooden posts (4-in. x 4-in. x 8-ft.)

– 4 3/8-in. carriage bolts, 4 in. long

– 4 sets of washers and nuts, to match carriage bolts

– 46 #208 zinc-plated eye hooks

– 52 1/8-in. galvanized clamps

– 20 5/32-in. x 4¾-in. galvanized turnbuckle eye hooks

– 75 ft. (23 m) of 1/8-in. braided galvanized wire

– 6 3/16-in. x 5-in. galvanized turnbuckle eye hooks

– 65 ft. (20 m) of 1/8-in. vinyl-coated braided galvanized wire

– Concrete

– Gravel (optional)


– Circular saw

– Miter saw with finish blade

– Drill

– Chisel

– 3/8-in. and 1/8-in. drill bits

– Framing square

– Tape measure

– Clamps

– 9/16-in. socket wrench

– Rotary tool such as a Dremel

– Metal-cutting disk for rotary tool

– Post-hole digger or shovel

– Level

– Pencil

We use cedar posts to build the two crosses that support the drying lines. These posts give the structure some presence, which helps make it an architectural feature in the backyard. Diagonal guide wires are strung on each cross post for clematis or morning glories that may even trail out onto the clothesline itself. These posts can safely be set about 18 ft. apart. If more lines are needed, consider adding a centre post.

1. Using miter saw, cut one post into two 4-ft. sections.

2. Chamfer the top of two 8-ft. posts and both ends of two 4-ft. sections by setting miter saw to a 30-degree bevel and trimming away post ends on all four sides, 1 in. from top.

3. Create half lap joints to connect posts and arms. Notch out both 8-ft. posts 3 in. from the top of the chamfer to accept the 4-ft. cross-section. Set depth of circular sawblade to one-half the thickness of post. Make a series of close cuts in notch area that is to be removed. Use chisel to clean out resulting fingers of wood. Remove a section 1½ in. deep by 3½ in. wide (the actual dimension of the 4×4 post). Use same process to notch out both 4-ft. sections at their centres. Remove notch 1½ in. deep by 3½ in. wide.

4. At notches, overlap 8-ft. post and 4-ft. arm and clamp together. Pre-drill two 3⁄8-in. holes on a diagonal at the joint, secure with two 4-in. carriage bolts, washers and nuts, and remove clamps.

5. Mark three locations on arm for clotheslines. Place first line position at centre of post connection and space two remaining positions 6 in. from ends of arm.

6. Mark locations for trellis wires. On underside of both ends of cross-section, centre a mark 1-in. from end; centre four more marks 4-in. apart. On the post face underneath each arm, make a mark 66 in. down from cross post and then space four marks every 13½ in. up post.

7. Predrill all 20 marks with ⅛1/8-in. drill bit. Screw eye hooks into each hole.


TIP: A bit of lavender or rosemary planted underneath the posts might also help freshen laundry further

8. Starting with innermost set of trellis eye hooks, attach uncoated braided wire with 1/8-in. galvanized clamps and 5/32-in. turnbuckles. Use rotary tool to cut off excess wire. Turnbuckles should be positioned on post end of wire. Repeat with other support.

9. Select site for installation. Posts should be set parallel to each other about 12 to 18 ft. apart. Using a post-hole digger or shovel, dig holes for supports. The supports should be set 2 ft. into the ground, level and even with each other. The posts should be held in place with gravel and can be reinforced with concrete.

10. Using 1⁄8-in. clamps and 5-in. turnbuckle eye hooks, attach three lengths of the vinyl-coated wire between the two supports. Use a turnbuckle at both ends of each clothesline to make line taut.

Excerpted from Cultivating Life by Sean Conway (Artisan Books). Copyright 2009. Featuring 125 simple projects like this one.