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How to Upcycle an Old Ladder Into a Garden Trellis

Novel Treasure is a do-it-yourselfer and prides herself on being able to make basic home repairs on her own.

Beautiful wooden arbor trellis made out of upcycled wooden ladders.

Beautiful wooden arbor trellis made out of upcycled wooden ladders.

Upcycle Your Old Ladders

We recently purchased a property with three beautiful acres and an old two-story barn. We bought the property from an elderly widow. She and her husband had lived on the property for over 40 years. After moving in and getting the main house settled, my husband and I decided to tackle the barn.

Inside the barn was a treasure trove of old tools, bicycles, printing equipment, and farming equipment. Included among these items was an old wooden extension ladder. It was well worn but in fairly good condition. We pondered over what to do with the ladder. We already had quite a few newer aluminum ladders from my husband's work, so we did not necessarily need this one too.

We thought about using it for kindling, but we just could not bring ourselves to burn it. It felt like a piece of history. Part of the reason we bought the three acres was to get "back to nature" and use the land to be self-sustaining. We did not want anything to go to waste. Thus, the idea of upcycling the old ladder and using it as a garden arbor was born!

Old wooden ladders are perfect for garden trellis and arbors!

Old wooden ladders are perfect for garden trellis and arbors!

How to Make a Garden Trellis out of an Old Ladder

Making a garden trellis or arbor out of an old ladder is extremely easy. Very few tools and materials are required.

To make our upcycled wooden arbor, we used an old 24' extension ladder as the main structure. The wooden extension ladder came apart in two pieces, approximately 12' long each. We cut one 12' length in half, making two 6' pieces. These were used to make the base of the arbor. We then had another 12' of ladder to make the top.

We ended up using the entire length of the second piece to span the opening of our patio to the yard. You may not wish to use the entire length and can trim to the size you desire.

To secure the top of the wooden arbor to the sides, we used adjustable ring clamps that you can find at any local hardware store. We lucked out with securing the base, because it was just wide enough to fit over the width of the stone wall. In fact, it was so tight a fit we had to use a rubber mallet to hammer it in place, but no lag bolts were needed to attach to the stone wall.

What Is Upcycling?

"Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value," according to Wikipedia. The purpose of upcycling is to use existing materials that are not needed anymore, or that are by-products of other materials, to make new products.

For example, sawdust is the by-product of many lumber yards and mills that produce certain cuts of wood that we use every day. Before upcycling, sawdust was thrown away, as it was seen as a waste product of milling. Now, sawdust is used to create pressed wood in plywood and many other products.

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Difference Between Recycling and Upcycling

Many people confuse recycling and upcycling. Although both strive to use materials and/or waste to make new products, recycling is the reprocessing of the same material and is typically used to make more of the same material (not always). Whereas upcycling uses the waste material as is and makes something different.

For example, when recycling aluminum cans, the cans are melted down and reused to make more aluminum cans. Yes, they can be melted down to make something else besides cans, but that would still be an example of recycling the material. Upcycling is using existing material and making something else out of it. You don't have to go through the process of recycling the material to reuse it again. It is ready to be reused already.

Picture of upcycled old tires as planters.

Picture of upcycled old tires as planters.

Other Upcycling Ideas

  • Old ladders make great bookcases and photo shelves.
  • Bedsprings from old cribs make great trellises for cucumbers, beans, strawberries, and other plantings.
  • Five-gallon buckets make great self-watering containers for planting.
  • Old tires make great planters.
  • Old pots and dishes make great planters as well.


Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 18, 2015:

What clever ideas to upcycle stuff at your own home. Very neat! Voted up!

Cami on December 29, 2014:

Yes, good point, chicken maunre must absolutely be composted first! Rabbit, llama, and goat are all cold maunres which can be put directly in the garden though (and there may very well be others, my guess would be that sheep maunre is as well, but I haven't checked into it since I don't raise sheep). I usually do compost all my maunres anyway though, but if I add them to the garden before they are fully composted, or if I need a top-dressing, I don't have to worry about it when I use rabbit, goat, or llama. I have PLENTY of all those, so the chicken maunre gets to sit a nice long time before I use it.

Jane on December 28, 2014:

Hi Mark, Worms are great, and I hope to be adding a seitocn on that. I have natural worm beds under my rabbit cages for their manure (which doesn't have to be composted, but it doesn't hurt) and I have bins of worms for composting kitchen stuff. The chickens turn the outside compost pile (I put it in the chicken yard for that reason). But the stuff in the coop is hot it has to compost some time (generally months) before it's safe to put in the garden. I use the deep litter method, so I probably actually have a good 6 inches of compost in the floor of my coop, but I still let it set when I take it out since I'm sure there's plenty of fresh poo in there too. Worms are great, but I still wouldn't put the chicken manure on the garden fresh. What I do often do is clean the coop when the garden is resting so I can move it straight out there, and it's composted by the time I plant a few months later.

Novel Treasure (author) from US on December 28, 2012:

Thanks RF! I have to admit when my husband showed me the final product I fell in love. I find myself staring out my kitchen window at it. I don't know why, it such a simple thing, but it strikes a chord with my heart. I can't wait to grow flowers up it!

Russ Moran - The Write Stuff from Long Island, New York on December 28, 2012:

I love this hub! Come Spring (please soon!) I can't wait to tackle my garage and upcycle some stuff, the original purpose of which is lost on me. Voted up and useful. Good for the environment and good for one's head.

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