Japanese gardens are more and more popular. They are built to inspire a sense of tranquility and peace, and most of the times their design implies the construction of ponds or water streams. If you are really fortunate, you might have a natural creek running through your outdoor space; if you don’t, then you should build one.
As such, an essential element in a Japanese garden is the presence of a bridge. This architectural element enhances the idea of serenity and it is often used as a transition element between the various parts of the garden.
You should build a Japanese garden bridge even if you don’t have a pond or water stream in the garden. For example, you can build a bridge over a dried creek made out of river rocks, or over a small valley created between the various elements of your décor.
On the market, there are dozens of types of bridges that can enhance the beauty of a Japanese décor. Nevertheless, if you love DIY and the idea of making the bridge with your own hands, follow this guide to learn how to build one.
Types Of Japanese Garden Bridges
Before building a Japanese garden bridge, the first thing to ask yourself is what type of bridge you want. More often than not, landscapers suggest the use of a wooden bridge in a Japanese garden, but there are other solutions too.
In fact, Japanese garden bridges can be made of numerous natural materials including wood and stone. In some cases, concrete bridges can also integrate well in such an environment, especially if they imitate the characteristics of river stones.
Are the simplest to make and they integrate very well in a Japanese garden. They can be made of hardwood, bamboo, wooden boards, and even of railway sleepers. If you decide to build your own garden bridge following the steps we’ll describe below, we recommend you to use pressure-treated lumber. This type of wood is the most resistant you could use and, if treated well, it withstands all weather elements.
Nevertheless, you can use any type of wood you like as long as it has a good outdoor resistance.
Stone bridges are also particularly suitable to build in a Japanese garden. The best idea is to use large blocks of stone to make a suspended deck between the various environments of your garden. The blocks of stone should be rectangular or rounded, flat, and suspended either on stone supports or on supports made of steel.
In some cases, you can even build a suspended deck of both wood and stone. You can use railway sleepers to build the pillars of the bridge and flat river stones to make the actual deck.
Concrete bridges are the most difficult to build if you don’t have bricklayer skills. Nevertheless, if you have the necessary knowledge and instruments, a concrete bridge can represent a quicker and less demanding solution compared to stone bridges.
Concrete has the advantage of allowing you to shape it in any way you like; for this reason, it will be easy to make a faux stone bridge to decorate your Japanese garden with.
How To Select The Shape And Design Of The Bridge
Now that you know which are the most popular materials used to build a Japanese garden bridge, you have to decide upon the shape and design. Before drafting the image of your ideal bridge, consider the existing shapes of all decorative elements that are already present in your garden.
To make the right choice, take a picture of a bridge you would like to have in your garden and print it on a large sheet of paper. Cut off the shape of the bridge and apply it to a picture of the place where you want to mount the bridge. This should help you decide whether the shape is the right one or not.
As a rough guide, rectangular shapes of wooden bridges made of beams and of those made of stone pair perfectly with a Japanese garden rich in lush vegetation. On the other hand, an arched wooden bridge would match with a simpler garden characterized by stylized vegetation and geometric shapes.
Moreover, small bridges made of bamboo are attractive decorations that pair well with Zen gardens or Japanese gardens decorated with minimalist details.
How To Build A Japanese Garden Bridge
There are dozens of Japanese garden bridges that could inspire you. Some of them are easy to build while others can challenge even the most experienced DIY lovers. Since we aim to find solutions everyone can apply, this guide is dedicated to the construction of a simple wooden bridge made of beams and cement.
- 3 arched pressure-treated lumber beams;
- Wooden planks, as many as necessary;
- Measuring tape;
- Screws and bolts;
- Impregnating and insulating coating;
DIY Japanese Garden Bridge
- Decide in which area of the garden you want to place this small structure. As soon as you decided upon the spot where the bridge will be placed, measure the width of the creek or valley.
- From your local carpenter’s shop, purchase three robust pressure-treated wooden beams of a dimension of about five inches longer than the width of the creek or valley. Ideally, the beams should be arched, but you can choose the ones that best suit your outdoor space.
- Place the beams over the ground in the position where you want to install the bridge. Mark the ground at the end of the beams on both sides of the future bridge and remove them.
- Dig two furrows at the two ends of the bridge. To do this, you can use either a shovel or a ground auger. The furrows should have a depth of at least 1,14 feet and a width of at least 0,65 feet.
- Pour concrete into the furrows and let it dry completely.
- At this stage, using the drill and appropriate tips, drill holes both in the beams and in the cement. Using specially designed screws and bolts, fix the lateral ends of the arched beams to the cement foundation. To give stability to the bridge, fix each beam at a distance of a few inches from the other.
- When the beams are firmly fixed in position, proceed to cover them with the wooden planks. Use nails and a hammer to secure them to the structure.
- If you want to make the structure more solid, apply a strip of cement in the various junction points, to secure the bridge to the ground more firmly.
- At this stage, coat the wood with a protective layer of impregnating and insulating coating. This will maintain your bridge beautiful over the time.
- Enjoy your brand new Japanese garden bridge!
Building a Japanese garden bridge is a simple and straightforward process for most DIY lovers. In this guide, we showed you how to make an arched bridge, which is probably the most popular type.
Nevertheless, you can use this guide to build other types of bridges too.For example, if you want to make a wooden deck, use short beams or railway sleepers as pillars and fix your structure on them.
On the other hand, you can also build pillars and use them to make a stone bridge, if such a structure would be more appropriate in your space. The solutions are many and, without a doubt, there is always a way to build the Japanese garden bridge of your dreams!