At last, we finally got our long awaited clothesline up, and it has been working hard for us ever since. Kristyn loves her time hanging and taking down laundry from the line. She says it’s therapeutic (birds singing, sun shining) and loves folding the clothes right off the clothesline. I love that it will cut the energy bill in half. Dryers are one of the biggest energy wastes in a home, and the last thing we want is a dryer heating up the house during the summer. We have been working hard this summer to ‘fight against’ using the air conditioner (energy saving addicts). The idea of having the dryer add heat (thus working against us) just did not work for us.
We enjoy the pursuit of ‘living off the land’ and finding ways to be self-sufficient. As proud new owners of a clothesline and a half dozen garden beds with many more to come, we decided that we can officially deem this land a homestead. An urban homestead to be exact…I mean we are in the city. The traffic never lets us forget that!
DIY clothesline tutorial
- 2 – 4”x4”x 10’ pressure treated wood posts
- 2 – 4”x4”x 8’ pressure treated wood posts
- Scrap boards for bracing
- 2 – ¼” x 8” galvanized lag bolts
- 8 – ¼” x 6” galvanized lag bolts
- 8 – stainless steel eye hooks
- 2 -clothesline tighteners
- 2 – quick links
- 100’ clothesline
- 2 bags quickcrete
tools you will need:
- Miter saw
- Drill and drill bits
- Socket wrench
- Shovel / post hole digger
- Post level
how to build a clothesline:
Before you get started, double even triple check you have everything you need. There is nothing worse than realizing you are one item short right when you need it.
Start by estimating the height you would like the clothesline at. You want to be able to reach the line, but it also needs to be tall enough so those big sheets and blankets don’t drag the ground. Keep in mind how the depth you will bury the post. That is the other factor to consider in the total length of the post. We determined our clothesline height to be around 6′ tall plus the 3′ that would be buried. Subtract out the actual width of the cross beam (3-1/2″). Our vertical wood posts needed to be about 8′-8 1/2″
Measure this off, mark, and cut the 10′ long 4×4 posts down to size. Next, cut the 8’ long 4×4 posts in half creating a total of four 4’ long pieces. Take two of the 4′ long pieces and cut them in half again to create four total 2′ long pieces. These will be used for the top beam and cross braces.
For the angled cuts adjust the miter saw to a 45 degree angle. For the top brace, mark the area to make to create a 45 degree chamfer cut on each end of the top beam starting 2″ from the top corner. Look at the construction detail above to verify location. Next, mark the 45 degree angles to cut on each of the ends of the four 2′ long pieces for the braces. Double check the angles before you cut. This is an easy place to mess up. I came way too close myself to a very wrong cut. I laid the pieces out on the ground to make sure it was correct.Once the angled cuts are made, it’s time to start drilling. Measure, mark and drill a hole slightly narrower than your lag bolt in the center of the top brace and the center of the top of the post.
Go ahead and bolt the top brace to the post with a lag bolt.
Lay out the braces for the sides. This is generally where the screws will go.
Use this to gauge where to drill pilot holes in the posts for the lag bolts. Measure and mark the centers of the posts where the lag bolts will go. Drill the pilot holes. To stabilize it, I drilled a pilot hole in the top beam first, and then partially screwed in a lag bolt while I drilled the next pilot hole. Clamps would have worked better here, but it did the trick.
After that, just screw in all of the lag bolts to secure everything together.
Now it’s time to layout the eye hooks to be installed on the top beam. Once again, you want to measure, mark and drill some pilot holes. I spaced my eye hooks 12″ apart starting 6″ from the end of the top beam. Make sure you mark the center on each to keep everything in straight.
Drill the pilot holes and screw in the eye hooks. I used the handle of my socket wrench to turn the eye hooks to get them screwed in.
With that, it’s time to switch gears and start in on the worst part of the whole process…digging the holes. You can make the hole deeper or more shallow based on your soil and the depth to frost line in your region. Four feet down is more than enough for even the colder parts of the United States. Since we are in a warmer region with heavy clay soils, three feet was as far as we ended up going. Keep in mind the height that you cut your post depends on this depth as I mentioned before.
We wanted a clothesline that was about 20′ long, so that was how far we spaced our two post holes.
It would have been easier to dig with a post hole digger, most certainly. That’s definitely on the must buy list now. It can be done with a shovel. It’s just a lot tougher and you end up having to dig a larger hole. Be sure to measure the depth to confirm you are on track. This is not the place to take a shortcut (even if you really really want to, and I definitely wanted to).
I eventually hit some clay that I just could not get past. It was unfortunately about 6″ short of my goal for depth, so I had to find a way through. Ultimately, Kristyn poured a bucket of water into the hole and left it to soak in while I started in on the next hole. This ended up working remarkably well and made the final stretch much easier to wrap up. Once the holes are dug and cleaned out, gather up your concrete tools.
Set the clothesline posts into the holes before you start mixing the concrete. Strap the post level onto the clothesline post and install bracing if your post won’t sit level on its own. We had one that sat perfectly level and one that did not want to. If you are questioning it, play it safe and brace it.
Once everything is ready, mix the concrete and amount of water that the concrete calls for in a bucket. Make sure it is mixed well before you pour. I used one bag of concrete mix for each post. If you did deep enough and don’t have sandy soils, you can get by without any concrete. We decided it was better safe than sorry. Pour the concrete in, and day one is in the bag.
In 24 hours, the concrete should be dry enough to install the clothesline rope. Shovel the dirt dug out back into the holes on top of the concrete footers. Pack down the dirt in layers to ensure it is well tamped. Now gather up the supplies to get the clothesline wrapped up.
Use the quick links to attach the clothesline tighteners to the eye hooks on the outsides. Cut the clothesline rope in half. If you want to prevent the rope from fraying on the ends, tape them or melt them with a lighter. Tie one end of the clothesline ropes to the same end as the clothesline tighteners.
Run the rope to the opposite clothesline post. Loop the ropes through the pair of inside eye hooks straight across then through the outside eye hooks. Run the rope back to the original post. The ends should end up back in line with the eye hooks that have the clothesline tighteners attached. Loop the rope through the clothesline tighteners. Pull the tightener mechanism back to allow the rope to go through. Pull the rope tight and release the mechanism. If it is installed correctly, it should holed the tension. If you have too much extra rope trim some off. Just leave yourself enough to be able to tighten the clothesline as they loosen over time.
Once your clothesline it tight, you are all wrapped up. It’s time to watch the savings pour in and remember what it’s like to have the fresh smell of the outdoors on your laundry.