Whether a small creek or ditch on your property is between you and your mailbox, or getting across a pond gets you to the shadiest fishing spot, a footbridge makes crossing water much easier. Building a footbridge is not complicated, but as with all things, the application determines the form. The longer the span, the more involved and better supported your footbridge must be. So be sure to measure everything twice before cutting anything once.
Start with how far and how high your footbridge should be. If crossing a space less than 12 feet, cross spans with 12-foot, two-by-four or two-by-six studs will do the job. If your footbridge must be longer, you will have to fashion lengths of wood by fastening and reinforcing wood joints. The walking surface is easily done with cutting two-by-four, two-by-six or larger studs to the bridge’s width and securing them across, side by side. Handrails are decorative, and will make your footbridge safer. Finally, your bridge will need a firm foundation. Gravel on each bank and supports driven into the ground will keep the bridge steady and sturdy.
Build the footbridge
Using small stones (similar to railroad-bed size or river stones), line each side of the creek, ditch or pond bank where the footbridge will cross. This will keep the bridge from sinking into soft earth. Then measure the distance from bank to bank. If the distance is 12 feet or less, use three 12-foot studs spaced 18 inches off center, short side up. The total width should be 36 inches from the left edge of the left span to the right edge of the right span. Set them standing high, not flat. Cut these to length if needed. If you wish, prime and paint these cross-span studs before setting them in place on the stone foundations. Once they are placed, drive sharpened two-by-two stakes through the stone foundation, butting up to the inside of each stud and flush with the top. These stakes may need to be 2 to 4 feet long, depending on their position away from the inclined bank. Attach the stakes to the studs with wood screws. Now you have three long studs across the span. Cut as many 36-inch sections of studs as needed to floor the span. Attach each section with wood screws on the end and middle cross-span. Add vertical banisters 27 inches high and spaced every four feet to add a handrail. Prime and paint all wood pieces before installing, if you desire.
Connecting longer cross-span joists
If your footbridge is to be longer than 12 feet, you’ll need to connect two studs for every cross-span support. Do not extend your bridge farther than 20 feet without using as least two-by-six studs, or preferably two-by-eight. Simply measure the distance, divide by two and cut two studs to each length. Butt these two studs together end to end. Cut two 4-foot lengths of studs and place on both sides of the butt joint. Secure with four lag screws to each side of the butt joint in a four-corner pattern. Complete three cross-spans, and finish the bridge with the same walking surface and handrail design.
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