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How to Build a Pergola

Updated: Mar 17

Recently pergolas have become a backyard fixture for your decks and patios worldwide. These usually wooden structures don't only add character to your deck or patio but also provide shades and enhance the appeal of your home. The best thing about these is that these pergolas can be built really easily and can be DIY’ed even for novices making them one of the easiest elements that can add a massive amount of appeal to your outdoor spaces but also make them look even more exciting. Check us out for more outdoor living ideas.

How to Build a Pergola

What is a pergola?

Simply speaking any tall outdoor structure with several beams to support a decorative roof. The roof can be covered with fabric, screenings paint, or tarp but also plant life. These serve an aesthetic function mostly but you can also make them in a way that provides functional shade.


You can leave your ceiling as is with wooden slits being the only covering you provide, however this will not shade you from sunlight as a covering would therefore take into consideration the climate when you are deciding on what kind of pergola you want.


A pergola can generate an entirely different environment when helping to shape an outdoor space but also it gives the feel of indoors meeting the outdoors. There are countless designs you can have in a pergola. You can define a passageway, add a focal point, cover a walkaway, or provide shade. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.


What will you require?

  • Determination

  • Passion

  • Imagination

  • A caulk gun

  • A gravel

  • Hammer

  • Square and Straight edge screwdrivers

  • Putty Knife

  • Safety glasses

  • Shovel and Auger

  • Stepladder

  • Jigsaw

  • Level

  • Tape measure

  • A cordless Drill machine

  • Hole saw kit

  • Circular Saw

  • 3” Lag Bolts

  • 1 ½” galvanized nails

  • 3” Galvanized Screws

  • 4”x4” Posts

  • 2” x 10” Boards

  • 2” x 6” Boards

  • 2” x 4” Boards

Building a pergola isn't something that requires a vast amount of experience, it's something that an amateur can very easily handle. That is the beauty of a pergola and what's more beautiful than you making your own garden with your work which adds a separate level of attachment to your garden


The amount of lumber required is directly proportional to the amount of area you want to cover with a pergola. For longer pergolas, you would need more posts to support the structure. For a pergola that is both long and wide, you would need more posts and planks too and you might need to provide support for the pergola in the middle too if there you plan on hanging some ornaments from it.


The Pergola Construction in 3 easy Steps


The first thing that you need to do in general when beginning any project is to plan. It is a little different to build a pergola that is attached to your house or on your deck than building a pergola that just sits in the ground in your backyard. Although the alterations required to fit in your pergola is very easy to accomplish and would only be minor


For the purpose of this specific tutorial, we would consider that you are going to DIY the construction of a pergola that is unattached and can be easily built around the concrete patio or as a freestanding structure in your backyard.


Step 1 - Installing the Posts


The easiest way to build a pergola is to start with the post holes. First, you need to use an auger to dig two post holes for each row. Each hole has to be 8’ Apart. Consult your building code when digging the holes as the depth of the holes needs to match it.


Add 2” of gravel to the bottom of each hole to provide drainage. Then place your posts and make sure it is level before putting on the 2x4 braces to keep them in position before you add cement and leave it to dry.


For those interested in how to build a pergola on a concrete patio, it's impossible to skip this step and just use post anchors that can very easily be screwed into the concrete.


Read more: Brown Decking Ideas


Step 2 - Attaching the Support beams and Crossbeams


As you have installed the posts, place the top beams. After each board has been properly aligned, screw them into place for a temporary hold, then secure them with lag bolts.


Your 2" x 10" boards can be used to create joist beams for your pergola's top. Your pergola's top should be evenly spaced with a 10-inch overhang on each side. Attach the rafters to the support beams using 4x4 blocks, and clamp the joist beams into place. Predrill the beams, and then connect with lag bolts of 3" diameter.


Step 3 - Decorating your Pergola


To overhang the joist beams, cut stringers out of the 2" x 6" boards. On top of the pergola, cut a lattice structure with a jigsaw. Join the beams at an angle using toenails. Once your lattice is ready you should proceed to screw it in place against the support beams on each side.

It is very possible to skip this step actually by purchasing a pre-built architectural lattice in the market. This mixes DIY with professional designs and can save a great deal of time.


Before building a pergola on your deck you can head on to our free deck design tool to plan ahead for the pergola you want.


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