Nov 19 , 2018

How to Build a Pergola

Getting Started on How to Build a Pergola

Here’s a summer project designed to keep you cooler on even the hottest of days. The classical columns support an overhead wooden lattice that works like a big shade tree, letting only a portion of the sun’s radiance shine through.

What looks like the toughest part of this pergola plan’s project is actually the easiest—the graceful, solid-looking columns. They’re not wood at all but a hollow-core composite material with amazing structural strength and durability. We’ve designed the pergola plans so you simply slip these columns over treated 4×4 posts embedded in concrete. When screwed to the wooden posts, these columns provide a stable, solid base for the overhead lattice framework.

These paintable precast columns are available by special order at home centers. They come in a wide variety of diameters and heights and architectural styles.

Pressure-treated dimensional 2x8s and 2x10s make up the majority of the upper framework, and the decorative end pieces are cut with a jigsaw from our pergola plans. The whole project can be built in a couple of weekends, with another weekend for staining and painting.

We built our pergola over an existing stone patio; that saved a lot of patio work. If you’re planning to install a patio as part of your overall project, you’ll need to allow extra time.

Choosing the Right Location and Pergola Plans & Designs

pergola design location

Because this DIY pergola project is made to stand independent of the house, you can either locate it right near your house as we did or let it stand alone in the garden. You can also consider using wood chips or gravel as a floor or even pour a concrete slab underneath. By keeping it unattached (about 4 in. from the eaves), you don’t have to deal with moving existing gutters or matching eaves. You also don’t have to mess with frost footings (in colder climates). However, if you have clay soil, it’s best to dig to frost depth (if greater than 24 in.) for your footings to prevent frost heave.

Our existing patio was built over a sand and compacted gravel base, so we removed only the stones necessary to dig the 12-in. diameter holes to secure the posts. You’ll most likely have a different situation. Build a pergola over an existing patio (instead of building a new one) saves you a lot of time, money and work.

If you’ll be adding a patio later, be sure to pour all the footings at the finished patio height as part of your pergola designs. Keep in mind any slope you’ll include in the patio. Most patios slope about 1/8 in. per foot to drain.

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