DIY: How to Build a Pergola

build a pergola

Summer is the best season to spend as much time in your backyard as possible. If you are looking for any ideas on how to create a beautiful space in your backyard for parties with friends and family or just a nice place for remote work during the pandemic, here’s the best decision for you: just build a pergola! It will not only provide you with shade and a cool place from the sun but will also boost the entire beauty of your backyard. We recommend you three ideas on how to build a great pergola using quite simple material and supplies. Use our guides as a basis for your creativity and adjust them in the best way possible to make your backyard the most comfortable to you.

A simple pergola consists of four parts fastened into a square or rectangle: posts, crossbeams, rafters, and lattice.

How to build a pergola

Start building your pergola:

  1. Making a subassembly. First cut four posts, four crossbeams, and rafters. Fasten one crossbeam to two posts, driving a 4-inch decking screw through the beam into each post. It’s important that the top of the beam is equidistant from the top of each post.
    Raise the subassembly and put the posts into the holes. For additional support and stability secure crossbraces alternately to the inside and outside to the posts. The crossbraces are temporary. To hold the subassembly in place you have to drive the stakes into the ground in front of the posts in the same distance from each. Plumb each post and fasten the braces to the stakes. Repeat on the opposite subassembly.
  2. Leveling of the crossbeams. Put a rafter upright on the crossbeams of the two subassemblies. Using a level check the position of the rafter. In case it’s not level, loosen the bracing of the crossbeam to the post and adjust the rafter to the level. Attach the crossbeams back to the post using decking screws and repeat the leveling process on the other post. After finishing that, secure the remaining two crossbeams to the outside to the posts of your subassemblies.
    Cut the posts following the top of the crossbeams. Use a reciprocating saw.
  3. Fasten the rafters upright to the crossbeams. You will need eight screws for each rafter. Drive the screws at an angle through the rafters face into the top center of each crossbeam.
  4. Put the slats on the top of the rafters and attach them with a pair of 3-inch decking screws at both ends of each slat.
  5. The lattice frame. Cut the horizontal pieces for the frame, measuring them to fit between the posts. Next, cut the vertical pieces. Fasten them to make a frame and, using the level and 1⅝-inch decking screws, secure the frame to the posts.
  6. Build the flower box and the bench and attach them to the posts. Finish step – stain the pergola with two coats of semitransparent stain.

Slat Wood Pergola

Another way to make a nice cozy pergola, which could protect you from the sun and serve as a lovely private space, is to use a slat wood. The advantage of the slats is that you can cover the entire pergola with them (leaving the space for entrance, of course), which will create a good shade, but you still will have the sense of being completely outside with plenty of bright light and breezes.
First, you have to build a support for your future pergola from two posts and a top beam in order to mount the pergola beams. Also, you can use your fence as a support, too. In this guide, you will find out how to make a pergola and extension of your house, so that you need to use less materials for support.

simple pergola

Step one: Choose the place where you would like to mount your pergola and prepare your supplies. You will need some metal hangers, deck screws, 2×6 treated lumber, lattice strips, tape measure, power drill, chop saw, nail gun or hammer and nails.

Step two: Fasten the metal hangers to the support of your pergola. Next, mount the rest of the hangers on your house in the level of the support posts. Don’t forget to measure the distance between the hangers. You don’t want to end up with boards that are too long or too short. Use the style of the hanger which fits what you’re mounting them on. If your house is made of brick, use a hammer drill for drilling the screws.

Step three: You can leave the slats with their natural wooden look, but we recommend you to stain all the wooden parts of your pergola for better endurance and protection from any moisture, which could damage your pergola quite soon. Better to do that before mounting the pieces into the pergola. Also, it might look prettier if the color of your pergola matches the color of your house or fence.

Step four: Now you will need the help of a friend or another person because you finally have to secure the beams to the hangers using screws.

Step five: Nail the strips above the beams. You can use dowels to make sure your strips will be evenly spaced. The most convenient way to get nailing the strips done is to use a nail gun – just a hammer and nails will take you much more effort.

Pergola Around a Fire Pit

This option is the best one for those who like to spend weekends partying with friends in a backyard around the fire, enjoying s’mores and having unforgettable moments under the starry sky. Though, this project might require more effort, tools, and money to spare.

  • Choose the area where you would like to establish your pergola and mark the center of it (that is where the fire pit is gonna be).
  • Mark the points for the posts of the main assembly of the pergola. They should be equidistant to the center point. Make eight marks.
  • Following the marks dig holes for the posts using an auger. 3 feet deep will be enough.
  • Place the posts in the holes, level them, and set them using concrete mix.
  • Check if the posts are level (use a rotary laser level) and cut them if necessary (so they all would be level).
  • Install the fire pit with the stone blocks in the center mark.
  • Secure the top beams to the anchor posts.
  • Cover the beams with the top plates and secure them with 4” deck screws, and also place screws through the top plate into the beam about every 10″.
  • Install swings to each pergola section. Live one section for entrance and another one for bar area or outdoor screen.
  • Place the chairs around the fire pit.
  • Stain the pergola.

When you finished your pergola, whatever guide you’ve chosen, you can put some nice furniture there and add some decorations to make it as unique as you want. Enjoy spending an amazing time in your beautiful pergola!

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