Whether you want to create a shaded area in your garden, make a prominent feature in your backyard, or you merely have some spare time, surplus lumber, and a sense of adventure, a pergola is the answer you’ve been searching for.
With the summer months now upon us, good weather and extra hours of daylight mean the time is now ripe to tackle an outdoor project. So without any further distractions, we explain just how to build a backyard pergola of your very own.
Watch 30 min easy video tutorial below before start reading.
Plan Your Area
Pergolas were traditionally situated midway along paths between buildings in the gardens of larger estates to provide relief from the summer sun. A more recent trend has them built over patios to create BBQ areas or places to relax outside during the midday heat.
Whatever your reasoning, once you’ve decided that a Pergola is going up in your backyard, you will need to assess the available area and plan exactly where it will go and what size it needs to be.
Another smart move is to check with the local authorities for any building restrictions which could affect you as there’s nothing worse than stepping back to admire your handiwork only to see a government official demanding its removal.
Plan Your Design
Once you’ve established what it will look like, you need to explore your build options and find a suitable design. There are many DIY kits available which can cut down the total build time and increase the ease of construction.
Alternatively, you could use a design sourced from either a book or the internet or for those who can tell the difference between their Arbor and their Pergola, creating your own design is an option which may take your fancy.
If you’re taking this route or amending the specifications of an existing design, you will need to ensure you create a solid structure which will be safe during high winds and storm conditions. For complete safety of mind, this may require consultation with a structural engineer.
Gather Your Materials
While this stage is easiest when using a ready-made kit, you should still consider looking for alternative quotes to source the best price. If you’re buying the materials yourself, however, there are two options open to you beyond the material choices which are available.
Purchasing manufactured components will save you much time and effort or you could buy basic lumber to make further financial savings and shape these yourself to fit your design.
Whatever you buy, remember that it will spend it’s life in the great outdoors and, therefore, needs to be treated to withstand the elements. It’s also worth following the golden rule of “measure twice – cut once” if and when you need to shape or trim any pieces to prevent the design being uneven or shorter than you planned.
After checking the weather forecast, the first task is to plant your corner posts followed by any additional posts in the structure. Begin by clearing the area which your pergola will occupy, flattening the ground if so required.
Next, you will need to carefully mark out the positions where the posts are to be located taking the time to establish a correct and accurate layout.
Building on a solid base like concrete allows the use of post anchors drilled into position. If your building on soil, however, you will need to dig holes about 4 foot deep which will then be filled with concrete around the post to provide adequate support for the structure.
Ensuring that these posts are set square against each other both front-to-back and side-to-side is the biggest challenge of this stage, while a plumb line will also be needed to check your posts are vertically aligned.
Using braces screwed into the posts will maintain their position as the concrete dries, a process you should allow two full days to ensure they’re fully set.
A Framework for Success
If you managed to complete the last step with precision, the rest of this process should easily fall into place rather than falling all over the place.
The support beams which connect the top of the posts are the next to be added and if your posts are still squarely positioned, this will be a much easier task.
If you plan to cut a decorative shape into the ends of these beams, it’s much easier to do this before they’re fixed onto the posts and using a template will achieve a uniform look to the whole construction. Likewise, it’s easier to cut all notches and lap joints before you begin.
When you’re ready to install the supports, clamp the beams securely into place about a foot from the top of the posts, using a spirit level to ensure they’re exactly horizontal.
Then, using a corded power drill machine to drill through beam and post, you can then screw the beams into position.
Cut to size
While many people will cut the top of the posts before attaching the support beams, this heavily relies upon the ground you’re building on to be perfectly level.
Instead, you can now use the support beams which you already know are level because of your superior DIY skills, to measure and mark where the top of the posts will be before cutting them to a uniform height.
A further tip is to then make four further cuts from the center of the post at an angle of around 20 degrees. This will form a square-based pyramid shape at the top of each post for extra decorative marks.
Trim and Brace
For a thoroughly professional finish, you can add trim pieces to the posts but one step which isn’t an added option is the braces. Connecting the post and the support beams, corner braces can be cut at a 45-degree angle using a miter saw, before, yet again, being screwed into position.
This will provide your pergola with increased stability and strength against wind and collisions.
Raising the Roof
The final part of the main construction work is to fit and place the crossbeams onto the structure. Hoisting the crossbeams into position to mark the notches you need to cut may be a more exhausting method but it will achieve a more precise fit than solely relying on your design being perfect to a finite degree.
Install the crossbeams positioned around the posts first and then work inwards to help keep a uniform distance in your layout. Each beam will need to be fixed into position using your trusty corded power drill machine and galvanized screws.
Before calling your work a complete success and basking in the glory, you may need to add a wood sealant or waterproofing agent if the material was not already treated.
Plants and lights too are a popular choice of decoration with wire climbs needed for the plants to grip the structure or alternatively, a wooden lattice can be fixed to a side of the which will also provide some shelter inside the structure if you live in a windy area.
A final popular choice is to use a shade cloth or piece of tarp across the roof to provide extra protection from the sun but all of this depends on personal preference.
And that Ladies and Gentlemen, is how to build a backyard pergola which will look great, survive the ravages of time and weather, and hopefully be the talk of the neighborhood for the right reasons.