The majority of pergolas are built with pressure treated wood. The type of wood varies from pine to cedar to redwood, but the lumberyard is still most people’s favorite source of materials.
You still may want to paint or stain the pergola either for added moisture protection or just to match the design of your house.
Now you certainly can build a pergola and then paint it afterwards such as in the photo above. Clearly you will already have plenty of experience standing on a ladder by that time! However, we have found it to be pretty slow going and not a little bit hard on the arms to paint a pergola once it has been built and set in place. You will also have spots where the paint wont quite line up no matter how perfectly detailed you might be with a paint brush.
We’ve found it to be not just easier, but also resulting in a higher quality paint/stain job if you paint the pieces before you build the pergola. You will find that your coverage is much smoother and more complete and your arms wont be quite as tired!
Just keep some extra paint on hand to use as a touch up once the pergola has been built. You can cover up any scratches and also cover up the bolts and nails used to secure everything together.
We hope you find this tip useful – as always please join us to receive more tips as well as a complete guide to building a pergola in one weekend.
On the topic of planning where to build a pergola, this question very frequently comes up:
“We have a newly landscaped yard with a beautiful stone paver patio/sitting area. We would really love to build a pergola over the site but our neighbor said that you can’t secure posts to stone – is that true?”
Unfortunately yes, that is true – BUT – there is a very easy work around. Carefully mark out on the patio site exactly where you would place the posts for your desired pergola design. Measure out all angles and distances to make sure your lines are true and level. We suggest marking out the diagonals to the center for a four post square or rectangle design to make sure they are equal.
Once you have the exact placement set, you would need to remove the stone pavers at those spots. Dig holes in the ground to the depth necessary to go below the frost line in your area (if that applies). Typically that is at least 2 feet, but could be more to account for potential frost heave. Pour cement footings and then set in place Simpson Strong Tie bracket mounts. When dry, secure posts into the bracket mounts and return the pavers to surround the posts.
The concrete footings will provide the stability that the stone pavers could not and will ensure that the pergola would meet any city building codes and, more importantly, that it will stand solidly in place for years.
Sign up here for an outstanding Pergola Building Preparation E-Course that will make sure that you learn and follow all the best steps to building the perfect pergola for your yard that will stand the test of time.
A handyman recently asked me if his customer needed a pergola permit for their project or not. Since this is a fairly common question whenever anyone is looking to add a structure to their yard, I thought it would be a good idea to outline some basic permitting rules.
Start with your city building license and permit office
Every city has different regulations and laws so I cannot just tell you straight out whether you will need a permit or not. We always start with this site to find the local website or office the covers this topic. There is about a 50/50 chance you will need a permit according to our experience. If you are attaching your pergola to the side of the house, the chances are a bit higher that you will need to comply with some structural rules. Now, since a pergola is not a true room addition without walls and without a complete roof, even when a permit is needed, the guidelines are less strict in order to get clearance.
In other words, even if you need to get one, you should not let this deter you as it is a very simple process. We’ve found that simply submitting the pergola plan with dimensions and a material list along with a photo of the intended site for the pergola, that permits are very quickly issued if needed.
Check your HOA
A more critical potential source of building restrictions would be a homeowner’s association. If you live in an area that is covered by one, then absolutely do NOT skip clearing your plans with them.
Even though we’ve covered this topic before, I feel it is something that needs to be discussed every so often to keep it fresh for new visitors because it is such an important place to begin when you are considering a do it yourself pergola building project.
This is a frequently asked question on the pergoladiy surveys. Many people watch the home improvement shows which inspire them to embark on all sorts of projects and inevitably they find out that things are not always as easy as they look on TV!
However, creating your own pergola plans and then following them to build your own pergola is not one of those. Yes, it really is that easy! It is especially easy if you start off with a set of existing plans or pergola kit assembly instructions and adapt them for your own yard.
This layout for the framework and base of an attached pergola is the perfect foundation to start out if you want to an attached design. It does not matter what material you will be using, or whether you will be putting your posts in the ground, on a deck or in concrete. This basic layout works for anything. The point is to get the idea of the angles and placement in your yard. Projection means the amount of overhang that the roof edges will have. Typically, a rafter piece will project 6 inches out from the posts on both sides. That is not a hard and fast rule, just a general guideline. Just make sure you do account for that overhang when measuring out the dimensions you want. You don’t want the roof pieces to be blocking any views or hitting any trees or other structures.
With a detached pergola, the layout is much simpler. It is all about here you want it in your yard, what shape and how big or small. If you already have an existing hardscaped patio area that makes your decision even easier. Just lay out the markings for post placement according to where you want it on the patio. Always check your diagonals to make sure the dimensions you set will provide straight and true edges and angles.
From there it is just a matter of the style you want and the amount of shade you need. Single or double beamed? Two layers of rafters or rafters and slats? How close together? Curved or straight? No matter what you decide on those, as long as you have your foundation drawn out, you will be set to get started.
Sign up now for the best emails series of tips and tricks anywhere and you will really see how easy it is to build a pergola with your own set of pergola plans.
If you are a regular visitor – first of all, thank you! – but you might have picked up on the notion that we wanted you to take a survey.
Have you clicked over on the little red roofed house? Yes? Well then, thank you again!
If not, please do. It wont hurt Your email you provide to claim your free plan will remain secure and the answers you provide help us to see what our visitors need the most.
In fact, you might notice that the picture of the book on the top right of the sidebar has now changed.
That is because the How To Build a Pergola book has been upgraded to focus a little more sharply on just those topics submitted in the survey. Over 500 people have weighed in and they encouraged us to expand a couple of chapters and even add a whole new one.
There are some common concerns or obstacles that people seem to share about embarking on a DIY pergola project.
These are all easily solvable problems that are really not that scary at all. We know plenty of people who have succeeded in building a pergola without any issues.
We also know some people who have made one or two (or ten!) typical mistakes. We’ve put those lessons into the book so that you can learn from the blunders of others.
You know the old woodworking saying right?
Measure Twice Cut Once
Yeah, this is true. We have variations on that.
Make sure posts are level and true twice, secure them once.
Scout your site twice, build once.
I know these seem like they should be common sense and not worth noting BUT…..we’ve witnessed the consequences of forgetting those common sense details and it is not pretty (or cheap!)
Two pergola plans are included.
Plus, we dig deeper into how you can use ANY pergola plan as a blueprint to draw up your own plans that fit your yard.
Pick up a copy of the updated Guide here.
A very common question asked when people take the survey over at Pergoladiy is: “How do I attached a pergola to my house?”
Attached pergolas use a ledger board secured to the wall of the house in lieu of posts. These typically end up being 2 post pergolas, but that does not have to always be the case. If you have a larger patio you want to cover, then they can easily be expanded to 3 or 4 columns or even more. The only limitation is the roof load and not using beams so long that they would begin to sag over time.
No matter how big or small though, the standard method for attaching the rafters to the ledger board is with joist hangers. If you are like me, the first time you hear someone mention a joist hanger you are thinking “A what now?”
Since this is such a commonly asked question, I imagine I am not the only one. So, here you go, these are joist hangers:
Joist hangers allow you to set the straight cut edges of the rafters into the base – to hang them you could say – as you then screw them into place. This is something to keep in mind about an attached pergola. In addition to reducing the number of posts needed, the roof pieces that will be attached to the ledger board only need to have one fancy end cut.
Attached pergolas tend to be the most in demand right now and they are also the easier and cheaper alternative to a free standing design. Most houses built recently have a concrete patio poured just off of a sliding glass door to the back yard, it is quite common to want to attach a pergola over the concrete to create a shaded seating area.
Since it is so easy to attach two posts to a concrete slab and then you save material money by reducing the number of pieces needed and not needing as many edge cuts, anyone looking to build a very lovely pergola for less than a thousand dollars can easily accomplish this with an attached design.
So what question can we answer for you? In future posts we will try to address the most frequently asked questions from our surveys. Please join the more than 500 people who have signed up for our emails and taken our survey. Hopefully we will answer your most critical question next!
You want to build your own pergola, but I know that you, like me, are feeling a little apprehensive about getting started.
How can I do this and make sure my pergola doesn’t blow over at the first heavy wind, right? We understand and you should go ahead and relax. It’s easy and the hardware is inexpensive (heck, it’s downright cheap!)
Securing a post to concrete is the most common method of installing a pergola. It is also the easiest by far. A bracket, a concrete anchor (also known as a Tapcon) bolt and then some lag bolts to attached the post to the bracket. The wood trim nailed on after is probably the most crucial step.
Don’t skip it! Why? Because it is a very inexpensive few pieces of wood that make your pergola look so much more complete. No ugly exposed brackets weathering away in the elements. The treated and stained wood will last long and look beautiful.
The bracket mounts also provide the recommended 1″ clearance between the concrete and the bottom of the wood post. Even with pressure treated and stained timbers of any type you really don’t want them standing in accumulated water. And unless you live in the high desert of the southwest, you know you will have times during the year when water will accumulate either via heavy rains or melting snow.
No matter what type of base you will use for your pergola, the newly released version 2 of a Guide to Build a Pergola in One Weekend will describe and show you via illustrations and pictures like those above just how to tackle the foundation of your pergola project.
The Guide also includes two sets of free pergola plans and it teaches you how to draw your own. Don’t miss out on this great deal!
The first tip we will share with you about building a pergola is this: notches.
Yes, notches. It is worth every minute that you take to gather all your roof pieces and lay them out according to your design and mark off the places where they will intersect in the pattern. This will make your life so much easier when you get to the point of securing them together. It is also a great way to ensure stability is maintained for many years. Nothing will slip out of place if they are notched together. It’s like the old Lincoln Logs you used to play with, only this time after you snap the wood pieces together you get to use a power screwdriver and bolt them together forever!
Here’s what we suggest – use your jigsaw to make cut outs. Do this before you finish staining your wood. If you wood is pre-stained, then be sure and sand the newly exposed area and coat it. You don’t want those notches to be the place where moisture gets in and starts rotting away your beautiful pergola.
When you are ready to start installing roof pieces you can set them in place with the notches first and then go along and start bolting them together. Notches are standard in any pergola kit no matter what material type. Kit manufacturers create their easy assembly process by taking care of those details for you because they know how much time it saves for installation. They can’t promise you it will only take two people one day or a few hours to put the pergola together unless they take care of these short cuts for you.
The point is – follow those same steps when you do it yourself. There is a good reason for them and you will only make the process harder on yourself if you skip it.
How do we know? Well, have you ever watched someone try to build a pergola without using notches? It can be quite amusing watching all the trial and error. Even worse is seeing what happens after a few years of wind storms have stressed the un-notched connections. Rafters start to separate from beams and it’s just generally a headache. You end up replacing bolts more frequently than you have to apply new stain!
Don’t take that risk – use notches.
Let’s say you have gone through all the steps for preparing your site for your pergola as covered here. Your yard may not big as the one picture above, but in the majority of examples people are looking for techniques and instructions on how to secure a pergola to a concrete slab since most patios are laid out with concrete, particularly the ones attached directly off the back of a house. So let’s cover those basic steps.
It really does take two people so please don’t try to do this on your own. Everything needs to be straight and level and true to ensure that your pergola is as sturdy safe and durable as possible. Start out by measuring to find the center of the concrete pad. You want to make sure you center the pergola on it properly.
Then measure from the center out 1/2 of the width projection of the pergola. Repeat on the other side and then use the same method for the length projection dimensions. Mark all the spots. Using a chalk line, connect the marked spots and draw out a perimeter. If building a square pergola, remember to check the diagonal measurements. They should be the same from corner to corner. Adjust the corner marks as needed.
And there you have your post locations! Bolt in your concrete base brackets and you are ready to put up your posts and get to the heavy lifting.For more information on the next steps to take to build your own pergola, please click here and check out our step by step guide. We’ve gathered everything we’ve learned from thousands of hours of personal experience, consultations with contractors and research in online builder forums. We’ve made all the mistakes, and even made up a few new ones! Hopefully, you wont have to do that. With the right information at your fingertips you might even have some fine with your do it yourself pergola adventure.
The best resource for information on how to build a pergola can be found after you spend just a few minutes of your time answer six survey questions. Once you complete the survey and opt in to the email series provided, you will be given a password that will provide you one time access only to two very valuable links.
- A free pergola plan
- A discounted version of the guide How To Build A Pergola In One Weekend
In addition to those, the email series you receive will also be very informative.