Pergola DIY Tips

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.

Notches on beams and rafters

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.

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About Lou E Greene/PergolaDIY

Author of How To Build a Pergola in One Weekend. Member of the PergolaDIY team who feels like they have learned every hard lesson there is to learn about DIY pergola building! We share our knowledge so you can complete your projects without any bumps or bruises. Really!

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