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.
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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.
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.
A 1 minute video showing all the tools you will need. You probably already have these and if not, how much fun is it to shop for power tools, right?
A quick overview of the possible designs and uses for your pergola. What exactly do you want out of your pergola?
Now you know you want to build a pergola and you’ve made the all
important decision on basic placement and purpose, but before you go any
further you cannot skip these 5 steps. Seriously. Skipping these will
increase expenses and create significant time delays!
What things should you consider when choosing the perfect spot in your yard for your pergola?
As you think about the pergola design you would like to build in your yard, keep in mind how the roof will look from all sight lines. Consider too, just how much shade you want it to provide and what is the best placement for you to take advantage of that shade from all possible sunshine angles. It can be quite easy to overlook the many details of your pergola roof but you really don’t want to fall into that trap!
In the photo above this redwood pergola rafters and slats are the same two inch width. This provides a uniform square pattern on the ground that is very appealing to the eye in combination with the concrete pavers. The slats are also placed quite close together to increase the shaded areas. While increasing the slat and or rafter count will increase the overall costs of the pergola, if the ultimate goal is to cool off a particularly hot and sunny spot, then it will be worth the small increase.
You should also put up some construction stakes and line to give yourself a preview of what your pergola will look like before you get started. If you have a two story house you want to get an idea of what a view like the one above would look like. Will the pergola roof block or distract from any existing views that you want to keep? What about your nearest neighbors? If there are no local home owner’s or permitting rules instructing you on height or view blocking limitations, you should still be a courteous neighbor and try not to build anything that will be an eyesore.
Finally, you should go an sit out where you want to build your pergola if the area is to be designed for seating. Look around you and see what your views will be like. Look up and see who is potentially looking down on you! What will the wind be like in that spot? Will you perhaps want to put up a partial lattice wall on any particular side for either privacy or wind protection? If you take the time to think about all these little details you will be even more happy with the pergola design you choose.
Better to layout and preview your pergola plan twice, and on build it once than the other way around!
As always, for the best darn email tips and instructions on how to build a pergola, visit PergolaDIY.
Pergola designs are endless. As soon as you start looking for one, you can easily be overwhelmed with the many options! Look at this one – could you have imagined those possibilities? Curved roof line, one wall with a set of screens you can open and close for privacy, post base accents, full lattice roof cover for extra shade and lights strung through them.
These options all together are probably quite expensive though probably not all that much more difficult to install on your own. The expense would just be in the extra material for the bases, wall & lattice pieces. Curving a roof is actually quite common with outdoor wood structures. Think of an arbor which nearly always has a curved roof. It might be a little more expensive and a little more complex planning out measurements for the proper angles, but the only pieces that are curved are the beams and rafters. Just choosing a curved roof design on your pergola would be enough to make it elegant and upscale.
The lattice slats can be purchased in sections and just attached to the rafters as you would simple, straight slat pieces. The purpose of it’s use here is to create more shade and the look of a more complete roof. The advantage is that they are very lightweight pieces and don’t add too much to the load that the posts and beam need to bear. A very creative solution.
The screen walls on a pergola are quite unusual. Since the houses here are close together, the homeowner’s were looking for a way to have greater privacy when they sit outside. The use of the screens that can open or close allows them to let in light if they want to, but to close it when they don’t. This addition is probably the most expensive one since they are solid screens with hinges that need to be properly installed. However, it is certainly something to consider if you privacy is an issue. If you only add this feature and eliminate the others it might not put you too much over budget.
The post bases are beautiful and since they are only used on two of the posts, probably not too high priced. It’s actually quite easy to attach base or top trim to posts even after a pergola is installed. These are simple trim pieces that can be nailed or screwed into place quite quickly.
If you are considering building your own pergola, here are 5 tips to follow before you get started.
It is entirely possible to draw up your pergola plans and then build a pergola in just a couple of days. There are a few things to consider at first, of course. For instance – where are you going to put your pergola? Will it be attached or detached? How will you secure the posts? There are many possibilities of course, but once you narrow those down you will have taken a huge step towards getting started.
Make sure you have a clear, level spot chosen, especially if you are digging your posts into the ground. If you are securing them onto a cement patio or on a deck, then your foundation is most likely level and ready. Use construction stakes and string to lay out post placement and measure the distances. Come up with your roof design. How far out do you want the rafters and to come out from the posts? Do you want a single or double beam design? A single layer of rafters, or will you ad slats on top for even more shade cover? Remember that the more weight at the top that you add, the stronger your posts need to be. The standard is to use 6×6 posts since they will support most designs. Columns are another option that delivers a completely different look to the pergola.
There are so many options, but if you look at it one feature at a time you really can narrow down exactly the design you want. There is an excellent, free email series you can receive just by taking a survey and signing up at this site. As an added benefit, people who sign up for the email series receive a substantial discount on the guide they also provide. It is a fantastic resource and if you do purchase their Guide to Building a Pergola in One Weekend you will have everything at your fingertips to help you answer all the questions asked above. You will know how to create your design, which materials would be best for you and also know the exact steps you will need to take – and tools to use – to build your own pergola. It is a fast, easy and inexpensive project and you will enjoy the results for many years.