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How to Build a Pergola Step by Step

build a pergola step by step
A pergola in your backyard can help you enjoy your garden from the shade. This enables you to spend time in the outdoors on sunny afternoons without getting sun burnt or having to stay cooped up indoors.

A pergola is a beautiful way of ensuring that you obtain adequate shade in the garden without marring the beauty of your garden. It can be built over a garden path, to provide seating, or provide shade for a dining table. You can have one built for you or you can purchase any number of pergola kits for sale online.

How to Build a Pergola Step by Step

The information provided here will help you build a pergola step by step. Your pergola will be large enough to hold a dining table, but the same plan with narrower dimensions can be used to create a smaller pergola.

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As for materials, you can use 2×8 and 6×6 lumber for building these pergolas. Alternatively, you can use lumber that is slightly thicker or thinner or used peeled poles for constructing your pergola.

  1. Fixing the Posts
    The first step is to dig six post holes in the ground, make three of the holes on each longer side to support the pergola. Each post hole should be 24 to 48 inches deep. Now place the 6 x 6 posts that should be between 12 and 14 feet long in each of the post holes and prop them up temporarily using 2 by 4 braces. Now fill all the post holes and tamp down the soil firmly. This pergola does not require concrete; instead use a long piece of wood to compact the soil around the posts.
  2. Aligning the Posts
    Now align the height of the posts and cut away the excess wood. This is easier than digging holes of the same depths. This can be done by measuring one post at eight feet, cutting it and cutting the other posts to the same height. After that make pyramid cuts at the top of the posts since this makes the pergola look even sharper.
  3. Fasten the Cross Beams
    Now fasten the three 6 by 6 cross beams across to the posts. Next, you need to measure the distances between the outer faces of the posts and cut the three main cross beams to span them. When cutting these cross beams leave an additional 12 and a half inches for overhang and trim the ends in a pyramid shape. Place the crossbeams over the posts and mark the places where the post and crossbeam overlaps.
  4. Make Lap Joints
    Now, you need to shape the lap joints on the crossbeams. For this cut the wood at the place where it overlaps the post to the same dimensions as the post to ensure that the two pieces of lumber fit together tightly ad securely. The interlocking notches that form the lap joints can be made by first making small cuts using a circular saw and then knock out the remaining wood pieces using a chisel and mallet. Now, you need to place the crossbeams in position and bore half inch diameter holes through the crossbeam and post. The two pieces of lumber are secured using galvanized carriage bolts inserted through the holes.
  5. Place the Roof Boards
    The roof boards can now be placed. These are the 2 by 8s which should be placed over the crossbeams. You can make the pergola more attractive by cutting a decorative edge to the boards. The boards should also have holes cut into them to take 10 inch screws.
  6. Optional Lattice Panels
    Once the roof is in place you can install lattice panels as walls of the pergola. These are not necessary in all pergolas, but add a nice touch and provide privacy. You can use a dado blade in your table saw to cut the 1 and half inch by one and half inch groves or a handheld circular saw to make the grooves. The lattice can be held temporarily in place using deck screws. Now, you can pre-drill and fix quarter inch galvanized carriage bolts and remove the deck screws as you do this.
  7. Apply a Finish
    The next step is to apply a finish by staining the wood or painting it. Depending on your preferences you can also allow the wood weather naturally for a unique look.
  8. Final Steps
    To ensure that the pergola provides adequate shade you can either drape it with a shade cloth or plant vines and other plants around it. These vines can be trained onto the pergola to add color and beauty to it and the garden. If you paint or stain the pergola the wood needs to be treated each year, while the weathered option requires less maintenance. By planting flowering vines and small shrubs around the pergola you can add color and shape to the garden as well as an interesting feature that will be both attractive and functional.
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About the Author

Greg Bailey is a partner at Outdoor Living Manufacturing Ltd, a value added forest company specializing in do-it-yourself western red cedar kits. He has been in the forest industry for over 30 years and an owner at OLM for over 10 years.

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