A pergola can provide a wonderful focal point to any garden. Pergolas can be made from a variety of materials with wood being the most popular. The material used for the supporting columns and the top crossbars can fit almost any style of home. When wood is used, be sure it is treated lumber. Western red cedar and redwood are good choices of wood to use, because of their resistance to pests and weather.
A pergola can be any size, depending on its purpose. Pergolas are made to walk through so be sure and figure out the dimensions to accommodate a pathway. Some pergolas can screen a bad view or frame a good view. Some pergolas can even be used for extra shelter. Pergolas can be attached to your home or stand separately.
A pergola can have vines or climbing roses growing on it, seats to sit in, or just about any other kind of decoration you desire. Before building a pergola that you plan on planting vines or roses to climb onto, be sure and leave plenty of room inside and out for the mature vines to grow.
Also, you want to plan on plenty of room to walk through the pergola without vines hitting you in the face. You may want to choose a thornless plant variety also. Be sure the pergola is tall enough to have plenty of headroom and room for the plant material to grow.
Building a wooden pergola will take about one weekend if you have a little help. After you have made your rough design and have your dimensions correct and your lumber sizes figured out you can then dig the post holes for the supporting columns. The size lumber you choose should be chosen for stability in constructing your pergola.
The posts should be able to handle the weight of the beams you choose to use. For example, four inches by four-inch square posts can handle two by six-inch crossbars easily. If the crossbars are larger than two by six-inch, then you need larger supporting posts, or columns as they are called.
After you dig your post holes, which should be at least eighteen inches deep, insert the supporting columns, and add concrete to the hole. The concrete will help keep moisture from decaying the posts. Brace the columns with temporary wood bracing until the concrete hardens. Be sure the columns are level and plumb.
The top of the pergola can be directly attached to the post, or a slot can be cut out in the post so the top forms a solid joint. This joint adds stability to the entire pergola. They can be notched into the top or bolted to the outside of the posts. When you have the posts in and the concrete has hardened, add the joists on top, to connect the columns together.
Then on top of the joists add your crossbars. Sandwich each post with a double crossbar. Install your joists and crossbars with the help of someone else. The pergola will look like a goal post and crossbar type of construction. Be sure and plumb and level all posts, joists and crossbars.
Use screws that are long enough or bolts that go all the way through the wood. The ends of the crossbars can be left plain or cut into a decorative design before adding them to the top of the pergola. There are many ways you can cut the ends of the crossbars but one easy way is to cut a quarter circle from the underside of the crossbeam.
You do not want a design that makes the ends of the bars hold water when it rains. So think about your design and make a template so each beam end will be the same.
Another type of top for a pergola is a lattice. It comes in four by eight sheets. This provides a lightweight top that can filter light and be easier to install. Plan your pergola frame dimensions accordingly.
Paint your pergola or stain it to match your garden decor or home. If it is made from cedar you can let it weather naturally to a silvery gray. Plant climbing plants if desired and add any decorative elements you choose.