build your own outdoor pergolas

Before you start work on your pergola first check with the city for any special building permits you may need. The city may also have specific codes relating to the size and material that you can build and use. Once you have checked with the city and have all the proper permits etc., begin the design of your structure and make a list of materials needed.

For a very sturdy and lasting pergola, it would be best to use 4×4 inch posts and 2×6 inch boards for the main beams and crossbeams. Be sure to use a level so your structure is vertically and horizontally even in height and width. Layout the position of your pergola and purchase the materials needed.

Materials and tools needed to build a pergola:

  • (8) 10 foot 4×4 posts (be sure all lumber is weather treated)
  • (31) 16 foot 2×6 rafters
  • (2) 20 foot 2×6 boards
  • (4) 12 foot 2×6 boards
  • (3) 8 foot 2×6 boards
  • (4) U-brackets galvanized
  • 2 pounds of galvanized 3-inch deck screws
  • 2 pounds of galvanized 1-inch deck screws
  • A box of galvanized 1/4×3-inch shielded lag screws
  • Hurricane ties
  • Galvanized 3-sided corner brackets
  • (8) Bags of post-hole quick dry cement
  • Post-hole digger
  • Handheld power drill
  • Ladders (step-ladders will be best because the structure will not support extension ladders until it is finished. You will want at least 12 foot step-ladders.)
  • A carpenter’s level, hammer, and screwdriver.
  • A Miter saw power saw, and hand saw.
  • It would also be nice to have a couple of people to help you.

The first thing you will do is layout the location of the pergola and then dig the holes for the posts. Make sure your posts are all at the same depth (18 inches) and brace them temporarily. Check each post for plumb. Once you know they are plumb, pour the quick dry cement into one hole at a time. Wait for each one to set up before going to the next continually checking plumb.

Next, you will begin construction of the overhead framing using the 8-foot, 12-foot, and 20-foot 2×6 boards. You can use either 3-inch screws or corner brackets to fasten the frame to the posts.

Next you will mark the halfway point to position your rafters. Measure and cut each rafter laying it in position starting at the center and working outward left and right. Your rafters can be closer together to provide more shade or further apart to use less lumber and increase amount of light. A good spacing for the rafters is 8 inches. Attach them with hurricane ties and 1-inch galvanized deck screws.

You can add lattice board to the sides if you want to plant vines or creeping plants for decoration or you add hooks and hanging pots. The pergola should not need painting since the lumber was weather treated but you might like to stain it or paint to match your house.

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