Expert How-to; Build a Beautiful Pergola DIY

How to Build a Pergola

The Plan – DIY

This pergola has been planned for a year, since we built the pool last summer. I’ve been so anxious to get it going ever since! However, I guess I’m glad that we waited a bit because plans have changed a little over time. Originally, we were going to put up a gazebo, but as we looked at the area and lived with it for a bit, we edited those plans into a pergola. And, it definitely fits in with its surroundings much better.

When we originally planned the deck that surrounds our pool, we designed and built the decking specifically for that build out. In doing that, we cemented 4 – 4×4 posts at the corners to assist in the attachment. That’s where we began. This is definitely something that you can DIY if you have any knowledge of basic construction.

Pergola Framing – Step 1

The layout dimensions of the 4x4s is 8 feet by 8 feet. There is an additional 3 feet on the poolside of the posts, as part of the walkway. Our first step was to construct posts to surround those 4x4s. We used 2x8s and 2x4s in this process. I really like the bulky affect that these large posts add. We constructed the posts and then placed them over the 4x4s, attaching them at the base, much like using a metal post connector.

Pergola Framing – Step 2

When all four posts were in place, we ran a rim joist all the way around, connecting the whole structure into one cohesive piece. I’ll stop here, and explain a key design element in the structure at this point. When we built the posts, we shorted the boards on the outside edges to accommodate the rim joists so that they would; A. rest on the posts instead of attaching to the outside and B. maintain smooth, continuous lines. That was my husband’s design addition and it definitely worked out quite well.

Pergola Framing – Step 3

When the posts and rim joists were complete, we added the 12 foot 2×8 lumber to the top of the structure. We cut an angle in each end that is similar to another structure we have here and attached them with metal brackets.

Pergola Framing – Step 5

At the very top of the pergola, we added 2x2s that we cut down out of our 2x8s. My husband crawled up on top and installed them at 6 inch intervals. This, not only helps to solidify the structure, but also adds a considerable amount of shade to the area, not to mention a finished look.

Finishing Elements – Step 5

The last two steps were to add an angled brace on each side of all four corner posts, then to protect the structure with an all in one stain and seal product. We used the same product as we did on our deck and pool surround.

Due to the MAJOR HEAT WAVE we have been under in Southern Oklahoma, it took me 3 days in bits and pieces to complete the stain and seal. And at the very end of it, my precious 13 year old, Logan, decided to take momma’s place and crawl up on the top of the pergola to finish the staining process…bless his sweet little heart!

The finish is where you can really add some DIY flourish! The details that you add will really make a huge difference in the final outcome. So, don’t be afraid to jump in and add your own personal touches!

There will certainly be some decorative additions such as lights and corner drapes (once I get my hands on some good outdoor fabric)! I’m really looking forward to that!

You Can Do This!

The pergola was, honestly, not a terribly difficult build…maybe not beginner level, but intermediate anyway. If it’s something that you think you could use at your place, don’t let it scare you! One step at a time will get you there. So, grab a drill and a saw and get building!

If you would like to see some additional ideas for pergola designs, here is a great place to start! And be sure to check out some of our other DIY Construction Projects!

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