How to Build Your Own Backyard Pergola

September 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Step 1: Materials and Tools – In order to complete the project you will need the following materials: pressure-treated or cedar 4x4s, 2x4s, 2x6s and 2x10s of number 2 pine. You will also need pea gravel, concrete, galvanized 16-penny nails, galvanized deck screws and lag bolts. You will also need the following tools: a circular saw, a power drill, a jigsaw or reciprocating saw, a 10 foot stepladder, a framing level, a plumb line, a post hole digger, a ratchet and sockets to fit the lag bolts, a Flathead screwdriver, a shovel and a wheelbarrow or garden tractor with a cart.

For a project this size, it is crucial that you have a framing hammer. This is the type that has a cross-hatched head and straight nail pullers rather than the curved ones you see on ordinary hammers. You want a hammer that feels heavy to you. The trick to using a framing hammer properly is to allow the hammer’s own weight to do most of the work for you.

backyard pergola How to Build Your Own Backyard Pergola

Step 2: Preparation – At this point, you’re probably eager to get to work. Take some time, however, to prepare before you begin the actual work. You want a reasonably level site that has firmly packed earth. If your site is not level, you are better off removing some dirt than adding it. If you have no choice but to add dirt, make sure you set your posts deep enough so that they are in the solid, undisturbed dirt beneath the fill.

Step 3: Set Post – Measure your site and lay out the job by marking where your four posts will go. Dig your post holes at least 24 inches below where the soil has previously been disturbed. Your holes should be no larger across than nine inches in order to get proper support from the undisturbed soil surrounding your posts. Pour pea gravel into the holes to a depth of three inches, then add 4 inches of concrete. Level the concrete and allow it to set up overnight. The next day, set the 4×4 posts into the holes. Make sure the posts are plumb and level, then temporarily brace the posts with 2x4s set at a 45 degree angle. Fill in the hole surrounding the posts with concrete.

Step 4: Set Joists and Run Stringers – Cut 2×10 joists to span the distance between the posts. Drill holes for the lag bolts through the joists and posts, then install the lag bolts. Use 2x6s for stringers. Cut the stringers to overhang the joists, then set the stringers at right angles to the joists at even 18 inch intervals and toenail into place with deck screws.

Step 5: Finish – After your concrete has cured for 24 hours, remove the 2×4 bracing from the posts. Sand exposed joist and stringer ends and examine your posts for loose splinters or rough spots, smoothing or repairing as needed. Finish your project with a waterproofing stain or sealant. Use a large magnet to check the area beneath and surrounding your new pergola for dropped screws and prepare to sit back and enjoy the shade.

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