How to Build a Pergola

by Greg on January 18, 2016


Pergolas are unique architectural features that combine the best of indoor and outdoor living. They are an ideal solution for extending your living space outdoors without the expense of building a larger, freestanding structure.

Their classical columns and elegant wooden lattice add visual appeal to any home. While the open rafters won’t protect you from the rain, the dappled sunlight and shade they create will transform your backyard into a tranquil environment that’s perfect for getting away from it all.

Pergolas can be pre-made and professionally installed, but building your own pergola is the more affordable and satisfying option.

Whether you’ve taken building and construction courses or you’re handy with a hammer, a DIY pergola makes a fulfilling summer project. Here are the basic steps to building a pergola:

1. Preparation

Choose the site

If you already have an existing patio or deck, building your pergola over this area will save you the time of preparing and checking the area.

If you are building outside for the first time, you will need to check with your local council that you have permission to build and that there are no utility pipes in the area you plan to dig.

Mark the boundary

When you have chosen your site, mark the intended boundary of your new pergola with temporary stakes and string. Check your measurements diagonally, dig post holes to the required depth, and paint or stain timber in advance.

2. Building the frame

Pergola Frame

Install the posts

Measure and cut your pergola posts to the length required, securing them in the post holes with braces before filling with concrete later. Make sure the posts are plumb with your outer string line.

Attach the beams

Cut the four support beams that will mark the perimeter of your pergola roof and clamp these in place on top of the posts, checking that they are level and plumb with the posts and fascia.

You may need to cut notches into the beam running alongside the house if it needs to accommodate protruding structures such as gutters.

Set in concrete

Check that the pergola framework is level and plumb with your house, then fill the post holes with concrete and allow it to harden before continuing with the roof. This can take up to two days.

3. Building the roof

Fasten the braces

Cut diagonal braces to connect the posts and beams at 45 degree angles, to provide additional support for the roof. Fasten with screws.

Fit the top slats

When the framework is secure, it’s time to lay the roof slats. These should be placed at regular pre-marked intervals along the beams, at a 90 degree angle to the house.

Cut the slats to length and clamp or nail them into place, making any notches needed at the house end for gutters and other features.


After you have secured all the roof slats, you may wish to cover any visible nails or bolts, to cap the post ends and to paint or stain any exposed timber, protecting your new pergola from the elements.

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