How to Build a Pergola
We’re getting the to the fun part now!
Plan out your posts, considering your local codes. Then dig the holes. It took me a full 8 hour day to get these posts in place because they needed to go down so deep. Throw in 50 billion large rocks, and this was a good ol’ time!
The posts here are just set into the holes so we can get a visual and get excited after digging all day.
The posts, very much like the fence posts in Curb Appeal Facelift Part 2, have been nail-tacked into place with some wood sticks and cemented in. After another full day of leveling, pea graveling, and cementing, these will be ready to build on in 24-36 hours.
It is incredibly important to get your mason line pulled just right on this step. If your current roof line isn’t exactly level, I would suggest that you break halfway between perfectly level and your roof line. Pull your mason string across and calculate how much height will be added with your pergola top and where it will be sitting when you connect the beams to the house. Mark on each post where the line touches.
Place your first beams with the top (or bottom, depending on how you calculated) of the beam just touching the mason string line. I used 3″ screws to hold them in place so I can drill in carriage bolts later on.
With just the front of the bottom beams attached now, I am beginning to add my middle layer of joists. I used cement screws to attach the back beam against the house with brackets to hold the joists. It’s starting to take shape! Only the house-side is attached with a bracket, so the street-side is just resting on the beam.
Moving right along!
Now that the back side is secured in place, I am spacing the front and adding brackets. I used a piece of scrap wood and cut it to the measurements we liked, then used it between each of the joists to make sure they were evenly spaced. I would recommend this method rather than using a tape measure for each spacing.
Now add your back beam to the other side of the pole. Wait to add the back beam because you need to access the brackets to screw them in. Now they’re hidden! Also ensure that they are very snug against the bottom side of the joists before attaching them.
Starting to get excited about this project!
Now is time to figure out what exactly we want for the post casings. This is the mockup that has been properly and wifely approved, so I’m going to move forward with cutting out the moldings for the corners and the 45° edges for the cover boards.
Now I’ve got everything chopped up, so it’s once again time to build!
Each of the posts will be boxed in, molding added, booted, and crested at the top. Drive 3″ screws both into the post beneath it and also to connect each piece of wood together along the edge. Use the sturdiness of the post to get your casings squared up nicely. If you need your board to twist to the left, put a screw in on the left-most side of the board and drill in as far as you need it to go.
By the way, use clamps to connect each of the boards initially so that the corners of the 45° match up just right.
Remember that there are three goals during this step; connect the boards together, to the post, and squaring them to your liking.
Slowly but surely…
I etched out this strip of the board so that I can run a 1/2″ pvc pipe hidden behind it for our water mister. This will be a cool feature.
I patched into my sprinkler system which was conveniently located only a few feet away from the post. Less digging work, yay!
Now I am adding the crown to each post. I’ve just cut out a basic rectangle of wood, 45’ed them on the edges, and glue-and-finish-nailed them into place.
Hiding the 45° joints on the post casings, the moldings have now been added.
I used a round over bit on my router to make these moldings, but you can buy whatever you want if you don’t own a router.
Now the crown molding has been added to the tops of each post, making the top complete. The unstained post boot for the first post is now in place also.
The wife approves of the general look, so it’s time to do them all. All the post boots in place now…
…and stained. If you notice the small sticks of wood on top now, we have just placed them up on top because we are excited to see the end results!
The handrail joists (just the back side; top and bottom) are attached and we are ready for our balusters.
We chose to connect each of these with pocket holes so as many screws as can be will be hidden.
I pre-cut these balusters and pre-drilled all the holes so I can just shoot through this step as efficiently as possible. After a day of baluster chopping and screw fastening, here’s where I will end for the day.
After a day of baluster chopping and screw fasten
The front of the handrail is going in today. It’s just the same process as the back side, except I’m drilling straight through to the balusters. Make sure that each part of the front side is level with its backside counterpart so your top rail won’t have an angle when it goes on top.
After adding all of those, I’m working tonight on staining everything that’s new.
The top of the handrail needs to be very smooth, have as few knots as possible, and rounded on the edges so no one gets slivers sliding their hands across it. Spend extra time with your sander (and router if you have one) so that your rail tops are extra tasty.
And the last huge step to this project will be adding the smaller sticks for the top level of the pergola. Using the same method to space the joists, space your top layer. Make sure everything is very straight by standing at one end of the pergola and using your line of sight to make sure you don’t have any bows happening. Mine’s looking great so far!
We are all done with the building! Now there is just a lot of wood treating to do, which we are using Thompson’s Water Seal Timber Oil for. It is easy to recoat in years to come, and the color choices are really impressive.
Here is the completed view from the roof…
We are so incredibly happy with the HUGE curb appeal boost this has given our home! We chose to leave the top of the pergola open and airy, but you can use a variety of materials to go on top of the pergola if you want weather protection. Plexiglass or the like can be used if you still want the visibility of an open pergola, but you will find yourself needing to spray off the top when leaves/etc accumulate.
Please let us know what you think about our curb appeal facelift, things you’d have done differently and any questions you have for us in the comments section below!