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Plan your pergola now (so your garden will shine in spring)

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
A private garden in West Hampstead, London Eclectic style garden by Bowles & Wyer Eclectic
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Here on homify we just love beautiful spaces, but even more so when they go together with creative ideas. Take, for example, the pergola: it is both a functional space that can shield the sun while you take in the garden view and fresh air, and it adds style to your house. It can also be used for climbing- and trailing plants to give your house/garden that extra touch of oomph.

But today we bring you more good news: you don’t need to sell a kidney to afford one of these beauties. Some minimum spending, a few free Saturdays, some elbow grease and a friend or two for assistance, and you’ll be good to go. 

Let’s see how to perk up the perfect pergola in your garden space!

1. Pick the ideal spot

First of all, ensure that you pick a location with enough space – it should be clear of trees and bushes to help the structure fit in easily. 

However, remember that the pergola isn't going to offer 100% protection from the beating sun or occasional downpour—its purpose is to provide a structure that offers some shelter without creating an actual indoor space.

2. Do your measurements

Planning involves data, which requires some measurements in most cases. You don’t want to be stuck with a pergola that is too small or big to fit the space, do you? 

So, with your trusty tape measure, determine the width and length of the area, using this to work out what the size and style of the pergola could be.

3. Choose your type of wood

This step is based more on personal preference than hardcore facts. The most popular type of wood for pergolas in the UK is softwood that has been pressure-treated with a suitable preservative. 

Once you’ve chosen your wood, you may need to treat it to some sandpapering and sealant. This will sustain and maintain the wood throughout all temperatures and weather conditions. Because many people opt to run vines or hang plants along their pergolas, some form of protection for the wood is recommended.

4. Planning your build

After ensuring that you have a good space, you need to check that you have the necessary tools for the job, like a hammer and drill (which will always be requirements, regardless of your home improvement project). 

We recommend that you start building on a day that brings good weather – you don’t want to be drenched in rain while trying to install the posts, do you?

5. Determine the layout

What will that pergola look like? Will it be covered in vines or be kept bare?

What about its layout in the garden: will it sit right in the middle? Will its length run parallel to the house? 

Even though you have already measured where the pergola will be placed, you need to leave extra room open for flexibility and movement. Then you can start planning where the posts will be positioned: this will provide the foundation for your structure.

6. Select the desired materials

The wood that you picked out has already been ordered, but still: if you want to consider additional touches and décor, now is the time. What about some plants and vines swirling around those wooden beams? Or some patterned cloth draping over it? 

Need an architect or gardener? How about a carpenter or kitchen planner? Our list of professionals can help you out…

7. Install the posts

A private garden in West Hampstead, London Eclectic style garden by Bowles & Wyer Eclectic
Bowles & Wyer

A private garden in West Hampstead, London

Bowles & Wyer

The posts need to be sturdy and secure to ensure a strong pergola – but how you install them will depend on the ground surface. 

If you're building the pergola onto a patio or a hard foundation, use steel post-base anchors to really weigh them down, making sure that a strong wind doesn’t blow them over. Place a little marker down where each post should be positioned and start securing them.

If you’re building on regular grass, try to get your posts in as deep as possible by using a spade. Bury one post at a time, grounding them down into the earth. 

Once all of your posts have been erected, double-check that they are secure and stable before continuing.

8. Assembling the rafter and crossbeams

Start by drilling the four rafters to the posts, creating a good frame or skeleton for the crossbeams. This frame should feel strong and supported by the posts. Ask a friend or family member to hold that ladder while you’re drilling away! 

Once your frame is in place, start assembling the crossbeams. The most important part is to make sure that they are evenly spaced, so measure the space between the rafters and divide it up equally among the crossbeams. Mark where each beam should be with a pencil before drilling, positioning the beams one by one. 

Do not rush this or any of the steps. Take regular breaks and remember to hydrate yourself. You don’t want all that hard work to result in a shoddy looking job.

9. Assemble and finish

Now that the basic structure is in place (hopefully), it is up to you what to do next. You can add a timber ceiling, as shown in our example above, or you can opt for draping material throughout the beams and create a modern and ethereal look and feel. 

And don’t forget that plants and vines always look so charming when hanging from those wooden beams. 

Afterwards, have a relaxing sit-down underneath your stylish new structure with a beverage of choice, and enjoy it! 

For some more garden DIY inspiration, take a look at: Simple Garden DIY Projects To Plan Now And Build In Spring.

How would your ideal pergola look? Share with us, below!
Whitton Drive by GK Architects Ltd Modern

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