DIY: build a garden pergola in 5 steps

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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Believe it or not, it can actually be easy to build your own pergola… you just need a little bit of woodworking enthusiasm and a weekend set aside to get into it. 

The change of the season is almost upon us, which means it’s only a matter of time before more and more people will start venturing out to take advantage of the warmer weather. But of course you don’t need to venture very far from your home if you have a great big garden at your disposal: simply open that back door and enhance your relaxation levels via your backyard paradise – and one of the most popular ways to relax (and entertain) in style at home is with a pergola. 

A striking addition to any home, a garden pergola can also be used for al fresco dining and socialising, while also providing some much-needed shade for the sun.

If this sounds right up your alley, then take a look at some step-by-step instructions to help you build your very own garden pergola.

Step 1: Plot out the project

Before you lay down as much as a plank, you need to plot everything out on paper first. If you’re building that pergola on the ground, you’ll need to mark and dig holes for the corner posts at least 90 cm deep (even more if you live in a deep frost area). 

For extra support, you may want to frame and pour concrete footings for the posts to sit on. Make sure the posts are level and placed at correct intervals before filling the holes with quick-setting concrete.

Step 2: Choose your materials and tools

The most important tools you’ll need for this project includes a hammer drill, some quick-drying epoxy and anchoring bolts. Several types of materials can be used to build your pergola, although we’ve gone with a wooden structure. 

In terms of wood, we have quite a few choices: pressure-treated pine will hold up against the elements, but can be heavy and difficult to use. On the other hand, cedar and redwood are natural woods that resist decay, are easy to work with and age to a pleasing grey colour. Or you can opt for mahogany, which is a tight-grained hardwood that resists pests and rot. When treated with marine oil, it has the appearance of teak.

Step 3: Install the corner posts and support beams

Secure metal braces to the stone or concrete surface for your corner posts. The next task is to cut out your support beams – the number and length will depend on the size and style of your pergola. By using a jigsaw, decorative features can be cut into the ends. 

When attached to the corner posts, the beams should be even and level—use galvanised carriage bolts to secure the support beams to the corner posts. Countersink them on both ends so they will be flush with wood. 

Architects, gardeners, and many more – we have them all here on homify. See our professionals page for more info.

Step 4: Place more beams and braces

The roof of your pergola will depend on the type of style (and amount of shade) you’re opting for. You can either opt for a very decorative look as shown in our example, or you can go with a simpler style by fitting a row of cross beams perpendicular to the support beams. 

To this, you can add a row of slats notched and running the opposite direction to create a criss-cross effect. For extra support, diagonal braces can be attached between the beams and corner posts.

Step 5: Adding accessories

Regardless of whether you choose to include DIY tables and chairs in your pergola project, your wood needs to be painted, stained and sealed with a waterproofing sealant. Since over-spraying can leave a residue on the adjoining surfaces (especially if the pergola is located right next to your house), it’s better to apply the stain with a roller or brush. 

To keep your wood deck from turning grey, you’ll need to purchase a sealer or stain with an ultraviolet (UV) protecting chemical. 

Then the fun part starts: adding some plants and patio furniture. Think colourful scatter cushions, perhaps some fairy lights and even a rug to really let your new pergola become a warm and stylish spot for outdoor relaxation. 

Modern or rustic – or something else? Let’s see: What styles of garden pergolas are there?

Planning to build your own pergola? Tell us about it...
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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