How to Build a Pergola for Backyard Shade – Mother Earth News

How to Build a Pergola for Backyard Shade – Mother Earth News

Follow these step-by-step garden pergola designs to build a pergola for shade in your yard, your garden or over your deck.

by Adobestock/Kristina Blokhin

Bountiful sunshine makes our gardens grow, but all living things need a little shade sometimes — especially people. These step-by-step plans will show you how to build a pergola to create your own backyard shade. The finished product will add stylish definition and shape to your yard and garden.

A pergola (also known as an arbor) can be an elegant entranceway over a path, a quiet place to sit, or a frame for vines to climb over a deck or patio. Our pergola plans create a structure that’s large enough to span a picnic table, but you can make the dimensions narrower and shorter so yours can serve as a garden entrance. The 6-by-6 and 2-by-8 lumber used in these plans looks great and is more than strong enough for the job. You can use thicker or thinner planks, or even peeled poles you’ve foraged. (For instructions on how to build a pergola using logs and poles, see “How to Build a Pergola Using Peeled Poles” below.)

Image by Elayne Sears

Our pergola plans show you how to build the shady spot of your dreams — a place to picnic, read or doze after a hard day in the garden.

Check out the following video for advice from author Steve Maxwell on how to get the best results
from his pergola plans, then keep reading below for all the details.

Lumber List for a Large Pergola

Image by Len Churchill

Use 6-by-6 posts and crossbeams to build this lumber pergola with optional lattice sides.

Use this lumber list to build a pergola large enough to span a picnic table, or adjust the dimensions for a size to fit any space.

  • 6 posts: 6-by-6 x 12′ to 14′
  • 3 crossbeams: 6-by-6 x 130″
  • 8 roof boards: 2-by-8 x 14′
  • 8 top/bottom boards for optional lattice: 4-by-4 x 60″
  • 24 long furring strips for optional lattice: 2-by-2 x 76″
  • 28 short furring strips for optional lattice: 2-by-2 x 60″

Step 1: Install the Pergola Posts

Building our pergola begins with the same challenge encountered in many outdoor projects: installing a series of vertical posts at exactly the same height. The cardinal rule is to bury first and cut later. This is the best way to install your pergola posts, because it’s nearly impossible to dig a set of holes to the identical depths required for pre-cut poles.Begin building your pergola by marking six posthole locations using spikes pushed into the ground, then dig oversized postholes that are 24 to 48 inches deep. Hoist your 6-by-6 posts — each of them 12 to 14 feet long — and tip them up and into the holes. Plumb the poles temporarily with 2-by-4 braces and, when all of the posts are in alignment, fill the holes with soil. Compact the soil around the posts using a long piece of wood. I’ve found the end of a sledgehammer handle …….