Afternoon project: DIY Pergola

November 16, 2010   //  Posted in: Backyard, Deck, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  5 responses

Pergolas weren’t part of the original deck design, but we quickly realized that the city wouldn’t approve the construction without handrails on the higher levels of the deck. Instead of installing boring-and-exactly-what-you-would-expect railings along the top edges of the deck (blah! I wanted to retain the sleek and unobstructed look!), I thought it might be interesting to disguise the railings in a pergolas, delicately installed over the doorways.

We did some research. Some pergolas out there are admittedly a little more complex than my simple deck needed, or more than we could have afforded, but most seemed manageable from a DIY sense. We both agreed that if we had considered the pergolas sooner, we could have incorporated the posts into the actual deck construction, but in the end I’m OK with the way we installed this (each post is sitting in a little metal brace which is attached to the floorboards). Any future homeowner could easily (really easily) remove the pergola wholly and put up their own boring rail.

The best part of this one was that we used boards that were already cut to length – 8′ high posts, and 10′ long “girders”. The crossbeams at the top took a little longer to make because they were cut to fit snuggly like puzzle pieces to add strength to the structure. It’s all pressure-treated, and soon will be weatherproofed too (add to to-do’s… winter is coming fast). Beginning to end, including a trip to Home Depot, this project probably only took 6 hours.

  • assembling beams and girders for pergola #1
  • structure upright!
  • custom-cut 2x4's top off the structure. (I sort of thought they might look nice paired instead of evenly spaced when I first saw them go up.)
  • First pergola completed! (Another will go over the raised area in the back right, stay tuned.)

Notice that stuff is missing? The siding is replaced soon so it was OK that it came down. The deck’s motion light is also removed right now (we had to lower it 3″ to accommodate the girder closest to the house). Oh, and the railing. I’m getting to it (add to to-do’s). Instead of traditional spindles, I was inspired by Peter Kirsch-Korff and want to try something like this, a clean horizontal rail.

What next? My friends own a great nursery outside of Ithaca, NY. I’d love to find a pretty arborvitae and some clematis to grow up the left side and over the top of the pergola. I also found some great hanging plant holders from Anthropologie (on clearance!) that I’ll probably hang in the spring. Also, very shortly there will be an accompanying pergola installed over the other part of the deck that’s raised. Stay tuned.