A pergola is a beautiful and functional addition to any garden that can also increase a home’s overall value. Having a contractor build-one can be expensive, but fortunately, a pergola is a great DIY home improvement project. With a good set of plans, the right tools and plenty of enthusiasm, you can build your very own pergola.

Pergolas make great covers for patios and decks. They can be made with adjustable roofing or open slats, depending upon your personal preference and weather conditions. Often, climbing vines or other plants are landscaped to cover the top of the pergola so they help shade the area and provide natural beauty.

You can find building plans and manuals for pergolas almost anywhere. An internet search will turn up plenty of DIY websites with instructions for various styles of pergola. You can also talk to experts at home improvement warehouses like Home Depot or Lowe’s for assistance. Here are some basic instructions to get you started.

You will need…

  • Ladder
  • Reciprocating, miter and circular saws
  • Safety glasses
  • Hammer
  • Jigsaw
  • Drill
  • Tape measure
  • Socket wrench with multiple size attachments
  • Post-hole digger
  • Level
  • Lag bolts
  • Washers
  • Galvanized deck screws
  • Gravel
  • Trolleys

Before you order lumber, make sure you’ve measured the space for your pergola and finalized your plans. The average pergola will use 2” wide pieces with lengths between 8” and 12”. It is vital that you have your building plans in order and have bought the right size and amount of lumber; without either your pergola will not turn out right.

Once you have all the right materials, mark the spaces for your four supporting posts. Here, use the post-hole digger to make four holes that are each 24 inches deep and nine inches wide. Then, line the bottoms with gravel and place a 4×4 post in each. Making sure that each is level, add quick-dry cement to hold them in place. These will be the primary support beams and should set for at least 24 hours.

After the support posts have been placed, you’ll move on to the joist beams. Joist beams are the posts that connect the support posts horizontally and should be constructed from 2” beams. They should be held in place with lag bolts and washers. The joist beams can be simple or decorative; many pergolas showcase artistic cutting and wood-burned designs.

Afterwards, attach the connecting beams. These will be the top slates of the pergola, which you can leave as it is or use as base for roofing panels. For a polished, uniform look, make sure they’re placed in an even line parallel to the joists. Once they’re placed, secure them with the galvanized deck screws. When the connecting beams are secure, you can stain or paint the pergola if you wish. For adjustable roofing panels, you’ll need to refer to the instructions that came with them or consult a professional for advice.

Once you’re done, paint or stain the wood however you wish. A good weatherproof stain is recommended to protect your pergola from warping and eventual rot. With the weatherproofing and decoration completed, you now have a functional, beautiful pergola.