That time we built a pergola

We have talked up this pergola pretty extensively over the last few weeks and  it’s easy to see why. It has transformed our patio significantly, in a way  I can’t emphasize enough. It is so substantial! And we built it OURSELVES!! I’ve designed and built a lot of things in my day, but an actual structure is impressive, if you’ll allow me to pat ourselves on the back.

We started here, with the plan:


I knew if there was going to be one thing that would help smooth out working together on a project, it would be to come up with an actual plan. I’ve mentioned before my style is to usually make it up as I go, and problem solve when needed. Schenny does NOT roll like that and hates when I seemingly change my mind mid-project. I drew out what I thought would work, and after searching Pinterest and talking it out, we tweaked the design slightly to include ‘sandwiching’ the boards on the top end of the corner posts instead of just the attaching them to the outside. This not only helped the whole thing be sturdier, but made it feel more substantial.

We ended up using four 6x6x10′ posts (we cut them down to 9′), bases to attach them to the concrete, five 2x6x12 and twelve 2x6x14′, plus screws and hardware. Our finished pergola is 11′-6″ x 11′-6″, but we needed those fourteen-footers to cut tails on each end. The ones going out from the house couldn’t have tails on the backend, due to the proximity to the roofline and gutters, hence the twelve foot boards.



We  hammer-drilled holes into the concrete for the bolts that attach the base plates to the concrete. The posts went up (level, plumb, square, triangle, circle, alllll the checking happened. We might have done a rain dance just to appease any other construction gods watching over us).



Next was attaching the top pieces that would frame out the square. Pro-tip: DO NOT hand drive these bolts in with a socket wrench. Your arm is not an impact driver. You are not going to get very far driving 5″ lag screws through two pieces of wet, pressure treated wood. Don’t try to drive 1/2″ wide lag screws through a 3/8″ hole. Just let your wife buy the tools you need. If you need to learn this on your own, plan it out so when you give in, your wife can run to the hardware store to buy the right tools AND get lunch on the way back. Not that that happened to us. No sir. Just a theory.







Once we got the square frame up, we realized we were a few boards short to finish the top, time was winding down, and energy levels were depleted. At least everything was connected and square so we didn’t have to worry about the wood warping in the sun until we waited for more (because of course the last few pieces we needed were the only ones of the whole project we had to special order).

Once we got all the supplies to finish, we were surprised to find attaching the cross beams were the hardest part. The top boards need to be sitting on their end, which means each board had to be attached with a screw at an angle. So, so difficult at the top of a ladder going into wet wood. We struggled quite a bit with this part, and it took way longer than we expected. I didn’t even take any pictures of the process because we were so frustrated. Just allow extra time for this part. Have cold beer on stand-by.

The final pergola turned out like this:


It is so lovely! It has completely changed the look of the back of our house, and had naturally  amped up plans and drawings of the entire backyard make-over. Will we actually get to do any of this? Who knows, but for now we are loving sitting under the pergola enjoying the view.

The next step is styling; now that the structure is up, the REAL work can begin (kidding, honey! sort of). I’ve been dying to put the lights up underneath and take some good after photos, hopefully by this weekend. Stay tuned:)





One thought on “That time we built a pergola

  1. Pingback: 2017 Recap! | DrunkOnHome

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