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How to Build a Freestanding Wooden Pergola Kit

A well-made pergola lends vertical interest to an already gorgeous garden. Find out why this simple construction might work for your outdoor space.

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A freestanding wooden structure is probably the most common type of pergola. It is a simple construction of posts supporting beams and rafters. As with arches, many pergola kits are available today for the do-it-yourself market. Assembly of these is much simplified; members are pre-notched, edges are planed, and corner braces may even be glued into place for you. These instructions are for a kit with 8 feet (2.4 m) posts set 4 feet (1.2 m) apart left to right, and 22 inches (55 cm) deep.

Pergola Adds Interest to Woodland Path

Courtesy of DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

To guarantee a long life for a wooden pergola, always use sawn lumber that has been pretreated to last, and avoid rustic pole constructions. Be sure to also space rafters close together to cast more shade. For a light and airy structure, make the spacings between the rafters wider. Achieve a traditional look by choosing beams with shaped ends; a contemporary style is accomplished with beams that have square ends.

Drawing of Wooden Pergola Made from Kit

Courtesy of DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Materials needed:

set square
hammer or mallet
club hammer
marking pegs
string
driving tool
level
drill
screwdriver
4 spiked post supports
4 treated, sawn lumber posts, as supplied
2 lengths of treated, sawn lumber for beams, as supplied
4 lengths of treated, sawn lumber for rafters, as supplied
4 lengths of treated, sawn lumber for braces, as supplied
rustproof nails and galvanized screws

1. Securing the metal post supports.

Measure the position of the posts by following steps 1 through 3 in this wooden arch kit tutorial. Hammer in the metal post supports.

Hammer in Metal Supports for Pergola

Courtesy of DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

2. Hammer the posts in.

Continue using a level and checking that the post supports remain vertical. Ensure they face exactly square on.

Use Level to Check Post Supports Remain Vertical

Courtesy of DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

3. Erect the frame.

Insert the posts into the supports, making sure the notches at the top all run in the direction that the beams will lie. Check the posts are vertical, then screw to the supports.

Insert All 4 Posts into Supports

Courtesy of DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

4. Secure the crossbeams.

Knock both ends of one the crossbeams into the notches cut into the top of the two front posts, making sure the overhang is the same on both sides. Repeat with the back beam.

Knock Ends of Crossbar Into Notches Cut in Posts

Courtesy of DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

5. Nail the beams to the posts.

Make sure the beams are positioned correctly (standing above the post tops and with overhangs even on both sides) then nail them to the posts.

Nail Beams and Posts Together Once Leveled

Courtesy of DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

6. Place the rafters.

Once mounted on each corner post, the two parallel crossbeams are ready to receive the four overhead rafters. Keep in mind: It is better not to assemble large, heavy posts on the ground first.

Parallel Crossbeams Ready for Overhead Rafters

Courtesy of DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

7. Position a rafter above the left posts.

Place another over the right posts. Measure and mark the position of the two central rafters so that they will be evenly spaced and parallel.

Measure and Mark for Position of Rafters

Courtesy of DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

8. Secure the notched rafters.

Tap them down onto the beams at the marked even spacings. Secure each rafter to the front and back beams using nails or screws.

Secure Each Rafter to Crossbeams of Pergola

Courtesy of DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

9. Strengthen and steady the pergola.

Nail a wooden brace into each top corner between post and beam.

Nail Wooden Brace Between Post and Beam to Support

Courtesy of DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

10. Finished pergola.

Lightly sand rough edges and treat any cut ends of lumber with preservative. The pergola is now ready for planting.

Finished Simple Pergola Made from Kit

Courtesy of DK - Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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Arches & Pergolas © 2000 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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