How to Choose an Arch or Pergola Kit
Not everyone is handy with a set of tools and a few building supplies. Here's how to choose an arch or pergola kit that will suit your home garden needs.
If do-it-yourself is not your strong point, or time and money are limited, take a look at kit-form arches and pergolas. They are less expensive than custom-made structures and are quick and simple enough for relatively inexperienced people to put together. The convenience of picking up a pergola in a store is appealing, especially since good design need not be sacrificed for the sake of convenience.
Arches, pergolas, and arbors in kit form are available from garden centers, superstores, and by mail order. Most suppliers produce detailed catalogs, providing a picture of the finished structure and exact dimensions and showing components that allow you to customize your design by combining different elements. Kits may be in treated wood or plastic-coated tubular steel. It is a good idea to go shopping with a clear idea of what you want.
Choosing a Style
Before buying a kit, consider the style of your house and garden and the proposed site for your arch or pergola. Measure exactly how much space you have to ensure that the structure is not too small or big for its surroundings. Consider how easy the kit is to construct and your own level of experience. In general, some of the bolt-together wooden kits look better with newer housing while black tubular steel constructions may be more suited to a traditional setting. Most structures will look stark until softened by climbers.
What Do You Need?
Although building from kits is much simpler than starting from scratch with raw lumber, practical skills and experience are still useful when kit-form pergolas and arches are assembled. Detailed instructions are always supplied as part of the kit; read these through before you start to make sure you know what is expected of you and that it is within your capabilities. In-store help is usually available if you have any questions about construction or need further guidance as to which tools and other materials, such as metal post supports or optional parts, are necessary to complete the job. You will certainly need a good set of measuring, digging, and woodworking tools, so make sure you have these before you start.
Preparation and Assembly
Before you start, make sure that your site is clear and level. Putting together a kit, especially for the first time, can be a fussy job, so allow yourself plenty of time — in fact, probably twice as long as you think you will need. Begin by double-checking all the details, particularly measurements; this can save you a lot of effort in the long run. Refer to the supplier's tools and materials list to ensure that you have all the right component parts and correct equipment for their assembly. Ideally, two people are better than one when the time comes to carry out the work. At the very least, enlist some help for jobs above head height and for those jobs where heavy or awkward pieces need to be lifted or carried. Remember that simple, lightweight components such as those used in How to Build a Simple Wooden Arch can often be put together more easily on the ground. Most kits must be constructed in a certain order, so do not guess but follow the instructions step by step and extremely carefully.
Tips on Assembly
- Do not plan to build the structure on the same day that it is delivered; it may arrive late or have pieces missing.
- Lay all the components out and check them off against the materials list.
- Identify the various items, since some parts can look similar to each other.
- Make sure you have all the necessary tools before starting. If a list is not supplied, compile your own from the instructions.
- The job will be much easier with two people working together.
- Follow the written instructions precisely.
- Do not fully tighten any nuts and bolts until you are satisfied that the structure is complete.