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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Build a Pergola — No Handyman Required

Suzanne Oliver
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Wood pergola


More than an arbor, yet not quite an awning. Pergolas are that touch of architectural flair that also adds shade and privacy. Why not build one in your own back yard? It’s easier than you think!

Skill Level: Advanced (This job is best suited for two people.)


  • 4x4s cut to four 96″ (8′) lengths; four additional lengths to be cut to your measurements
  • 2x4s cut to 11 120″ (10′) lengths (ends cut on a decorative curve, if desired)
  • 2x6s cut to six 120″ (10′) lengths (ends cut on a decorative curve, if desired)

(Lumber quantity will vary based on the desired size of your pergola. For illustration purposes, these measurements are for an 8′-high by 10′-wide by 10′-deep pergola. You can special order longer wood lengths if the lumber department is out of the cuts you need when you visit; go to the Pro Desk for details. Never try to join two shorter lengths of wood together to create one longer piece if the wood is supporting a load.)

  • Four metal half bases (for fastening posts to wood)



Construct the Frame

1.    Select a location on your deck to install the pergola, marking off spots where the four 4×4 corner posts will go. (We made ours 10′ wide by 10′ deep, measuring from rafter ends. The 4×4 corner posts were placed 8′ apart from one another.)

2.    Stand one of the 4×4 posts upright, screwing it into the deck surface, using a metal half base manufactured for this purpose. Repeat for the three remaining corner posts.

3.    With a partner, lift one of the 120″ 2×4 boards and secure it to two corner posts on the “interior” side of the pergola. The 2×4 should be flush to the post tops, with an equal amount of overhang at either end. (If you cut the 2x4s with a decorative curve, face it downwards.)

4.    Add cross-braces: measure diagonally between the interior side of the 4×4 and the top surface of the 2×4. Miter-cut four cross-braces from the remaining 4x4s using this measurement.

5.    Take one of the cross-braces and secure it to both the 4×4 post and the side of the 2×4 facing away from the pergola interior. Repeat this step at the other end of the 2×4, cross-bracing it to the second post.

6.    Take a second 120″-long 2×4 and screw it to the “exterior” side of the pair of 4×4 posts, and to the existing cross-braces. (This completes one half of the pergola frame. Both 4×4 post tops and cross-braces should be sandwiched between a pair of 2x4s.)

7.    Repeat Steps 3 to 6 for the second set of 4x4s, using two more 120″ 2x4s and two more cross-braces.

Install the Rafters 

1. Lay six of the 120″ 2×6 planks perpendicularly across the supporting 2x4s (curves downward), spacing them evenly and using screws to secure them.

2. Finish by laying the remaining seven 2x4s perpendicularly across the 2x6s (curves downward), spacing evenly and screwing to secure.

Add the Finishing Touches

1. Paint or stain the wood per the paint manufacturer’s package instructions for application and drying times.

2. If desired, hang drapery panels or roll out an outdoor rug. For a rustic look, train vines to climb up the pergola.


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