How to Build a Backyard Pergola

Don't let the sweltering sun prevent you from enjoying your patio during the summer months. Learn how to build a pergola with adjustable roof panels that lets you dial just the right amount of shade.

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  1. How To
Completed Pergola With Louvered Panels

How To Build A Pergola With Louvered Panels: Completed

Materials Needed:

  • pry bar
  • reciprocating saw
  • safety glasses
  • hammer
  • circular saw
  • miter saw
  • drill
  • spade bit
  • tape measure
  • level
  • lag bolts with washers
  • socket wrench
  • jigsaw
  • ladders
  • 4" x 4" cedar posts, 12' long
  • 2" x 8" cedar lumber, 12' long
  • screwdriver bit
  • galvanized screws
  • 2" x 4" cedar lumber
  • 1" x 6" cedar lumber
  • louvered deck covering kit
  • carpenter's square
  • ladder

Steps for Pergola

1. Measure the existing deck and sketch out a design for the project. The new deck posts and roof frame can support a traditional roof, pergola beams or a louvered roof system. If using a louvered system, determine the finished size of the louvered panels before starting to make sure everything fits properly (Image 1).

2. Use a prybar to remove the deck panels from the posts being replaced. Use a reciprocating saw to cut through nails as needed. Don't cut through the panels — they'll be reused with the new posts. Remove everything attached to the posts, including any benches or swings. Use a prybar to remove the necessary posts from the deck. To prevent injury, use a hammer to bend down any nails sticking out of the posts before setting them aside.

3. Measure and cut the new posts that will support the roof structure. Measure the notches in the old posts and mark the notch lines on the new posts. Use a circular saw to start the cuts for the notches, then follow up with a reciprocating saw to create clean inside corners. Use a miter saw to angle the top of the new posts to match the style of the old posts.

4. Have a helper hold the new post in position and drill two holes through the post and into the deck frame. Drive lag bolts through the holes, tightening with a socket wrench. Tighten or loosen the bolts as needed to keep the post plumb.

5. Measure and cut a center post to help support the roof frame; the post should be long enough to sit flush with the bottom of the floor joist under the deck. Use a spade bit to drill a hole in the deck next to the floor joist; enlarge the hole so the post will fit snugly. Slip the post through the hole, line it up with the bottom of the joist and attach to the joist. Make sure the post is plumb and tighten the bolts with a socket wrench.

6. Measure and cut 2-by-8-inch cedar lumber to frame the outside of the posts, plus a pair of 2x8s to go between the center posts. The louvered panels will fit snugly inside these frames. Tip: Use a jigsaw to cut a decorative edge on the ends of the long beams and attach the beams to the tops of the posts with lag bolts (Image 2).

7. Use long, galvanized screws to reattach the deck panels and any benches or other accessories that were removed for the project.

8. The posts and frame are now ready for a the roof treatment.

Steps for Adding Louvered Panels

1. Use cedar 2x4s to build a large, square frame to hold the four sets of louvered panels. Square up the corners and attach the boards with galvanized screws.

2. Cut a 2x4 to fit snugly across the middle of the frame and attach with screws. Cut two more 2x4s to divide the frame in half in the other direction. When complete, the frame should be divided into four equal parts.

3. Use screws to install the track system for the louvers on the inside of the frame. Make sure the tracks are level and lined up with each other. For this project, the crew ran the tracks in different directions for better control over the sunlight.

4. Use screws to attach the brackets to the track system. Double-check the dimensions and cut the cedar slats for the louvers, screwing them into the brackets. Following the manufacturer's directions, attach the control strips that allow the louvers to move together (Image 1).

5. Lift the panels into place and support with long planks resting on the deck. Lift the panels slightly above the frame and hammer them down into position; use a piece of scrap wood to avoid damaging the panels. Attach the panels to the framework with lag screws (Image 2).

Tip: Make sure to have plenty of help on hand to life the heavy, awkward panels into place. Use caution when working atop ladders or scaffolds.

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