How to Build a Pergola

Turn your backyard into an oasis and add some much-needed shade with this stylish outdoor structure.

April 22, 2020
Get the Step-by-Step Instructions

How to Build a Pergola 01:57

Note: Please check your local building codes prior to any construction.

Supplies Needed

  • (6) 6x6 x 10' exterior posts
  • (5) 4x6 x 12' treated boards
  • (4) 2x6 x 16' treated boards
  • 2x4 x 8' boards for support
  • 4x4 blocks
  • (24) 3” x 3/8" lag bolts
  • 3/8" socket bit
  • drill
  • (30) 3/8" washers
  • (12) bags of fast-setting concrete
  • wheelbarrow
  • garden hoe
  • (6) 6x6 post anchor
  • (6) 1/2” x 4-1/4” wedge concrete anchors
  • 1/2" masonry drill bit
  • post level
  • 3” exterior decking screws
  • circular saw
  • chisel
  • hammer
  • orbital sander
  • outdoor plant hooks (optional)
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DIY Outdoor Pergola

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Photo by: Shain Rievley

Shain Rievley

Dig Holes for the Posts

For best results, start with a level site that has good drainage and measure out the dimensions to make sure it can accommodate the pergola. Once the site is ready to go, it's time to dig holes for the footers. All footers should be to local codes, which is usually below the frost line. Dig three holes in the first row, eight feet apart. The second row will be set up the same way, 10 feet in front of the first.

Digging Holes

DIY Outdoor Pergola: Dig Post Holes

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Photo by: Shain Rievley

Shain Rievley

Pour Concrete Footers

Using a wheelbarrow and garden hoe, mix the concrete according to instructions on the bag (Image 1). This method allows you to keep concrete consistency the same for each footer. Next, pour all six footers and allow to fully dry (Images 2 & 3). Rinse the wheelbarrow and hoe immediately after using to keep remnants from permanently setting.

Prepare Posts

Use a circular saw to etch out 6-inch-deep cuts, two inches in at the top of the 6x6 posts (Images 1 & 2). This will allow the 2x6 boards to rest on either side of the posts once upright. Use a hammer and chisel to free the separated pieces (Image 3). Use an orbital sander to create a clean, smooth ledge (Image 4). Next, flip the post and repeat on the opposite side (Image 5).

Attach Posts to Concrete Footers

Drill a hole in the center of each concrete footer with a 1/2-inch masonry bit (Image 1). Secure post anchors to each footer by inserting a concrete anchor in the middle of the anchor mechanism (Image 2). Next, place the posts into the post anchors (Image 3). Use a post level to ensure that they're level, and then secure in place with decking screws and lag bolts on each side (Images 4 & 5).

Add 2x6 Boards

Stabilize the posts by attaching 2x4s to adjacent sides of the post to hold in place for the next step (Image 1). Next, grab a friend to help place the 2x6 boards on the notches at the top of the posts (Image 2). Hold in place with screws temporarily, then permanently secure the boards at each post with two lag bolts (Image 3). Repeat with another 2x6 on the opposite side of the post (Image 4). Then, repeat this process on the second row of posts (Image 5).

Build Rafters

Add 4x6 rafters by placing them, evenly spaced, on top of the structure — they will have a 12-inch overhang (Image 1). Add 4x4 blocks between support beams to secure the rafters that don’t line up with the posts (Images 2 & 3). Drill three-inch screws in at an angle to secure all rafters into the beams (Image 4). Optionally, add hooks and hangers to dress up your new pergola with plants and lanterns, creating a welcoming outdoor space (Image 5).

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