How To Build A Patio Cover – A Pergola

The first step in any home improvement project is determining the ultimate look that you want to have for your space.  In terms of patio covers, this is just as important.  Since there are many different kinds of patio covers, you’ll want to find the style that will work best for your space and the way in which you want to use your patio.  One of the most popular styles is the classic pergola.  This post and beam structure is not only handsome, but can be a great style that can be ‘dressed up or down’ depending upon your home decor and other features like your landscape design.  This article will cover how to build a patio cover, specifically a pergola, as we address the various issues regarding the construction of this type of patio cover.

Depending upon factors like your knowledge of building, your skill level, tool handling and knowledge of any city coding or homeowner association (HOA) violations, construction of your pergola can be simple or more challenging.  In most cases, the size of your pergola will keep it from having to be permitted through the city and your HOA from causing a stink.

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Then, the factors that really make a difference are your personal abilities and knowledge of how to build something like this.  You’ll also need to keep in mind that it does take time.  If you are strapped for time, then hiring a local contractor may end up giving you a better return on investment if it will allow you to spend more time, and more quickly, enjoying your patio rather than building it.  By following the steps described below, your pergola designs can come to life!

Steps to Building A Pergola

Step 1 – Measuring for Materials

This process is just a matter of determining how tall your posts are going to be, and how long your beams (girders) will be, determining the width of your pergola.  Your pergola plans should lay out a materials list for you.  The matter of the top rafters or ‘roof beams’ will be up to your tastes, but should have some level of overhang for a proper classic looking style.  Then, you can cut all your lumber to size and stain it or seal it while on the ground.  This will make it much easier and quicker to install when the time comes.  Having to sear or stain upon completion of the building process is more time consuming and requires moving around corners and other angles.

Step 2 – The Footings

You’ll need to start by laying out the general area where you’d like your pergola to go.  If you already have a patio space defined by a brick, flagstone or concrete slab, then you will want to measure carefully to avoid having to disrupt this area.  However, you will need to prepare the areas where you will be placing the support posts of the pergola.  This is what we call the footings.

They need to be dug deep enough to be below the frost line, so check with your local building codes on that one.  Many times, this calls for a depth of 40″.  You can dig this out by hand or use a gas-powered auger to save you loads of time and effort.

If you are planning to put your posts right on top of an existing slab, then you will be drilling into the concrete with a masonry bit and mounting your bracket directly to that.  Then, it is just a matter of setting the posts there and attaching them with some lag screws.  If you are pouring your own footings, you can set a bracket into the wet concrete and allow it to cure in place, then your posts can be mounted inside those brackets when dry.  This will save you a step of having to pour your footings and then drill them for the brackets.

Step 3 – Assembling Your Pergola

Assembly is a matter of putting your posts in place, then mounting your top brackets and setting your beams.  When you first place the posts, you’ll want to refrain from having them completely anchored until you ensure that each one is plumb and level.  This is going to be the foundation for your girders and ‘roof’ (rafters) and you can’t afford to have this racked.

Once you have the posts set, you’ll be raising the beams (girders).  Having temporary cleats nailed or screwed to your posts can help you place the girders in the right place without having to hold them up.  Depending upon the type of brackets you choose to use to attach your beams to the posts with, you may need to put those on the posts first.  Both the post setting and the girder and rafter hoisting will most likely require at least one other person.  If you had a third, that would be even easier and safer – plus you’d be that much closer to finishing!

Putting on the rest of the rafters to create the ‘roof’ to this pergola is just a matter of placing them across the support girder beams set or mounted to your posts.  Spacing of these beams is also a matter of personal preference.  You’ll want to make sure that they aren’t too far apart as they will provide some degree of shade and will also be providing the framework upon which vines and other climbing plants can grow, providing even more shade for your patio.

You may also like to include a lattice roof for your pergola to give even more shade.  There are some pergola kits that will include all the necessary hardware, pre-cut wood and simple instructions.  There are many variations and details that can be added to your pergola, such as specific outdoor lighting options, blinds and even outdoor swings.

Then, the number of things you can do to create an outdoor room with this pergola are even more impressive.  Designing the space with shading and cooling in mind in the summer will bring to mind things like a retractable awning and misting system.   A standard size pergola might be in the neighborhood of a 10’x10’ footprint.  This is room enough to put some outdoor dining furniture or other patio furniture. Sure, you can build a larger pergola and have more space to enjoy.  This can be a challenge to integrate into your landscaping if it is too large, but many people need a more imposing structure because of such a large yard.

The main thing to remember about all patio structures is that they are there to help you enjoy your patio space more often.  Depending upon your local weather climate and seasons, you may find that you are utilizing your patio when it is cooler.  There are patio heaters to make this more enjoyable as well.  If you can think of an accessory that would make your patio better and it doesn’t already exist, make it and maybe you can escape the rat race forever selling your ingenious patio product.  Who knows, maybe it will end up here on Patio Covers Place.

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