Even before you figure out how you’re going to build a patio cover, you should get some plans set out. This will help you to decide what needs to be done before you even start buying material and getting your patio all set up. The first thing I would recommend is searching for the style of patio cover that you want online or in fine home magazines. As we’ve discussed, getting patio cover designs can be free or they may cost you some money. If you hire a landscape designer or architect, you should probably think about spending several hundred to a few thousand for these. It will be well worth it if your plans are for an elaborate or intricate type of cover. For simple gazebo or pergola designs, don’t worry about spending this kind of money (thousands).
Once you’ve got your plans in hand, you can set out to create a materials list. Obviously, this article is for those who are a bit handy. If you don’t know how to swing a hammer (or use a nail gun) you should hire a professional contractor or someone who can do this type of work. Your local handyman can probably tackle this type of project with little difficulty. Much of the hard work is in the plumbing and squaring of your posts. Oh, and the lifting of beams and such.
Building A Pergola
The pergola is one of the most common types of patio covers and you will find it much simpler to build than any other style. They can be built free standing or attached to beams along your home’s outer wall. In the southwest, you or your contractor will likely have to take down some stucco and wire to get access to the beams. For this reason alone, building free standing patio covers will be your best bet.
Step one is really to find the position of where to put the posts. Depending on your climate zone, the footings may need to be deeper for your frost lines. Some climates, you can get away with a 12 – 18 ” depth. Your posts can either be set into your concrete or be mounted on top after curing. This style is easier to do and more forgiving. Once your posts are placed in the concrete, moving them is impossible without digging up. Mounting them on top will allow you to modify the ends to get a true plumb and square frame upon which your beams and top members can rest.
Once your posts are set and plumb, you can begin to hang your beams or girders. Sometimes, two are used and other times four. This can be a personal taste issue as well. The beams will support the cross members or rafters, which are usually lighter (width and weight) in stock. Pergolas that use four girder beam are typically more substantial and hold more rafters. Two girders work just fine for most applications.
Finally, putting your top rafters is really just a matter of placement. Closer spacing will provide more shade and better structure for your greenery to grow on. Some pergola plans call for spacing of your rafters to be at 24″ and then using a lattice roof to provide even more shade and substance to your roof.
You don’t need brackets for each rafter. The preferred method is to toe nail each one to the girders. A bracket for each rafter not only gets expensive, but also takes away from the look. Besides this, it isn’t necessary from a structural standpoint. You will likely only need brackets for attaching your posts to the beams. Your project should take about 2 -3 weekends worth of work. One will be due to curing of your concrete, but you can stain and treat your wood that weekend so you don’t lose time. The typical pergola patio cover built this way, by the owner, can provide not only years of enjoyment but years of bragging rights as well.