Jul 18, 2013

Digging Down into Pergola Purgatory

Before the project ever began, we knew that installing the concrete footings for the main support posts would be the hardest part. You have to make sure the posts are placed perfectly - they have to be in the exact location to be square and then they have to be perfectly plumb and vertical to support the structure. One mistake here would mess up the whole thing. On top of that pressure, digging deep holes during a heatwave is also exhausting. And we knew that it would be emotionally stressful to dig up two sections of the patio we built with our blood, sweat and tears two years ago.

To place the concrete footings, we used the mason string, markers and line levels we used to build the patio. With a tape measure and right angle in hand, we determined the proper placement of the whole pergola footprint, then the footings and posts to create the correct right angles.

Laying out and marking where the pergola will go against the house

We marked the pavers that had to be removed. If we had a concrete patio, all we would have to do is drill into the concrete and be done. But pavers are not so stable, so we actually had to install real concrete footings. We had to pull up the pavers (ACK!), then disturb the sand and gravel base underneath. Mike actually had to smash and destroy one of the pavers to be able to pull up the left section (since it wasn’t by a side where we could pry one up). It was painful to watch, but we have a lot of extra pavers to replace it. Again, it’s just not easy to intentionally damage something we so recently and lovingly built - even in the name of something better!

Once the pavers were up and the holes were dug, we placed the concrete tube in the hole. Then there was more measuring and tweaking to make sure everything was still lined up correctly.

This angle makes the hole look deceptively shallow - it's actually very deep!

Mike backfilled around the hole up to the surrounding gravel base to keep it in place. Then we mixed up the cement in our old wheelbarrow and poured in the concrete into the tubes.

We let it set and cure overnight. Footings - check! Next up - the supports against the house.

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