Jul 24, 2013

Pergola in Process: Outer Box Framed

Once the posts were up, we were able to install the main braces to create the outer "box" of the pergola. This would stabilize the vertical posts and finally show the main footprint.

We took two 2x6s and cut a decorative edge off the side using a jigsaw/scroll saw. I drew on a design I liked (basically I copied our neighbor’s pergola edge design) and cut it out. This piece then became the template, I traced around it onto the other ends and cut them out.

Using the string and line level again from the joist, we marked where the outer 2x4 cross beams were going to land against the post, then added an inch to accommodate for a 1” notch cut out of each one. This marked the top of where the 2x6 would go on both sides.

Putting up the 2x6 was a bit tricky with only 2 people. It would have been a cinch with 3, but we made do. Basically I climbed up on a ladder (terrified out of my wits because I have an awful fear of heights, even only a few feet off the ground) in between in the two posts and held the 2x6 up while resting a level on the beam to make sure I was holding it perfectly level. Mike made sure I had it at the right height against the post marks and he measured the overhang beyond the post to make it was centered. Then he screwed it into the 4x4 post with 4 large bolts (since the 2x6s help support half the weight) on both ends.

A really bad thunderstorm actually blew in right after we put up the first 2x6, so we had to call it a night. It went from sunny skies to dark clouds and distant thunder in a few short minutes. We braced the posts with deck chairs, picked up all the tools and rushed inside before the sky opened up with a massive downpour.

The following night we picked up where we left off, and the second 2x6 beam on the inside of the pergola posts went faster. This time we just had to line it up with the same vertical mark and make sure the ends matched up with the front. I used the level again while holding it up to make sure everything was balanced. Mike screwed it into the post.

Then we just had to do the two sides with two 2x4 cross beams. We placed the 2x4 in the joist bracket and rested the other side on top of the 2x6s against the post. We marked where the notches would go and brought it down. Before cutting it we fleshed out the boxes for the 1 inch notches with a pen. Then 12” from the outer notch, we drew on an edge design similar to what was on the 2x6s. After everything was cut out with the scroll saw, this extra piece became our template for the rest of the 2x4 edges.

We repeated the same process for the cross beam on the other side. Resting it on the joist bracket and the 2x6s, we marked the notches and brought it down. It’s important to mark each one individually and cut as we go due to variations in the wood. All the pergola plans we read emphasized this - don’t make assumptions about the size or placement. Mark and cut each one as you go.

Mike screwed everything in and the structure was finally very sturdy. The notches really help secure everything together in addition to the screws. Seriously, an adult could hang off it, which is good just incase our little guy grows into a climber and tries to use this as a jungle gym someday. Safety first - now and later!

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