Jul 15, 2013

We’re Building a Pergola!

Our big summer project this year is building a pergola! (Last year our big summer project was a newborn baby, the year before that it was the patio, the year before that it was the bathroom and master bedroom renovation.) We are really excited about it, our full-sun patio is in desperate need of some shade. Especially with a little one running around now - full sun is not our friend.

Originally we had hoped to build it in the spring before Oliver’s birthday party, but we quickly realized with our calendars, schedules, and big spring to-do list that it was going to be impossible. So we postponed the project until July. The downside to July in NJ is of course the intense heat and humidity, but the plus side is the long daylight hours. It still stays light until 8:30/9pm most of July, and with a toddler that is crucial. The earliest the baby will go to bed is 7:30pm, so that extra 1-1.5 hours of light makes a big difference! You don’t get that kind of light in August and September.

We went back and forth on what to use (a kit? from scratch?) and how to build it (attached to the house or freestanding?). We found several different plans online and finally decided that we will build it from scratch and attach it to the house. Not only will it be more secure attached to the house (in case of yet another hurricane), but it also means we only have to dig two holes for footings and only rip up two small sections of our patio to do so. We’re going to stain the whole thing the same dark brown that we used on the deck so both structures will blend together nicely.

We did look at some pergola kits, but we realized one big problem right off the bat - kits are made for level patios built away from the house. Our patio slopes away from the house (the way it’s supposed to so rainwater drains away from the foundation), so the kit would have to be adjusted and customized to adapt for the slope. Plus none of them were precisely the right size (10’x10’, 8’x10’, etc.), they are very expensive and the finish was never quite right to coordinate with our deck. So if we had to customize the kit, restain everything the right color, settle for a less-than-perfect size - why would we pay a premium price to save ourselves a few lumber cuts?

The pergola is going to be 12’ wide and 10.5’ deep. The plans we used are a combination of Ana White’s Weatherby Pergola and Popular Mechanic’s pergola plan. We also researched how to safely attach a pergola to the house using a cross beam, huge bolts, and joist brackets. Here’s a labeled illustration of our plan in a bird’s eye view (this is not to scale):

I’m not going to bother getting too detailed on our specific plan's measurements and all that, because Ana White’s Weatherby Pergola Plan and the Popular Mechanic’s plan that we used as our guides are very comprehensive. Plus drawing it without 3D software is a pain. If you want to build a pergola, you should start with those two links. We just made size adjustments and changed the number of posts. The reason we chose a combination of the two plans is that Ana White’s had the look we wanted, but it didn’t seem quite as stable. So we incorporated the stability and strength of the Popular Mechanic’s one into our customized plan (which includes notches cut out of the cross beams to hold everything in place and braces).

To do a big project with a toddler, the plan is to do a little at a time, when the baby is napping or asleep, in small snippets until we get it finished. Slow (very slow!) but steady progress. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s doable. Over the next few weeks we’ll share our (slow) progress - from the shopping to the concrete footings to the staining and cutting and putting it all together.



  2. How exciting, I cant wait to see how it comes out. I need to do some thing similar for privacy from the neighbors.


  3. Love love love - Bet it's going to look great!