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How To Build a Pergola

There is a lot on television and written in articles about gardening that concentrates on the plants and water features. Not enough time and attention is given to structure in the garden. Look at all of the best gardens, and you will see that they make good use of canopies, arbours and pergolas.


Structures give an extra dimension to a garden that is hard to achieve without mature plants and bushes. Often, newly planted areas look a little flat without the feeling of height that a pergola can bring.

If you think that your garden could benefit from a pergola, read on; these step by step instructions will guide you through the building process and you can save a lot of money by doing the work yourself.


Using a pencil and paper, simply sketch out a few ideas of how you would like your pergola to look. Don’t worry about dimensions, this method of construction requires no measurements or calculations. This is the method I like to use when building. Once you are happy on a design, you can start building.


There is no requirement to use pressure treated timbers but the structure will last for many years if you do. Untreated wood will rot very quickly indeed.

The timber required is usually about 4 x 2 inches for the upper framework and 4 x 4 inches for the posts. These measurements are only approximate so use whatever you can find in your local shop.

Bags of post concrete save time and effort spent mixing your own concrete, and are perfect for this project. One for each post.

Tools Required

  • Saw

  • Hammer

  • Hot melt gun from glue guns direct, or another online supplier

  • Spade

  • Chisel

  • Spirit Level

Construction Method

The uprights must be put in place first. To do this, dig a hole 60cm deep and 30cm wide for each post. Place the post in the hole and refill to halfway with sand and rubble. Tamp the sand and rubble down had until it is holding the post firmly in place. Add a bag of post concrete to fill the rest of the hole. Once that is done, pour half a bucket of water slowly over the concrete. This will begin the curing process. Repeat these steps for each post.

After a few hours, when the post concrete has set, you start to build the upper framework. The front and back of the pergola need to have horizontal beams attached either side of the posts, as can be seen in the image. This looks far better than only having one crossbeam. These beams are attached with screws or nails as required. Use a spirit level to ensure they are perfectly level

Once the horizontal beams are in place, the posts can be trimmed to length.

To complete the pergola, beams are installed joining the front and back beams to create a roof frame. To fit these beams, chisel out sections of the wood so they will slot over the main beams before being glued and nailed in place. Cutting a scroll shape on the front edge of these pieces makes the pergola more attractive.

Now you own a perfect pergola, plant climbing roses or another climbing plant that will grow up the post and over the framework. That is, after all, what a pergola is for. Many people don’t think about that. Then you can sit in your shady spot and enjoy the sweet aromas of the plants in peace. A job, i’m sure you will agree, well done.

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