Building a pergola in your backyard is one of the most rewarding projects you will find. It can be as simple as you want it to be, yet can become a challenging how-to woodworking project for an experienced carpenter.
Pergolas, overhead beams and arbors of various types have been built since the earliest times, initially to support grape vines and other climbing plants, and more recently as garden features and backyard structures. Many people today include a pergola in their landscape design to provide shade and even shelter over patio areas and decks. Others learn how to build a pergola so they can create a purely decorative feature.
Perhaps the simplest pergola structure you can build is a roofless type made with wooden poles. The upright poles are secured into the ground and then a series of cross-beams are fixed to the uprights. Building a pergola this way requires minimal carpentry skills. If you buy the poles ready-cut and drilled, all you have to be able to do is bolt the lengths together. Otherwise you’ll need to know (or learn) how to cut and fasten wood, and will need the appropriate tools & pergola plans to do this.
More elaborate pergola designs are made from planed wood that may have ends that are scrolled or cut to shape with a jigsaw to form what some people call a rafter tail. A more elaborate design would probably also involve using more complicated joints as well, although even planed wood pergolas may be bolted together, as you will see in many how to build projects.
Another ambitious pergola design incorporates trelliswork along the sides in imitation of a period-style structure. You can buy ready-made trellis panels, but if you want a project that is more demanding, then accept the challenge and make up your own panels using lath. Whichever route you choose to follow, a trellis will provide a great support for plants that you can then train over the pergola beams for shade.
If you have bricklaying skills, you could build a pergola with brick piers and wooden beams that can be a simple or elaborate as you wish. The great Edwin Lutyens, one of the world’s greatest landscape architects who worked with the equally famous British garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, was regarded as the master of the pergola. He often used it to link the house and garden together with a pergola or two, usually combining stone or brick pillars with overhead wooden beams.
Another traditional approach is to build pergolas over walkways and use a central pitched pergola roof as a central feature. This isn’t particularly complicated to do because all it involves is creating a wooden framework of four sloping timbers that meet together in the center, and are fixed to four horizontal beams that are attached to form a square that rests on top of four equally spaced pillars. A series of lathes, or perhaps slightly thicker cross-pieces, are then used horizontally, from top to bottom, to strengthen the roof structure.
If you want to know how to build a pergola or how to do simple woodworking projects, there are some really inspiring woodworking plans that you can buy. If you buy a good package that offers access to multiple plans, once you have built your pergola you might decide to build a gazebo or even build a garden shed. There are some really great pergola plans and arbor plans that you can buy.