Have you ever thought about building a pergola in your yard? Does it feel overwhelming and daunting? Maybe you aren’t quite sure what a pergola even is? We built one this spring/summer and we are here to help you along the journey.
First… what even is a pergola. Pergolas are shade structures, most commonly an outdoor garden feature. They were designed to add shade to your backyard spaces and can go overtop of walkways, passageways or sitting areas. These structures can be freestanding or attached to your house.
We have always liked the look of pergolas and building one in the backyard has been on the list the last 2 years. This past February, our son Easton who has NF1 had a shift in his condition. It worsened leaving him homebound and unable to attend school in person. His pain levels increased to 8-9 out of 10 (10 being the worst pain) and he was living with this daily. We needed a place he could go outside and relax, get some sunshine. That’s when the pergola crept up to the top of the list.
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Starting the Build
The very first step in starting your build comes before you start. Safety!! Before starting check out your community and neighborhood building codes and guidelines to determine if a permit is required or if there are any other restrictions. Next, you’ll want to decide where you are placing your pergola and determine the size and shape it will be. We decided to make ours a 10’x10′ square.
Then you will want to prep and level the area. You can see how we did this here: http://therefininghome.com/spring-2023-one-room-challenge-weeks-1-2/
After prepping the area, which, for us, included installing artificial grass, it was time to plan out the pergola. We teamed up with Toja Grid (you can find them here: https://tojagrid.com/ ) which is a great company to use when planning and building a pergola. They sell brackets made with high quality steel and weather resistant coatings. Their DIY modular pergola & bracket system accommodates any size, space or budget with endless possibilities. You can purchase in kits or customize your own. Bracket hardware is offered in 4×4 and 6×6. They also have DIY furniture as well as accessories like shade sails, hammocks and more.
We opted for the pergola kit for 4×4 wood posts with KNECT 2×4 top rafter brackets. Added 45 degree support brackets for 4×4 posts and post base ground anchors.
Preparing to Install:
Using a waterproofing stain and sealer in one can help speed the process along. You can see that post here: http://therefininghome.com/spring-2023-one-room-challenge-week-4-5/ Our wood was ready to place in the brackets and secure with screws. Then we measured the placement for the rafters, and secured those as well. It’s a pretty quick process once you get started. One quick tip: For the rafters- measure the board after you place the bracket ends on, then measure between the brackets like the picture shows above.
Jess and I were able to do most of the measuring, attaching and lifting. It wasn’t until we needed to lift the top up and secure into the base brackets that we needed a third person. Our oldest son jumped in to help us out with the lifting and placing into the base brackets. If you are planning on DIY’ing your own pergola, I do recommend having a third person for safety and lifting. No project is ever worth ruining your back or your health for. Make sure you know your limitations and plan accordingly.
Supports & Lighting:
After we raised and placed the top of the pergola, we then needed to add 45 degree angled supports. Two were needed for each post for a total of 8. Do not skip this step if you are adding hammock swings to the pergola as you’ll needed as much support and stability as you can could get. I also like the look better with the supports.
We installed the hammock swings and then added bistro outdoor lights to the perimeter. We love outdoor lighting and love the look and feel the bistro lights give. Bonus- these lights are dimmable. Depending on what event we have going on we can turn the lights up or turn them down. Definitely when the teenagers are all hanging out out there, we turn the lights all the way up. The hammock swings were important to us because Easton could easily get in and out of the, without much difficulty or increasing his pain. This became a place our whole family could relax in with all of us.
Finishing the Space:
Now that the swings were attached and the pergola in place we needed to finish off the space around the pergola. Raising up a slate patio space on the back side and making it level with the artificial grass under the pergola was the option we chose. We needed it to be easily accessible for our son who has some physical challenges. We found the slate rocks at a local company, purchased them and had the slate delivered. Then we used riser pavers from Lowe’s to build up the space. After the slate patio was finished we were able to place garden boxes and then re-spread a lot of the gravel rocks we had raked out before the project began.
Now we are ready to host our kids friends in the backyard and Easton will have an easier time having friends over as well. It was a huge project and a labor of love, but one that I would definitely do again. Have you thought about installing a pergola? Maybe put it on the list for spring projects? We’d love to know what you think about how this space turned out, leave us a comment. And don’t forget to check out our Instagram as we post about our daily life in stories with decorating and renovating projects in our feed.
Joleen & Jess