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Pergola in a garden

How to Build a Pergola

Building and installing a pergola in your garden isn’t as complicated as it may seem.

We will take you through step by step and show you what you need and how to do it.

  1. What is a pergola?
  2. Planning
  3. Materials
  4. Tools
  5. Installation

First of all, what is a pergola?

Pergola in a garden

Most people will have seen a pergola but they may not be aware of what is it called.

A pergola is a wooden structure that resembles a roof but is actually open set on wooden posts. Instead of a fully closed off roof, wooden beams are screwed into place to create a more open space. They are mostly used over patios, deck or over a pathway.

Some people use these structures as a trellis for plants such as wisteria or honeysuckle to grow on. This creates partial to complete shade from the hot Summer sun and will fill your garden with wonderful smells.

Planning

This is something we preach time and time again at Owatrol, but it is such an important step! Without proper planning, the whole project can go wrong resulting in a waste of time and money.

Some of the things we recommend planning are;

  • Where it will go
  • What size you want / what will you use it for
  • Maintenance
  • Your budget

So, first thing’s first – where will it go?

This first one seems really obvious, however, you may not have considered the pros and cons of having your pergola installed in that particular area.

You may want it to cover your patio and have plants growing all over it, but you have a water feature installed. This is by no means a problem but will require you to maintain your water more as there will be more debris from the plants.

You may want it to be installed over a pathway, but the pathway is used very little and so you won’t really reap the benefits.

A contemporary pergola over a deck

What size do you want it to be?

This is something to be considered if, for instance, you want the pergola to be installed over a deck.

How much of the deck would you like it to cover? Are you likely to be dining outside a lot or will you just be relaxing? Would you like a short pergola that will just accommodate plants for aesthetics or would you like it to be able to create shade?

Maintenance

This is something everyone wants to do as little of as possible. And rightly so! Wouldn’t you rather be enjoying using your pergola rather than maintaining it? Deciding on the materials and the finish you apply will help determine how much maintenance your pergola will require.

For instance, you could apply Owatrol Sold Color Stain, our opaque wood protection and finish with Easy Bond offers excellent protection against moisture.

SCS is available in 10 different shades and is *guaranteed against flaking and peeling for 15 years on vertical surfaces and 5 years on horizontal surfaces.

Materials

There are is such a wide variety of woods available that it can be slightly overwhelming!

Here is a list of 10 of the most common

  1. Pine – inexpensive softwood but prone to scratches and dents
  2. Fir – inexpensive softwood with a reddish-brown color
  3. Spruce – lightweight softwood with a straight grain
  4. Cedar – softwood with a natural resistance to water, decay, and bugs
  5. Redwood – a premium softwood with high resilience when exposed to the elements
  6. Walnut – a strong and stable straight-grained hardwood
  7. Teak – a hardwood with high durability and water resistance
  8. Ipe – a premium priced exotic hardwood
  9. Cherry – a premium priced hardwood. Unstained it has a rich, beautiful color
  10. Oak – very durable hardwood with a distinctive look
  11. Composite – a mixture of wood, plastic, and binding agent

Deciding on your wood can be tricky and can make all the difference when it comes to your budget. There isn’t really a right or wrong answer here, you need to work with whatever suits you best, even if it requires a little bit more maintenance.

You will also need metal pergola frames. They come in handy kits that can be bolted together and your specific design can be made to measure.

Tools

Various tools on a wood floor

What you will need will vary slightly, but generally speaking, you will need;

  • Wooden posts (this will vary depending on your chosen pergola size)
  • Wood cross members (this will vary depending on your chosen pergola size)
  • Wooden beams (this will vary depending on your chosen pergola size)
  • Socket wrench/socket wrench drill bit
  • Bolts to support the frame
  • Screwdriver drill
  • Stainless steel screws
  • Table saw / circular saw
  • Cement

Installation

Pergola with benches built into it

There actually isn’t that many steps in the installation, but as usual, you must plan ahead!

Once you have all the correct measurements and have acquired all the tools and products necessary you are ready to go!

Step 1 – Fixing the upright posts

Make sure the area in which you are going to be working in is clear. Remove any furniture, potted plants, etc as these will get in the way and make the job harder.

Once your workspace is clear, measure where your pergola is going to be situated and dig holes for each upright. This will vary in size depending on how large your piece of wood is, but generally, a size of 1 foot by 1 foot wide and 2 foot deep should suffice.

Place posts into two of the holes and balance a crossbeam over the top of them. Use a spirit level to make sure that they are level and remove or backfill any mud to level the posts out. Then, simply repeat this process for the rest of the posts.

If you have any pieces of batton to hand that you can screw into the post this will help support them. You want to make sure all the posts are in line with each other and that they are level. Take your time to make sure they are perfect as this step can cause problems later on if not correctly done.

Next, you want to mix up some concrete and fill in the holes. We recommend you allow the concrete to set for at least 2 days before continuing with the build, however, this time can be reduced if you use quick drying post-crete.

Step 2 – Fixing the main beams

stacked wood boards

Once you have your upright posts in the ground and secured in place, you are now ready to attach the main beams.

A simple way to do this is to notch out a section from the top of the upright posts, which gives you a ledge for the main beam to sit onto. Use your spirit level to make sure that the beam is level and then screw through the beam to secure it in place. We recommend counter sinking your wood ever so slightly so that the screws aren’t on display.

Or if you prefer a metal look, you could also fix the main beam by drilling through both the post and the beam then secure it with coach bolts.

Step 3 – Fixing the cross beams

Once your main beams are set in place you are now ready to fix your cross beams. Start by laying the cross beams over the main beams in the place they are going to be positioned. Ensure they are equally distanced at both ends.

Next, mark on the cross beams where they touch on the main beams. Take them down and then cut out a notch so that the crossbeam slots snug over the main beam.

Make sure that you rebate each beam by the same amount so they are perfectly level across the top of the pergola.

Finally, fix each crossbeam in place using screws and if preferred, you can countersink your screw holes for a clean aesthetic.

Step 4 – Using a finish

The last step is to apply a protective finish. There is a wide variety of finishes available so be sure to use one that will offer protection for years to come.

Owatrol has a few products available that are suitable for use on a pergola. If you are looking for a rich natural looking finish, why not use Textrol?

Textrol enhances the natural beauty of the wood whilst providing a mildew-resistant finish with exceptional and long-lasting protection from the effects of moisture, weathering, and UV rays. It is applied wet-on-wet which saves time as you don’t need to wait for coats to dry during application and the maintenance is easy with local touch-ups and no laborious sanding required!

Or, if you are looking to have an opaque paint finish, then why not try Owatrol Solid Color Stain? Sold Color Stain is opaque wood protection and finish which saturates the wood to protect it from within. This means that there’s no film on the surface so it will not peel or flake.

Plants

Some people use a pergola as an opportunity to plant trailing plants such as wisteria, honeysuckle or clematis. This can create a beautiful pop of color in your garden as well as beautiful scents.

Trailing clematis on a pergola


So there you have it! Building a pergola really isn’t as hard as you may think.

If you have any tips or advice, please feel free to comment them below – we love hearing from you!

Solid Color Stain guarantee

*Owatrol International warrants SCS against peeling on wood decks for 5 years and against cracking, peeling and flaking on wood cladding for 15 years from the date of purchase if it is applied on bare wood to a properly prepared surface according to label directions – this means that all previous coatings MUST be properly removed before applying SCS or the adhesion could be compromised. Owatrol will, at its discretion, replace the material or refund the purchase price if SCS does not perform as described above. Please see the technical data sheet on the product page for the full warranty.

Owatrol Team
About Owatrol Team

Our team are ready and willing to support you with your requirements whether it is protecting your newly laid deck or renovating a luxury yacht, whatever the application Owatrol US has the solution you are looking for.

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