Build a Pergola on Your Existing Deck

A bedroom window was replaced with a sliding glass door out onto the recycled deck.  The addition of a pergola makes it a cozy outdoor "room".
A bedroom window was replaced with a sliding glass door out onto the recycled deck. The addition of a pergola makes it a cozy outdoor "room".
This pergola was built on this recycled porch.
This pergola was built on this recycled porch.
The 6x6 was notched to allow the 2x6 beams to sit on the top for support.  This is one of the end columns where the beam meets the end. This design will support more weight than it will probably ever see. I didn't want rusty hardware to ever cause th
The 6x6 was notched to allow the 2x6 beams to sit on the top for support. This is one of the end columns where the beam meets the end. This design will support more weight than it will probably ever see. I didn't want rusty hardware to ever cause th
To span a deck that is longer or wider than the lumber, I set a column at the mid-span, notched it, and butted the two beams together on its top.  The 6x8 on top was notched to sit over the butt joint which stabilized the joint and center span.
To span a deck that is longer or wider than the lumber, I set a column at the mid-span, notched it, and butted the two beams together on its top. The 6x8 on top was notched to sit over the butt joint which stabilized the joint and center span.
I decided to build a double 2x6 beam across the top and instead of using lag or wood screws to support it, I notched the 6x6's such that the 2x6's set on top of the 6x6.
I decided to build a double 2x6 beam across the top and instead of using lag or wood screws to support it, I notched the 6x6's such that the 2x6's set on top of the 6x6.
4x6's support the porch swing and sit across the 2x6 beams.
4x6's support the porch swing and sit across the 2x6 beams.
The swing is held up by eye bolts.  Alternately, the swing manufacturer supplied lag screws with a nice quiet plastic hinge.  Had I known they were going to be included, I would have saved drilling and installing the eye-bolts (live and learn)!
The swing is held up by eye bolts. Alternately, the swing manufacturer supplied lag screws with a nice quiet plastic hinge. Had I known they were going to be included, I would have saved drilling and installing the eye-bolts (live and learn)!
As the pergola took shape and became a reality, we ordered this cypress swing from Ebay. Hopefully cypress will live up to its reputation as being weather resistant....
As the pergola took shape and became a reality, we ordered this cypress swing from Ebay. Hopefully cypress will live up to its reputation as being weather resistant....
The most basic stable structure is a triangle, a lesson I will never forget from our college "bridge building" contest (another story). So for this project, we cut some 2x12's into an arch shape and I fastened them between the 2x6 beams to form trian
The most basic stable structure is a triangle, a lesson I will never forget from our college "bridge building" contest (another story). So for this project, we cut some 2x12's into an arch shape and I fastened them between the 2x6 beams to form trian
I used bolts and blocks to pin the braces and beams together and the 4x6 on top is notched to slip down securely over the assembly (I actually had to hammer it down into place).
I used bolts and blocks to pin the braces and beams together and the 4x6 on top is notched to slip down securely over the assembly (I actually had to hammer it down into place).
This puts all the swing weight directly down on the columns instead of against screws or bolts.
This puts all the swing weight directly down on the columns instead of against screws or bolts.
The 6x6's support all the weight and the swing hangs from 4x6's suspended over 2x6 beams.
The 6x6's support all the weight and the swing hangs from 4x6's suspended over 2x6 beams.
The 6x6's are held on to the deck by metal brackets which are in-and-of themselves very unstable. A light breeze would blow them down if they were not stabilized by the braces above. The proper way to do this is to bury the 6x6 in a 4' deep concrete
The 6x6's are held on to the deck by metal brackets which are in-and-of themselves very unstable. A light breeze would blow them down if they were not stabilized by the braces above. The proper way to do this is to bury the 6x6 in a 4' deep concrete
These "shoes" that hold the braces up are also 2x6 cedar decking. There are three screws in the back of the shoes directly into the braces, then we put them up and screwed them onto the 6x6. The router gives them a little shape.
These "shoes" that hold the braces up are also 2x6 cedar decking. There are three screws in the back of the shoes directly into the braces, then we put them up and screwed them onto the 6x6. The router gives them a little shape.
While we were at it, there was an outlet directly behind this wall. I drilled through to the outlet box and added this weather-proof exterior outlet by the door. You never know when you'll need to plug a skill saw in outside!
While we were at it, there was an outlet directly behind this wall. I drilled through to the outlet box and added this weather-proof exterior outlet by the door. You never know when you'll need to plug a skill saw in outside!
You may find that you have to re-route or relocate a few details.... Such as this gutter down spout.  Because I built the pergola right up under the eaves of the house, I had to re-route this roof downspout around the beams. I used a couple of 90-deg
You may find that you have to re-route or relocate a few details.... Such as this gutter down spout. Because I built the pergola right up under the eaves of the house, I had to re-route this roof downspout around the beams. I used a couple of 90-deg
Here's another problem you may run into. Just behind the light and directly behind the 6x6, you can just see the original light fixture box. We mounted a new box and ran a short conduit piece over to remount the porch light.
Here's another problem you may run into. Just behind the light and directly behind the 6x6, you can just see the original light fixture box. We mounted a new box and ran a short conduit piece over to remount the porch light.
And finally the pergola is done, the house repainted, and a few unwanted trees removed.
And finally the pergola is done, the house repainted, and a few unwanted trees removed.

Here is a simple pergola that I constructed at my primary residence. I posted this on MySpace and got a little positive feedback so thought I would share it here was well. I built this on a deck but it could also be constructed over a patio. This an investment in time. Materials will probably cost around $500 - $600.

HISTORY

This particular pergola started with a deck that was in the front of this house when we bought it. I began the deck/pergola project by literally ripping the deck off the front of the house with my little Kubota tractor. When the deck didn't come apart as I thought it would, I dragged it around to the back of the house. It stayed in one piece so we decided to remount it to the back of the house and replace a window with a sliding glass door from the bedroom (another story)...

PROJECT DETAILS

After reading about pergola's in library books, I settled on my own design using parts of styles from different books. However, being an engineer, I wanted my pergola to be able to support more than the shade....I wanted it to support a porch swing and eventually a full roof of grape vines (or Hops). Instead of giving the exact dimensions of cuts, etc (yours are going to vary with your project anyway), I thought I would share some close-up photos of the finished product. I believe it better shows the design than a schematic diagram. Please scroll through the pictures and feel free to email any questions you may have.

MATERIALS

  • Pressure Treated Lumber: 6x6, 4x6, 6x8, 2x6, 4x8, 4x4, 2x4, 2x12, or whatever size you want to work with to get the desired appearance. 4x4 is standard and plenty strong. My pergola is over-kill but made of materials I had on hand.
  • Copper Sulfate: Or any other "end treatment". "Paint" the cut ends of pressure treated lumber to prevent insects, mildew, or dry-rot from destroying your creation.
  • Cedar Decking: Used for trim pieces, it has excellent weather resistance and durability. It will weather and age to a grey appearance unlike the pressure treated lumber.
  • Deck Screws: 3" minimum length, exterior use. You don't want to try removing rusty screws after a few years, or worse yet have them fail from corrosion.
  • Lag Screws: Lag screws should not be overlooked as a good option to fasten the heavier lumber together. They allow less movement than bolts - and wood moves - but can pull out if improperly installed.
  • Bolts (with Nuts and Washers): Stainless steel or zinc plated. Use them as "pins". They allow some movement in the joints but keep the members in place. They're not subject to pulling out of the wood (as lag screws may be) and they are easy to check for maintenance.
  • Optional: Cypress swing (I got mine on Ebay)

1) Columns: This will be the foundation of your pergola so should be stout enough to support whatever you build over it. Since I wanted to use all pressure treated lumber AND support a load over the pergola (eventually), I opted for 6x6 columns. Most pergolas would be fine using a 4x4 column. To make this structure as maintenance free as possible, I decided to notch the top of the column to allow the beams to rest on them rather than hang from a screw (which would be much faster to construct). The base of the column sits in a metal bracket (from Home Depot) that is attached to the surface of the deck. Ideally the columns would have been anchored in concrete and the deck attached to them but this pergola was an afterthought and the deck already existed.

2) Beams: Again, considering loads, I went with 2x6 beams all around. For the long span of the deck, I doubled the beams to carry the vines I hope will one-day grow over this as a "roof". 2x4's would probably be sufficient for most pergola (pergola's...pergoli?). Typically, you would use lag screws or even decking screws to attach your beams to the columns. I went with plated bolts to pin the beams in the notches on top of the columns. This should support more weight than the deck (which is sitting on 4x4's).

3) Braces: I used 2x12's for the bracing, an idea straight out of a book I got from the library. The 2x12's were cut to fit and then arched with a jigsaw. This also gives you room to walk close to a column without ducking to avoid the brace. To attached the braces to the columns, I cut a 2x6 cedar board to length and routered all edges with a cove bit. Three 3" deck screws hold the "shoe" to the brace from the back. Six 3" deck screws hold the shoe onto the columns and/or beams. The braces aren't carrying a lot of weight - they're mainly there to stabilize the assembly.

4) Finishing: Before I cut the trim pieces to length, I ran the entire 2x6 across a router to give the top edge a cove. To cover the metal brackets at the base of each column, I cut coved 2x6 cedar decking to length with a miter saw - each end has a 45° cut. Then using a nylon strap to cinch the trim tight, I finish nailed them together around the bracket.

SUMMARY

Adding a pergola is one of the many things you can do to improve the value of your house. It costs relatively little in materials but pays back dividends if you spend your time to make it happen. It really isn't that hard to construct and you don't need a lot of wood-working tools to make it happen. This one was built using a circular saw almost exclusively. The arches were made with a jig saw and (once it melted) a reciprocating saw. Some finishing touches required a router.

And lastly, never forget the three major rules of carpentry:

  • Plumb
  • Square
  • Level

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Comments 14 comments

AmandaB profile image

AmandaB 8 years ago from Middletown

Nice job on the pergola, it looks fantastic. Great pictures too!


pergolaplans profile image

pergolaplans 8 years ago from Perth, UK

Brilliant Hub - Excellent description, it's as good as step-by-step instruction manual


Rob Jundt profile image

Rob Jundt 8 years ago from Midwest USA

Excellent hub with great detail and information. Very impressive.


dlarson profile image

dlarson 8 years ago from Priest River, ID Author

Thank you all for the positive comments. I would like to update.

Originally I installed heavy duty eyelets to hang the porch swing from. This proved to be a mistake - the bolts work themselves loose. This weekend I installed the hinged swing hangers provided by the manufacturer of the swing. They installed as lag screws and have a pastic bearing that makes the swing very smooth and quiet.

As for the swing itself, even Cypress molds in the Northwest! We had to give it a good cleaning and scrubbing this spring to get the mold and mildew off. Better to take it down and put it inside for the winter.


jimcrowthers profile image

jimcrowthers 8 years ago from Port Charlotte

Wow, that's a fantastic looking pergola! Great job, and thanks for the info on how to make one!


Mary 8 years ago

Very nice.....I'm most impressed that you pulled the deck off the front of the house and it didn't come apart. That was/is one well built deck. :)


cwilliams 7 years ago

very good insructions plus it looks good


Cindy 7 years ago

Thank you so much for the info we are building one thi weekend and I was looking for info. You did a great job. Love your house so cute. Congrats.


Debbie 7 years ago

Were you careful to locate the supports for the pergola (in the metal brackets on the deck) over the supports for the deck? We want to construct one on our elevated deck, which has plenty of support and want to make sure the load gets transferred properly.

Thanks for any advice.


Linda 7 years ago

I love it, can't wait to start on my own, thanks!


michelle.dragon99 profile image

michelle.dragon99 7 years ago

wow great effort....respect u:)


stephanie 6 years ago

how sweet of u...thanks for sharing this :)


stephanie 6 years ago

how sweet of u...thanks for sharing this :)


martinnitsim 4 years ago

hello there susie it took me ages to find it this is the link

and details, there there most competitive in the game ,say martin netsims give you there number

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