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Monday, July 16, 2012

Getting Started Building a Pergola

Like many people these days you have decided that it is better to improve your home than to buy a new one. This summer it seems that every other house on my street is undergoing some kind of renovations. New roofs, walls, landscaping, driveways, gates, windows and painting are all getting done. The stagnant economy is keeping people where they are, but there is still a desire to improve and upgrade where you live. For a lot of you that means starting out with something simple that you can do yourself such as building a pergola.

Where will you place your pergola?

You’ve decided to build a pergola and create a shaded spot for an outdoor seating area. Most houses already have a concrete slab patio or a deck in the yard. Perhaps you have a flagstone or paver patio. Or maybe your yard is just all lush green grass. In any example you can easily secure pergola posts and build the structure anywhere you choose. A pergola can very easily be attached to the back of the house or be free standing. Create your seating area or outdoor kitchen where you can have the most privacy or to take advantage of the nicest views from your yard. 

Securing the posts to concrete

Since most people have a concrete slab off the back of their house creating a natural patio seating area, securing pergola posts to concrete is the most common and easiest method. Attach brackets to the concrete with tapcon screws and then secure your posts in the brackets. This method is perfect not only because it is sturdy but also because the brackets create the recommended one inch gap between the bottom of the post and the slab so that water won’t accumulate. 

What if you need to dig?

For yard with flagstone pavers or no hard surface patio at all, you will need to dig holes. Pavers are not strong enough for securing a pergola. Remove the pavers from the place where the posts will be and dig a hole. You will need to dig below the average frost level in your area to prevent frost heave - which happens as the ground freezes and then thaws - from pushing your pergola out of the ground. Pour concrete into the hole and then place Simpson strong tie brackets at the top making sure they are all level. When the concrete dries secure the posts to the brackets. 

Deck pergola installation.

The key to securing pergola posts to an existing wood deck is to use the framing as the attachment spot. You cannot just add a post to any single floor board because they may not bear the weight. Blocking needs to be added to the deck floor if that is your only choice to help spread the load. A metal anchor should be used as a mounting bracket for the posts.

Consider a pergola kit if you have a little extra money

Pergola kits are excellent alternatives to building your own. They are all pre-fabricated and partially put together in easy to ship sections. They come with complete instructions for you to follow. All the hardware necessary to secure your pergola to any surface will be included. You simply need to let the manufacturer know what you need. You will need one person to help you, but it will take much less time and effort than building from scratch.

Whether you choose a pergola kit or decide to build your own pergola, you will be very happy with the results. Pergolas are inexpensive and easy to install. Just one weekend of work and you will have added style and value to your yard. You will enjoy the pergola for many years.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Let's Talk About Pergola Permits

Before you get too far into planning your pergola building project, you must look into the possibility of obtaining a pergola building permit. Building permit applications are granted by your city building commission. Every city planning department has a section that handles building addition permits and they all have pages on their websites that can let you know if you might need to get one for a pergola.

Chances are about fifty fifty that you will need one. Some cities look at the simplistic design, lack of walls and complete roof and are note concerned. Others look at the fact that people will be sitting under the pergola or cooking or placing plants to grow on it and want to make sure it is built to carry it's load and not buckle or topple in bad weather or under normal wear and tear.

Don't stress if you do need a permit. All you need to do is sketch out where it will be on your property, fill in the dimensions and let them know exactly what type of wood or other material you will use. In other words, you just need to give them your pergola plans that you will be following.

There will be a small fee to apply for the permit. Again, it varies by city, but of the ones that want you to obtain a permit, some may then require a final inspection after it is done to make sure you followed everything you said you would in the application.

Do take the time to check! You don't want to find out after that you violated a regulation and have to tear it down. That will cost you a lot more money and hassle than the simple application process will!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fun with Pergola Roofs

As you think about the pergola design you would like to build in your yard, keep in mind how the roof will look from all sight lines.  Consider too, just how much shade you want it to provide and what is the best placement for you to take advantage of that shade from all possible sunshine angles. It can be quite easy to overlook the many details of your pergola roof but you really don’t want to fall into that trap!

In the photo above this redwood pergola rafters and slats are the same two inch width. This provides a uniform square pattern on the ground that is very appealing to the eye in combination with the concrete pavers. The slats are also placed quite close together to increase the shaded areas. While increasing the slat and or rafter count will increase the overall costs of the pergola, if the ultimate goal is to cool off a particularly hot and sunny spot, then it will be worth the small increase.

You should also put up some construction stakes and line to give yourself a preview of what your pergola will look like before you get started. If you have a two story house you want to get an idea of what a view like the one above would look like. Will the pergola roof block or distract from any existing views that you want to keep? What about your nearest neighbors? If there are no local home owner’s or permitting rules instructing you on height or view blocking limitations, you should still be a courteous neighbor and try not to build anything that will be an eyesore.

Finally, you should go an sit out where you want to build your pergola if the area is to be designed for seating. Look around you and see what your views will be like. Look up and see who is potentially looking down on you! What will the wind be like in that spot? Will you perhaps want to put up a partial lattice wall on any particular side for either privacy or wind protection?

 If you take the time to think about all these little details you will be even more happy with the pergola design you choose. Better to layout and preview your pergola plan twice, and only build it once than the other way around!

As always, for the best darn email tips and instructions on how to build a pergola, visit PergolaDIY.