Bored Of Your Garden? Learn How To Build A Pergola In The UK

With the arrival of sunny days, it’s vital to have some shade to shield yourself from the sun, yes even in the UK. Building your own gazebo and arbours can be a nice solution! But what else can you do? Pergolas can be a lovely addition that fits any garden structure, providing shady seating areas and shelter in the summer as well as a lovely frame for vines and climbing plants. They bring elegance and appeal to your landscape, and they are simple to build! Are you ready for your pergola plan?

Modern outdoor pergola

In fact, building your own is not only a rewarding DIY project, but it will also save you loads of money. So, if you’ve decided to build a pergola, and you’d like to get started right away, read on for our top tips below and optimise your experience from start to finish.

Where to place your pergola

When deciding on the optimum position for your pergola, one to match your garden furniture, keep in mind that placing it right behind your house sometimes shades your home’s windows as well. While shading windows that receive scorching afternoon light may be helpful, you may also want sun in that area to prevent your home from getting too dark. So, it depends on your needs!

Look for spots in your backyard where the pergola can blend in with your landscaping for a more natural look. With an open-roof pergola, situate the rafters north and south for the best shade coverage for most of the day. 

The rafters cast extensive lines of shadows under the structure as the light moves across the sky, except around midday when the sun is directly overhead. Even in the middle of the day though, extra shade can be provided by climbing vines on your garden pergola.

Preparing before the project

Here are a few things you need to keep in mind for your garden pergola plans when building and choosing your design:

Are you required to have a permit?

Before you fit your pergola in the new living space, determine whether or not you actually need a permit or any other type of approval before moving on with your pergola plans. Generally, pergolas do not require approval because they are not complete outdoor structures, but some towns have tougher requirements than others – particularly in locations where severe weather is a problem. 

As a result, the first step is to verify your local codes for permits. You will almost certainly need approval before adding any type of electrical wiring, such as for a ceiling fan or outside lights. Don’t do anything unless you’ve double-checked it! You don’t want to take everything apart or make costly changes afterwards.

Outdoor pergola with garden lounge

Before you dig, inspect all utilities

Perhaps an even more costly blunder would be to choose your pergola‘s location without first ensuring that there is nothing underground that could be destroyed as you begin digging post holes.

You must be aware of the location of water, and electricity lines, as breaking any of them would be extremely disruptive and even more costly than building without a permit.

Be aware of your frost level

If you reside in a cold frosty environment, you should be aware of the average frost depth that happens throughout the year. Frost depth is the depth level to which the ground freezes.

It’s crucial to know this level because you’ll need to dig below the usual frost level while installing and anchoring your pergola posts to avoid frost heave, which occurs when the ground freezes and then thaws, from pulling your pergola out of the ground.

Wisely select your building materials

Homeowners always favour wooden pergolas. For a perfect pergola project, wood is always a lovely, affordable, and widely available material. Softwood, redwood and cedar are naturally beautiful and insect-resistant which is a perfect fit for many garden ideas. However, due to their scarcity, they are often more expensive. 

In most circumstances, pressure-treated wood is the cheapest option because it is widely available and it’s available at most timber yards in the UK. You can also consider timber decking that is a perfect option for pergolas as well as gazebos and arbours.

Pergola in the garden with plants

How to make your own pergola step-by-step

Things you are going to need

For building one from scratch, you are going to need the following materials: 

  • Wood chisel
  • Screws
  • Jigsaw
  • Nails
  • Mallet
  • Wood primer
  • Spade
  • Concrete mix
  • Drill

These are all the steps you need to follow from start to finish in order to achieve all the desired effects: 

Step 1: Take a measurement of the area

Measure and mark a 2.4 m square and spray-paint each of the square’s corners. The length and width of your pergola will be determined by this. If you want a larger or smaller pergola, measure and mark a different sized square. Then, dig a hole in each corner of your measured space. 

The depth of each hole should be between 70 and 125 cm. These holes will keep your posts in place and prevent your pergola from collapsing. Make each corner hole 20 cm x 20 cm to accommodate your pergola posts

Add around 10 cm of gravel to the hole’s bottom as this will provide a solid foundation for your posts. If you do not do this, the posts will sink deep into the ground. At this point, you should have four gravel-filled holes. To level the holes, measure their depth and remove or add gravel. Be sure to not miss this step, or else, your pergola will be unbalanced

Materials and accessories for making a pergola

Step 2: Putting the foundation posts in place

Insert a post in the first hole. These posts should be 20 cm x 20 cm with a height of 3 m. Work on each post individually until they’re all securely fastened to the ground. Place one end of the post in the hole and ensure it is flat on the gravel. 

As you move on to the next stage, keep the post in place and check to see if it is level. Hold a spirit level against the post vertically. Your level’s bubble should be in the centre of the level indicator. You can also use a laser level! To support your post, nail smaller boards to it. 

Hold the posts in place while you nail 0.3 – 0.5 m of smaller wood posts to either side of the post at a 30-degree angle. One end of the brace board should be pressed against the ground, while the other end should be pressed up against your post. Then, to keep it in place, drive a nail through the brace and into the post. 

Insert the remaining posts into the holes and brace them all together.  Repeat the procedure on the next three posts. Once you’re finished, each foundation post should stand upright, forming the pergola‘s base. Next, buy a 36 kg bag of concrete and fill a wheelbarrow with the dry concrete dust. 

Pour the water slowly into the concrete dust and stir it in with a shovel. Next, pour the concrete into the post hole until it reaches a depth of 7.5–15 cm from the top. Make sure the concrete doesn’t overflow; or else, it will look sloppy.

Aerate the concrete in the hole by stirring it and mix the concrete with a stick while it’s still wet. Next, give it 24 hours to dry as it should be firm enough to hold the foundation posts of your pergola in place. 

Then, remove the braces from the posts and set them aside and remove the nails too from your posts’ braces. They should now be securely planted in the ground and standing vertically.

Aman putting up the roof from a pergola

Step 3: Putting up the roof

Make a 0.6 m mark from the top on both sides of each pillar and make an X in the middle of each post. Mark the side that faces your pergola and is pointed inward. Mark another X too on the other side of the post. These lines will provide a place for your cross beams to rest when you nail them in. 

Make these scribbles on each of the four posts and then hammer the nails halfway into the posts. The length of your nails should be around 10 cm. Place cross beams on top of the nails and keep them level by using those nails to keep them in place. 

By now, there should be two pairs of beams on the opposing sides of each post. Make sure the tiebeams are level by placing a spirit level on top of them, then attach them to the foundation pillars to keep them in place. The beams should be screwed or bolted to the posts. Install two screws on either end of the tie beam to keep it in place.

You should now have two cross beams running parallel to each other on each side of the pergola. The ones that will run horizontally across your pergola will be temporarily held up with these nails. Then, drive the nail halfway through on each of the four posts.

Pull out the nails that hold your beams in place with the back of the hammer and put eight rafters across all of them. These rafters should be the same size as the cross beams. Place the rafters perpendicular to the beams. The distance between each rafter should be 0.3 m

8 top slats should be nailed into the rafters. Drive a nail into each end of all eight slats (0.3 m) and line them up. Now, the roof of your pergola is complete. You can consider adding trellis on top as a form of decoration

closeup to a pergola

Now that your DIY pergola is complete and freestanding, all you have to do is pour yourself a drink and relax in your new outdoor space. Rest assured, with these easy steps, you will find the whole experience nothing but fulfilling! 

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