Build your own Simple Cedar Pergola. Plans available for download in PDF Format.
See the How to Video.
For this blog post I’d like to go back and revisit a pergola I built a few years ago.
This build was prior to the launch of this YouTube channel but the construction and assembly of this structure is fairly straightforward so I’ll use some animation to show you how it was done.
Build the Pergola
The Sketchup Model
It’s made from rough sawn Western Red Cedar. And it’s located in the sunny, side yard of this residential house. Space was limited but the open design of a pergola lends itself well to this.
Each post sits on a round concrete pier that’s spaced 8′ 6″ inches on center. The overall height of the pergola is also 8 foot 6 with a head clearance of 7′ 3″. The concrete footings are poured below the frostline.
The posts are 6×6 and attached to galvanized saddles.
Four beams are bolted to the posts and run North to South. Ten rafters sit snuggly over these beams. They are grouped in pairs running East to West. Eight corner braces are attached either to a post and a rafter or to a post and a beam.Topping the structure are five louvers. These are also notched so they sit down on the rafters.
To lay out the location of the footings I’ll use batter boards. I pound stakes into the ground and attach ledgers.
I used a laser level to set all the tops of the batter boards on the same level plane.
Mason string weighted with bricks is strung across the boards on 8 foot 6 spacing. The strings are squared to each other by marking a point 3 feet and 4 feet from the intersection with a sharpie. Then adjusting the strings so these marks are 5 feet apart diagonally.
Another way to check for square is to measure diagonally intersection to string intersection and adjust until the distance is equal.
This is the same way I laid out the footings for my Garden Pavilion.
When everything is squared, a plumb bob is suspended at this intersection to mark the center of the hole. The hole is dug and a Sonotube is dropped in. The batter boards and strings are used to set a consistent height for all the tubes. I secured these cardboard tubes with additional stakes holding the tops 3″ above the lawn.
I dug below the frost line and opened up the hole at the bottom to create a wider foot (or base) for the column.
I mixed up a few bags of concrete in my wheelbarrow and filled each form. I set a 6×6 post saddle into the concrete before it set up.
Some simple tools are all that’s needed for the first part of this build. A circular saw, a handsaw, a large speed square, plus layout and marking tools
The posts are full dimension 6″x6″. This entire pergola is made from lumber supplied by my friend Jay. He has a portable mill and is a meticulous and accurate sawyer. I brought the rough lumber to the site and laid it over sawhorses for marking and cutting.
For this video, I had enough extra cedar lumber from other projects to show almost all the steps required to make each part of the pergola.
I draw a pencil line around the post on all four sides. If it’s square and true the lines will connect.
Each post is cut to length with 4 cuts using a circular saw, rotating the post a quarter turn each time, then finishing off the cut with a hand saw.
The top of each post has a 30 degree slope. This is mainly for aesthetics. I just liked that look. Pencil lines are drawn using a large speed square. I free handed the cuts for the front and back. Then I adjusted the angle of the blade and made the side cuts. Then finished with a handsaw.
I chamfer the top edges of the post with a sanding disc on my angle grinder. And the rest of the corners with the power plane. I like this look and I do this on other outdoor structures I’ve built. I think it’s worth the extra time.
You could use the angle grinder for all the chamfering but, I find the power plane works better on long runs.
These posts are then set in the saddles, tilted up, and plumbed with a spirit level. Stakes are driven in and temporary braces hold them in place. Screws are driven through the saddles into the bottom of each post.
I then cut the four 2×8 beams to length. Mark a 45 degree angled section for the end profile and mark the locations for the carriage bolts that run through the posts on the two outermost beams. These holes are drilled with a guide.
Now I cut off the angled piece with circular saw and square. These are also chamfered with the angle grinder and/or the power plane. I stain most of the pieces prior to assembly. So much easier to do on sawhorses than up on a ladder later.
I attach some guide blocks to the posts and set the beams in place.
The beams are clamped to the posts and checked for level. I then drill through the beam, the post, and the opposing beam with a long 3/8 bit. I tap in a carriage bolt and secure it with a flat washer, a lock washer, and a nut.
Now the support blocks can be removed.
Like the beams, the rafters are cut to length. The end profile marked and cut. And the edges chamfered.
The rafters fit over the beams. Two notches on each end of the rafter needs to be cut. I mark the rafter where it sits on the beam.
If the marks line up on the four rafters that surround the posts then I gang them together with clamps. I set the depth required on my circular saw and make a series of close cuts through the first four rafters. With a hammer, I break off and knock out these wafer pieces. Then clean up with a chisel.
Alternatively these could be cut individually with a jigsaw. Or, if the marks on the beams don’t line up just so.
These rafters are set in place. And they are screwed directly to the posts.
The corner braces are made from 2×6 stock. They are simple braces with 45 degree angles. First I cut the side braces on the miter saw. Then drill holes for the carriage bolts that will connect it to the beam. Then I’ll mark the hole location where a lag bolt will attach it to a post.
These braces are attached with lag bolts in the same way as the woodshed I built.
The woodshed braces are curved but the lag bolts were done the same way. I drilled into the post, then ran in the bolt with an impact driver.
Now I’ll cut the side braces to length. And pre drill the carriage bolt holes.
The lag bolt holes are drilled at approximately 20 degrees so the lag bolts will pull them into the corner. I tilt the table of my drill press to 20 degrees. A forstner bit can be used first to countersink a larger diameter for the washer of the lag bolt. Then I drill through for the shank of the bolt.
It’s possible to freehand all of this during construction if you don’t have a drill press.
The braces are now chamfered and stained.
A little construction adhesive would help during assembly to add a bit more rigidity to the pergola. The braces are clamped in place and holes drilled for the carriage bolts at the tops. And holes are also drilled in the posts for the lag bolts as shown previously. The top of the brace is bolted to a rafter or a beam.
Now the temporary bracing can be removed. And the rest of the fill-in rafters are toe screwed to the beams.
Next the 2×4 louvers are made. They’re made in the same way as the beams and rafters. They are marked, ganged together with clamps, and notched with a circular saw. They are set in place and screwed to the rafters.
If you want more shade you can add more louvers to the pergola.
And this simple pergola is done.
What I like about this pergola is it’s simplicity and how the rafters are notched into the beams, and the louvers into the rafters. I think taking the extra time to do that is well worth it. I also like the chamfered edges – I think that’s also worth the extra effort.
I finished the pergola with a semi-transparent stain. I stained each part prior to assembly. Not always required but it can make things easier to roll on finish with boards laying over a sawhorse instead of overhead.
And thanks to everyone who has supported our channel through Patreon. It’s very much appreciated.
I have a full set of plans available for download.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading
See also: Shed Style Garden Pavilion
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- Dewalt 12″ Sliding Compound Miter Saw (DWS779)
- Dewalt Miter-Saw Workstation Tool Mounting Brackets (DW7231)
- Dewalt Heavy Duty Miter Saw Stand (DWX723)
- 10″ Bench Drill Press with Laser
- Dewalt 20V MAX Compact Drill/Driver set
- Dewalt 20V Battery Charger
- 20V Dewalt Batteries
- Milwaukee 7 1/4″ 15 Amp Circular Saw (6390)
- Bosch 1375A 4-1/2-Inch Angle Grinder similar to mine
- 4-1/2-Inch Sander Backing Pad with Lock Nut
- Electric Hand Planer
- Excellent Hammer
- Woodworking Chisel Set
- Pipe Clamps
- Irwin Tool Quick-Grip Clamp Set
- Laser Level
- 48″ Spirit Level
- Johnson 7″ Speed Square
- Adjustable Combination Square
- Framing Square
- Swanson 12″ Speed Square
- Carpenter’s Pencil
- Orange Mason Line
Adhesive & Finish
Drill Bits & Blades
- Grizzly Master Forstner Bit, 31-Piece (H7694)
- Countersink Drill Set
- Brad Point Drill Bit Set
- Long Drill Bits
- Drill Guide
- Bosch 9″ Jigsaw Blades
- Bosch 6″ Jigsaw Blades
- Oscillating Tool Blade Pack