Build a Pergola – Simple Cedar Plan Idea

Build your own Simple Cedar Pergola.  Plans available for download in PDF Format.

See the How to Video.

How to Build a Pergola
Watch this video on YouTube.

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 a Pergola

The Sketchup Model

Animation to build a pergola step-by-step
Simple Cedar Pergola – 8’6″ on center

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. This ended up being a great place to build a pergola.

Animation to build a pergola step-by-step
Simple Cedar Pergola – 8’6″ overall height

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.

Animation to build a pergola step-by-step
Sketchup Model of a square pergola

The posts are 6x6 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.

Batter Boards

Animation to build a pergola step-by-step
Batter Boards with weighted mason string

To lay out the location of the footings I’ll use batter boards. I pound stakes into the ground and attach ledgers.

Animation to build a pergola step-by-step
3-4-5 triangle method to square mason layout lines

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.

Animation to build a pergola step-by-step
Plumb Bob suspended at intersection of layout lines

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.

Post Saddles

Animation to build a pergola step-by-step
Galvanized post saddle being set in wet concrete

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.

Animation to build a pergola step-by-step
Concrete footings (piers) poured in Sonotubes with post saddles

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 6x6 post saddle into the concrete before it set up.

Tools needed to build a pergola

Tools to build a pergola
Simple Cedar Pergola – Tools to get started with

Some simple tools are all that’s needed to build a pergola for this first part. A circular saw, a handsaw, a large speed square, plus layout and marking tools

5 thoughts on “Build a Pergola – Simple Cedar Plan Idea”

  1. Would 4×6” be strong enough for the two ridge beams or does it have to be 4×8” to support the roof?

    1. Kent Gravelle

      Hi Josh,
      A 4×6 would support it I would think. There might be some deflection and the rafters would not fully be supported on their ends. We used two 2×8’s glued and screwed together to make 4×8’s

  2. Reg Carroccia

    Approximately how many hours did it take to build the frame once the pieces were cut?
    Any idea of how much the entire project costed out for materials?

    1. If all the pieces are ready then I think the pergola could be assembled in a day. I built this one quite a few t=years ago and can’t recall the cost. I had the cedar milled. There’s a cut list with the plans so you could get pricing based on that I would think.

  3. Hello,

    New woodworker here with newbie questions.

    I’ve purchased the plan but looking at these instructions on the page, specifically the tools used and the purchased plan, there is nowhere that indicates why we need angled brackets or where to use them. Also, if required how many do we buy? There’s no quantity indicator.

    Do we need to purchase all those bits for this plan or were those just the sets you own?

    Thank you in advance!

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