First pergola

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Project by lbmrJohn posted 11-03-2012 01:39 AM 2748 views 12 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My wife has been asking for a pergola for quite some time. After taking it easy for the summer, I finally had the ambition to take it on. The verticals and supports are 5×5 tamarack. The top is made up of 3”x 6”x 16’ hemlock and is topped of with 1.5” square hemlock.

All of the wood was custom cut for this project and took about three weeks to build over the nights and weekends. I was able to put the whole thing together alone after careful planning on how to lift the lumber and level the whole thing out.

I’ve got enough wood left over to build a couple of small lattice that will be used to get some vines and hops up to the top to provide additional cover.

The strength was already tested this past week with the hurricane, so I can finally stop worrying about the stability of it!

25 comments so far

View Gary's profile


9352 posts in 3575 days

#1 posted 11-03-2012 02:31 AM

Dang,dude…that thing is really nice. You did a fine job. I’ve had on in the bucket list for at least 2 years. Maybe I should just hire you!!!

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View whitebeast88's profile


4128 posts in 2333 days

#2 posted 11-03-2012 02:44 AM

great pergola!!!
welcome to lumberjocks.

-- Marty.Athens,AL

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2331 days

#3 posted 11-03-2012 03:29 AM

Very nice ! How rot resistant are your tamarack and hemlock ?

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View JarodMorris's profile


167 posts in 2518 days

#4 posted 11-03-2012 03:55 AM

If you fall off your ladder when making this and die, I think you’ll be sent to pergola-tory. I’ll be here all week folks.

-- Dad: Someone was supposed to pick up his toys! Son: My name isn't "Someone".

View LittlePaw's profile


1571 posts in 3221 days

#5 posted 11-03-2012 04:23 AM

My wife and I both want such a pergola in our back yard, but I’m no carpenter – just a carver. That’s a really nice one you build. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one built so strong before. Really NICE! Also, WELCOME to the LJ – we’re all slightly goofey and high on saw dust!

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View woodworm's profile


14470 posts in 3733 days

#6 posted 11-03-2012 06:23 AM

Sweet project – very very nicely done!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View deon's profile


2522 posts in 3168 days

#7 posted 11-03-2012 06:44 AM

Great work!

-- Dreaming patterns

View lbmrJohn's profile


8 posts in 2174 days

#8 posted 11-03-2012 11:21 AM

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Dwight, everything is treated with a waterproofing stain, so I think it should last quite a while with a little upkeep. Tamarack is a rot resistant wood, but to be safe, it is in the ground with 3/8” crushed stone to help with the drainage. It also means if it ever rots out, I can ‘simply’ pull it out and put a new one in.

View Jim55's profile


171 posts in 2209 days

#9 posted 11-03-2012 12:49 PM

That’s a nice build! We have a back patio that would really benefit from one of those and building your own is definitely a good idea considering the cost. We have an area of 16’x20’ to cover and so far all bids are in excess of $2,000!

I like the idea of the thin strips to increase the shade area.

Where did you get that tamarack and other woods? Are they perhaps local to your area?

Surviving a hurricane is a testament to the quality of you planning and work, in addition to the wisdom of the original designer of pergolas. Most shade systems would be ripped up and blown away by any such storm. A pergola by design doesn’t give storm winds much to get ahold of. Not news to most of you I am sure. But, that aspect of it, based on your reference to hurricane, just made it occur to me.

View Bruce DuPlanty's profile

Bruce DuPlanty

7 posts in 3399 days

#10 posted 11-03-2012 01:13 PM

Very nice, looks great!

-- Bruce DuPlanty

View lbmrJohn's profile


8 posts in 2174 days

#11 posted 11-03-2012 01:53 PM

Jim, the tamarack is all native cut by a local sawyer. I was able to barter some website work for the lumber, and traded my neighbor some home brewed beer for the pea stone. I only had to pay about $100 out of pocket for the bolts and screws. With that said, the tamarack goes for about $1 bd ft and the hemlock is $.80 a bd ft. It would have come out to about $350 if I were to buy it outright for a 16’x13’ patio.

View Woodwrecker's profile


4191 posts in 3718 days

#12 posted 11-03-2012 02:05 PM

One of the nicest ones I’ve seen.
Great work.

View Gary's profile


1313 posts in 4467 days

#13 posted 11-03-2012 02:25 PM

Looks real nice.

-- Gary, Florida

View AaronK's profile


1507 posts in 3607 days

#14 posted 11-03-2012 02:32 PM

that’s really nice! I have a few questions :)

1 – how is it joined together?

2 – you mentioned the posts buried in gravel – is that it then? No poured concrete and massive lag screws?

3 – did you have help assembling it? how did you make sure this massive frame was square?

View lbmrJohn's profile


8 posts in 2174 days

#15 posted 11-03-2012 03:26 PM


1. Currently the top support rails are attached to the verticals with 8” lag bolts through the top. I’m also cutting custom 1/8” steel mending plates to attach the top rail to the verticals, but they are not complete yet. The rafters have a 3/4” notch cut out and are toe nailed in. The top 1.5” square pieces (purlin I believe) have a 3.5” deck screw each place it makes contact with the rafter. I wanted to make sure the rafters would not bow as they dried out.

2. That’s it. Each one has roughly a 4” gravel base for drainage, then the post sits 3’ in the ground. I used a mini sledge hammer and a 2×4 to pack in the gravel. The posts are not going anywhere!

3. I did it all by myself. I first assembled the right side verticals and support and made sure it was perfectly square and level. When I assembled the left side, I purposely sat the verticals lower in the ground. Once I put the first rafter up, I put a 4’ level on the rafter and was able to level it by lifting up one of the verticals as needed. When I lifted it, the gravel would fall under it, which couldn’t have worked out better. Once that side was level, it was easy to finish leveling and squaring the left side verticals and support rail. Hope that makes sense!

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