How to build a pergola? DIY

How to build a pergola? DIY

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  • By Vincent Verhaaff
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How to build a pergola? DIY

Building a pergola is not so difficult as it seems. A bit of a handy(wo)man can do it yourself! In the blog post we provide you tips and trics to build your own pergola. To ease the job, we propose different types of pargola brackets, screws, timber, shade sails, anything you need to do the job!

How to build a pergola yourself?

Building your own pergola is not as difficult as it seems! If you are a bit handy, you can easily make a pergola yourself. In this blog post, we will give you tips and ideas to build your own pergola from wood and which accessories or elements you can use to do it quickly, save and simply!


What types of pergolas exist?

Actually, we can distinguish 2 types of pergolas:

  • - Freestanding pergola, This is a pergola that is not attached to anything and has at least 4 posts.
  • - lean to pergola, This type of pergola is attached to a wall at at least one side, in this case the pergola has 2 posts, but it can also be built in a corner of 2 walls so that the pergola only needs 1 post. It is even possible to build a pergola in a corner of 3 walls so that you don't need any posts at all!
    There are also two versions that exist of the lean to pergola,model A, where the fabric slides away from or towards the wall, and model B where the fabric slides parallel to the wall.

Vrijstaande pergola met Nesling harmonicadoek Muur pergola type A - harmonicadoek schuift naar de muur toe of er vanaf Muur pergola type B - harmonicadoek schuift evenwijdig aan de muur



When to use which type of pergola?

First, it depends on whether you have a wall available. If this is not the case, then of course you should make a free-standing pergola. If you do have a wall, first check whether your wall is sturdy enough to attach a pergola to it. A wall of brick, concrete or the modern insulation bricks with many hollow spaces should all be suitable. However, if you have insulation on the outside of your wall, it is better to install a free-standing pergola against the wall. The same applies to rental properties, use a free-standing pergola to avoid problems with the landlord. Do you have an owner-occupied flat in an apartment building? Then take a good look at what the rules of the owners' association stipulate... Sometimes you are not allowed to drill into the walls, in which case you are better off using a free-standing pergola!


Where can you place a pergola?

Everywhere actually! Most people think of a pergola when they think of a pergola placed in the garden or on a terrace... But a pergola also offers many possibilities on a balcony! Especially on a balcony, you are often limited by the rules of the landlord or owners' association and a pergola gives many possibilities to arrange good sunprotection, without having to drill into walls or ceilings!
In our blog post How to creat shadow on a balcony? we will give you more information about how to install a pergola, shade sail or blind / sunscreen on your balcony, without drilling holes!


How to build a pergola?

First, let us make our shopping list of all the necessary material in order to make a freestanding pergola yourself:


posts of wooden pergola

    • Posts: Posts are the upright legs of a pergola. For a free-standing pergola you will need at least 4 posts. Whether you need more posts depends on the size of the pergola and the available length of the beams. For example, if you want to make a pergola of 5 metres long and you can only get beams of 250cm, you will need 2 beams of 250cm long in the length and you will need to place an extra post in the middle to support the beams. For the height of the posts, we recommend a height between 220 and 250cm. If your pergola is higher, there will be too much sun on the side, if your pergola is lower, it gives a locked-in feeling.



beams of a wooden pergola

    • Beams: Beams are the horizontal poles that connect the posts at the top. Shade cloths, harmonica cloths and roller blinds or screens are usually attached to these. For a small pergola, you can usually get the beams at a hardware store. However, DIY stores usually only carry poles up to 180cm and that is very short for a pergola, unless you don't mind installing a lot of posts... But this is not very esthetic and more poles as beams cause instability of the pergola, so it's best to use beams in one piece! We sell hardwood beams up to 500cm long. The only disadvantage of these beams is that transport is very expensive because of the length and they are hard to come by because there is not much good quality straight wood of this length available. We are therefore a bit careful with them and do not sell them to be cut into pieces!



Braces of a wooden pergola

    • Braces: Braces are the angled beams at the corners of the pergola that provide stability. Many people think that they don't need braces when they use corner brackets, but unfortunately this is not the case... A corner bracket offers too little support, especially in case of larger pergolas. In strong winds, the wobbling of the beams could cause them to break out of the bracket, and of course you don't want that! Therefore, just use braces, then you will have no problems at all! I can hear you thinking; "but aren't there aluminium pergolas without braces?" Yes, there are... But in this case, make sure you buy a good quality pergola, because even aluminium when cheap quality or poorly coated will break during strong winds and then you will have spent a lot of money for nothing!



Ground fixing of a wooden pergolaGround fixing of a wooden pergola

    • Ground fixing: To fix your pergola on the ground, there are several possiblities. First of all, I would like to say that our hardwood pergolas are very heavy and that we have never fixed one to the floor and never had any problems. It is only possible that a pole moves a little when someone leans against it or kicks it. A pine or aluminium pergola however is not heavy enough and needs to be secured, especially in windy conditions!
      First possibility; you can, of course, bury the posts of a pergola into the ground. This will be okay when using good hardwood, but I would advise against it when using pinewood, even when impregnated... After a few years it will rot anyway.
      If you have a wooden or concrete terrace, you can easily screw the pergola in place with the following floor fixing brackets: : Pergola CUBIC floor bracket for 7x7 cm post-beam or Pergola CUBIC floor bracket for 9x9 cm post-beam or Floor bracket for pergola - Nesling.
      Of course, you can also drill a hole diagonally/angled in the post and floor and screw a long screw through it.


    • Schade sail or retractable canopy: There are several options for closing your pergola so that it provides shade. Below is a list of possible choices:


      Nesling Coolfit retractable canopy for pergola
        • Coolfit retractable canopy: We have been using the Nesling harmonica shade sails for our pergolas for many years now and to complete satisfaction of our customers! The canopy slides over stainless steel cables that are mounted lengthwise on the beams of the pergola. There is a lot of tension on these steel cables, so use at least beams of 9x9cm!


      Nesling Prosail waterproof retractable canopy for pergola
        • Prosail waterproof retractable canopy: NEW IN 2020!! For years we have been receiving requests for waterproof shade sails for pergolas. Nesling has thought a lot about it and together we have checked out various options. Now, Nesling has finally managed to develop a good solution and it is available on the market since 2020! For the moment, the Prosail waterproof retractable canopy will only be available in the colour grey and in the size 297x297cm.


      Pergola with square shade sail crosswise mounted
        • Square shade sail crosswise mounted: When you install a standard square shade cloth in a pergola, you lose a lot of space for stretching the cloth and because of the rounded sides. To make sure that you can still use a square shade cloth for a smaller pergola, you can also fix the shade cloth in your pergola in a rotated way and pull the corners of the cloth back over the beams of the pergola... Sounds a bit confusing perhaps, so we have made a small pergola of 264x264cm to show how this works. See the pictures on the right. Because of the beams of 7x7cm and the use of Pergola CUBIC 3-way corner bracket for 7x7 cm post-beam and a Nesling Coolfit shade sail Square 360x360cm, this remains an affordable solution and relatively easy to install. For this project, we used hardwood poles of the wood type Azobé. These are exactly the same size as the outer dimensions of the 7x7 corner elements, so the post has to be planed slightly so that the corner element fits over it. For the experienced do-it-yourselfer this is of course no problem. Mid March 2020, we will also receive a stock of impregnated coniferous posts of 68x68mm and 290cm long, with which you can also build such a pergola perfectly and which should fit better into the corner element. With these poles we will also bring a complete pergola kit on the market so you can buy everything pre-sawed and you only have to screw together the pergola. We will keep you informed!


      • Shade sail square or rectangle, fixed at the corners: As mentioned above, you can also make a pergola in which you attach the shade cloth at the corners. This does require a little more space and the pergola should really be a little larger than the fabric so that you can tension it properly! For a Nesling Coolfit shade sail Square 360x360cm for example, you will easily have to make a pergola of 400x400cm. Small advice, but very important, wait with the construction of your pergola until you have the shade sail at home! Then first stretch the shade sail on the ground with a few tent pegs or steel pins and measure the exact dimensions of the sail. The fabric can sometimes stretch a little, so do not rely on the standard size! Next, add at least 20cm of extra space to each corner, and only then build your pergola!
      • Blind or screen: Het Nesling Coolfit sun roller blind is not only useful to close the side of the pergola, you can also use it for the top of a smaller pergola; you attach the roller blind to the beam on one side and fold it over the beam on the other side and attach the blind with the eyelets to the other side. In this way you can use the roller blind on a small pergola on a balcony for example, to close off both the top and a part of the side from the sun! The fabric of the Coolfit roller blind is slightly transparent, so you do not feel so locked up.


Nesling Coolfit sun roller blinds

    • sun rollers or blinds The Nesling Coolfit sun roller blind 248x240cmis perfectly suited for side blinds when the sun is low. The roller blind can be placed in various ways and therefore always fits the way you want it. In the aluminium rails at the bottom there are 2 rings with which you can hook the roller blind. Then roll the blind up again a little so that it is taut (not too tight!). In this way you prevent the blind from moving in the wind.


    • Screws: Of course, you will need screws to secure all the parts of your pergola together. Use only good quality stainless steel screws! It's a shame if your pergola collapses after 2 years because you used cheap, ordinary screws... Nesling supplies stainless steel screws with almost all its products, but to be honest, they are rather soft, so they break very quickly. In soft softwood this is usually not such a big problem, but in hardwood you can't use them at all! I have been looking for good stainless steel screws for a long time and I have been using the Reisser screws from Germany for years now. True, they are quite expensive, but of very good quality and I don't use anything else! With our complete pergolas, delivered as a kit, we only use Reisser screws!
      Exactly which screws you need and how many depends of course on the pergola you want to make. In the near future, we will put a number of blog posts online for specific types of pergolas, then we will also give you the construction plan for each pergola, with all dimensions and a shopping list of the materials we used.


  • Tools: Making something without tools is very difficult... Even if you buy a complete pergola from us as a kit, you will need at least a screwdriver and several bits. The bits may be included in the delivery. If you make a complete pergola yourself, you will need at least a saw (machine), a drill, a set of good drills (for hardwood, use special hardwood drills) and a screwdriver.


And now that we have everything let's start building!

When you have everything you need, you can start making the pergola. Keep in mind that you need at least three (strong) people for putting up the pergola, preferably five.


STEP 1 - Saw the posts to the desired height. If you are using Cubic elements, try to see if the element fits well on the post. If they do not fit well, then plane the pole slightly so that it does fit. Then screw the fitting element onto the post. Do not use one element to fit all posts, each element can be slightly different due to the welds. If an element fits the post, then use it for that post too ;-)


STEP 2 - hen saw the longitudinal beams to the correct length. When you are limited by the outer dimensions of your pergola, take this into account: suppose your pergola has a maximum length of 300cm and your posts are 9cm thick. Then saw off the beam at: 300-9-9cm = 282cm. This is because at each corner of the beam you have a post that is 9 cm thick.


STEP 3 - Then saw the width beamss to the correct width. Even when using a Coolfit retractable canopy, the width must be large enough! If you have a retractable canopy that is 290 cm wide, adjust the width of the width beam to at least 300 cm! You need at least 5cm of free space on both sides of the canopy to prevent the fabric from rubbing against the side beams as a result of the wind and when sliding open and closed. With 10cm on both sides, you have some extra margin for error when mounting the canopy. The total width therefore becomes: 9cm beam + 5cm clearance + 290cm fabric + 5cm clearance + 9cm beam = 318cm.


STEP 4 - Now you can start the assembly. Lay the longitudinal beams on the ground and place the posts against them. Attach the corner brackets. Because I like extra sturdiness, I drill extra holes in the corner brackets so that each beam is screwed to two sides of the corner bracket. In addition, I drill a hole on the side of the Nesling corner brackets, through the bracket, in the length direction of the longitudinal beam. Next, a small hole is drilled in the side of the corner bracketto add a REISSER TKS 180 screw in and your pergola is firmly in place!


STEP 5 - Place the width beams next to it and prepare all the screw holes so that you can screw everything on without having to drill.


STEP 6 - Now the real work begins! You have made 2 long sides of the pergola and these can now be put upright. As you have 4 posts, this is of course best done with 4 people! Put the 2 sides upright, at the right distance from each other. Then a fifth person climbs onto a ladder with the first width beam and slides the beam into the corner brackets. It is important that nobody moves their post, otherwise the crossbeam will fall down! The fifth person then screws the width beam to the corner elements as quickly as possible.
Congratulations, the hardest part of building your pergola is done!


STEP 7 - Now you can place the braces. Place a step next to a post, hold the brace between the upright and the beam, have someone push against the post until the angle between the post and the beam is at right angles and the brace fits, pre-drill the screw holes in hardwood, and screw down the brace. This way you go through all the posts and place the 8 braces in total.


STEP 8 - Place the pergola in exactly the right place and attach it to the floor if required (especially recommended for light pergolas made of pinewood). The pergola itself is ready!


You can now start attaching your shade sail.

STEP 9A - Coolfit retractable canopy The fastening of the retractable canopy fabric is well described in the product manual. See also the video on the right. The screws supplied can be used in pinewood, for an installation in hardwood I recommend the hard stainless steel screws from Reisser. The number of screws depends on the width of the Coolfit retractable canopy:


Drawing of crosswise fixing of a square shade sail in a pergola

STEP 9B - Cross fastening of a square shade sail You can fix your Shade Sail in 2 ways crosswise to your pergola:

  1. with the corners folded inwards at the bottom
  2. with the corners folded inwards at the top (I prefer this, because the messy side is hidden this way).

square shade sail stretched crosswise on pergola

Place the shade sail over the pergola, or hang it underneath (as in the drawing on the right) and fold the corners inwards. Take 2 straps, without the ratchet, hook one end to a point of the shade sail, pull the strap through the eye of the point opposite and pull it back towards you. Have someone hold the strap while you do the same with the other two points. Make sure the shade sil is hanging nicely in the middle of your pergola and make sure there are no folds in the sail near the beams. Then pull the fabric as tight as possible and secure the strap to the top of a beam with a screw: Hardwood screw Ø8mm in stainless steel A2 with wafer head. You may have to repeat the tightening a little to ensure that your shade sail hangs nicely in your pergola. When everything is in place, cut off the excess strap behind the screw so that nothing flutters in the wind.


STEP 9C - Attaching a square or rectangular shade sail to the corners
First you must attach eyes in the uprights. The best way to do this is to drill a hole of 9 or 10mm diameter and 10cm deep at a slight angle in the top of each pole. Then you fill the hole with a chemical anchor and put the Nesling welded eye bolt with nut M8, 10cm stainless steel shade sail in. Let the chemical anchor harden and stretch your shade sail. See also the film on the right.



STEP 9D - Attaching a roller blind as a "roof" shade screen
Tekening schaduw rolgordijn in pergola balkon Attach the blind to the inside of 1 beam of your pergola and pull the blind to the other side. There you screw 2 hooks into the beam. Put the eyes of the blind around the hooks and pull the blind a bit tighter. Do not roll up the blind too tight as you may bend the aluminium tube in the blind. When you choose this solution it is handy that your pergola is not too high and that you can easily reach the top of the pergola with your hands to unhook and hook the blind. The roller blind is more sensitive to strong winds, so only close the blind when you are there and roll it up when you leave. As a permanent pergola this solution is not so suitable, but it can be a good solution for a small pergola on a balcony. For example, let's say you have a balcony 3 metres wide and 150cm deep as shown in the sketch alongside (the black lines). Then you can set up a small pergola there (the green lines), attach the roller goreline (the blue line) to the side of the wall, roll it out, fold it over the other beam and pull it down where you fasten it. This way you have a "shade roof" and shade on the vertical side with only 1 roller blind.



How do you choose your wood to make a pergola?

You can, of course, buy the cheapest wood you can get at the hardware store, but I really don't recommend that... The wood of a pergola suffers a lot from rain and sun, and a cheap beam will bend very quickly. In addition, you'll notice that it's difficult to get wood in longer lengths at a DIY store, so making a pergola becomes very difficult!
Please pay attention to the following things when buying wood:

    1. Always choose hardwood or impregnated pinewood! Untreated wood just rots very quickly outside and that is a waste of money. Painting it well will not help you much since moisture will still penetrate at screw holes and seams. In addition, wood always works and rainwater and fungi will therefore get into the small hairline cracks that will form in your paint layer.
    2. Choose the correct head size of the beam: 7x7cm beams are naturally cheaper than 9x9cm, but they also bend more quickly. A 7x7cm pole is therefore not suitable for Coolfit sails. The steel cables of these shade sails are under high tension and the beam will therefore bend. You can, however, use a 7x7cm pole for a small pergola with a shade sail or for a roller blind on your balcony.
      A 7x7cm beam will also warp faster than a 9x9cm beam.
    3. 7x7cm pinewood: Unfortunately, 7x7 poles are almost impossible to obtain as laminated and we will therefore have to make do with "ordinary" sawn poles, where the risk of warping is relatively high. We offer you 7x7cm posts of impregnated wood, up to 270cm long.
    4. 7x7cm Azobé hardwood: We can also supply 7x7cm beams of the hardwood species Azobé up to 500cm long! We dry these beams ourselves in the open air (so the wood is already slightly greyed) and therefore we can check to what extent the wood curves. The best, straightest poles are kept for the long lengths; slightly crooked poles are used for sawing into shorter lengths.

Geimpregneerde houten palen duplo verlijmd voor pergola

  1. 9x9cm pinewood: If you have the possibility, always choose double glued / laminated posts! With a laminated post the trunk is sawn in half lengthwise and the two halves are glued together back to back. This makes the chance of warping extremely small and reduces the risk of cracking. And a glued post is stronger than a solid wood post! We can offer you the following posts of 9x9cm impregnated pinewood:
    - posts without knots up to 369cm long
    - posts double glued up to 298cm long
  2. 9x9cm hardwood Angelim Vermelho Our 9x9cm hardwood poles are from the Angelim Vermelho species and are of very high quality. Although very difficult to obtain, we almost always have 9x9cm posts up to 500cm in stock! Here too, we try to dry the posts in the open air to see if there are any deformations. Unfortunately, due to the limited supply, we do not always have the time to do this.



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