A big beautiful pergola will completely transform your patio and outdoor space. See how to build a pergola from solid wood over an existing concrete patio.
Need to add a patio for your DIY pergola? Learn how to prep and pour your own concrete patio here. Plus, see 3 different pergola designs: traditional deck pergola, modern deck pergola, and circular pergola for swings.
Today I am going to show you how to build a timber pergola over an existing concrete patio. I built this for a client that wanted to improve their backyard patio to have a nicer space for family gatherings.
Get the full woodworking plans to build this pergola here in the shop, and watch the video of the build here on our YouTube channel.
Large DIY Pergola Design
This client wanted a large pergola design similar to what a family member had, so I took some measurements and adjusted the style to fit the size of their patio.
The finished pergola measures 20’ W x 13’-2” D x 11’ H. As designed, this provides over 200 square feet of coverage, including over 9 feet of head space (to the rafters).
This DIY pergola plan features strong 8×8 posts and thick stacked beams and rafters for a really impressive and sturdy pergola frame. We also added a top layer of shade runners which filter the sunlight really nice to provide shade beneath the pergola.
Due to their house layout, I had to move one of the posts to not block the laundry window. The plans in the shop are symmetrical as shown and, as always, the premium plans include all the detailed dimensions and diagrams to make your project a success!
Before you begin building, be sure to check your local planning and zoning ordinances or the local council. Because this was bigger than 200 square feet, I needed to submit construction drawings to the city to get it approved and get a building permit. About a week later after approval, I was able to start construction. Approval times may vary.
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DIY Pergola Materials
Rough sawn timber is a great option for a large outdoor structure like this pergola. But what is rough sawn timber?
Rough sawn timber is lumber that hasn’t been finished and treated. This gives you the freedom to finish and treat the lumber how you want, and it gives a great rustic touch to an outdoor project like this.
Your local lumberyard is a great place to start and they can point you in the right direction if they don’t stock rough sawn boards in the sizes you need.
Just like with regular lumber, you’ll purchase based on the nominal size of the timber (such as 8×8) but the finished dimensions will be slightly different. With traditional sawn lumber, an 8×8 has been finished to 7 1/2″ square. A rough cut 8×8 post, however, will be cut at 8″ and not planed to the smaller finished dimensions.
- Posts: (8) 8X8-12′ Rough Cut Cedar
- Short beams: (2) 4X10-16′ Rough Cut Douglas Fir
- Long beams + diagonal braces: (4) 4X10-20′ Rough Cut Douglas Fir
- Rafters and base trim: (21) 2X8-16′ Rough Cut Douglas Fir
- Shade runners: (28) 2X4-12′ Rough Cut Douglas Fir
- Temporary braces: (16) 2X4-10’
- (20) 80 lb bags of Sakrete Gray Concrete Mix
- (3) 10’ #4 Rebar (there will be extra)
Hardware and Fasteners
- (8) Simpson Strong-Tie CPTZ ZMAX Galvanized Concealed Post Base for 8×8 Nominal Lumber
- (16) Titan HD ½” x 6 in. Mechanically Galvanized Heavy-Duty Screw (For post base)
- (1) Box 5” SDWS Timber Screw – (Qty 50) (For tops of posts)
- (3) Boxes TimberLOK 10 in. Structural Wood Screw (12 Pack)
- (1) Box 3 ½” Deck Screws (For beams, rafters, shade runners and base trim)
Additional Supplies Needed
- Hire or rent a Concrete Coring Rig (it was about $100 per hole to hire it out)
- DAP Wood Glue (glue any cracked wood)
- DAP Wood Patch (Caulk any cracks before staining)
- (12) Gallons of Wood Stain – I used Woodscapes by Sherwin Williams in the color Spicewood
- (1) Simpson Strong-Tie SET-3G 22 oz. High-Strength Epoxy Adhesive with Nozzle and Extension
- DIA Drop-In Internally Threaded Anchor for 1/2-in. Rod (20-Pack)
- ½” x 2 ½” Bolt
- ½” x 3 ½” Bolt
- ½” Washer
- Circular Saw
- Miter Saw
- Diablo Plywood Saw Blade for Circular Saw
- Stihl Battery Powered ChainSaw
- M18 18V Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 1/4 in. Impact Driver Kit with Two 2.0 Ah Batteries, Charger and Soft Case
- Hammer Drill
- ½” hammer drill bit
- Ratchet set
- Rockler 3-Piece Silicone Glue Application Kit
- Tape Measure
- Sanding Block
- Sandpaper 120 and 220 sheets
- Putty Knife
- Chalk line
- EDT22S Steel Dispensing Tool for 22 oz. Adhesive Cartridges
- ETB 3/4 in. x 16 in. Nylon Hole-Cleaning Brush
- Knee pads
- Heavy Duty Saw horses
- Drop cloths
- Paint Roller
- Paint tray
- Stain Lid Opener
- 4 in. Straight Stain Brush
- ¾” nap roller
The materials and supplies for this big beautiful pergola cost around $6700.
- $5000 for the lumber
- $800 for the hardware and concrete
- $900 for the stain
This is not the least expensive pergola option, but you can’t beat the large custom-fit size and the fact that it is solid wood. (Most pre-made pergola kits are a max of 8 feet tall and use hollow posts to save on timber costs and shipping weight.)
Step-by-Step: How to Build A Pergola
Watch the step-by-step video, get the detailed woodworking plans here, and read the instructions below to learn how to build a solid wood DI pergola over a concrete patio.
Step 1: Lay Out and Pour Footings
I was building the pergola over an existing patio, but the owners may replace the patio in a few years, so rather than securing the pergola to the current patio, we cut out holes in the patio and poured new footings. (This is a good idea for a project this large, anyway.)
BEFORE YOU DIG: Call 811 to have the utilities marked. Do not dig until you know where the lines are!
Mark Footing Locations
Follow the diagram in the woodworking plans to mark the center points of the footings.
I started by laying out the center points of the pergola posts using the back corner of the house as a reference line to keep everything square and plumb.
Tip: Use the 3-4-5 rule to make sure the corner post center points are in the right spot. Use your tape measure to measure out on 3 feet from the corner one way and 4 feet from the corner the other way, and, if it’s square, when you measure the two markings at a diagonal the distance will be 5 feet. (Remember the Pythagorean theorem? 🤓)
Cut Concrete Slab (If Needed)
If needed, cut the concrete slab to make way for the new footings.
I hired this out — the rate in my area for labor and hiring the concrete core drill was $100 per hole. Thanks to my buddy Sam (yes, the same guy who let us show you all about in-ground trampoline installs) we were done pretty quick and the cuts where nice an clean
Once the concrete is cut, you’ll have to clear out the cores. I used a hammer drill to break it up into a few pieces to help with removal.
Dig Post Holes & Prep
Dig out the post holes. I was planning to rent an auger but luckily the soil was soft enough that it was easy to dig each hole by hand in about 30 minutes with a post hole digger and a shovel.
Dig to the correct width and depth – 8″-9″ wide by 30″ deep for the frost line my area (which was actually 34″ to account for the existing patio).
The local codes also required there to be at least one #4 rebar 28” length to be centered in the footing 3” above the ground. So we needed to suspend the rebar in the center of the footing like this to meet that requirement.
How deep should an anchor be for a pergola post?
The footing/anchor depth needed varies by structure and location. There are two general rules to keep in mind
- Anchor the pergola at 1/3 the height of the post. This is most applicable if you are setting the post directly into the hole in concrete, rather than using a bracket like I did.
- Dig your holes at least 12″ below the frost line. This will prevent heaving and keep the posts plumb and secure. You can find your local frost line depth by just searching “frost line” with your zip code.
Pass Inspection (If Needed)
If needed, have the inspector approve the footing layout and holes. I had to clear some underground debris that was blocking the hole and have the inspector come back.
Each hole required about 2.5 of the 80lb concrete bags and about 30 minutes to pour. This is a great time to grab a buddy or hire help!
PRO Tip for a clean concrete pour
Cut a large hole (to match the footing width) in a scrap piece of plywood or particle board. Lay the board over the hole as you pour — this will keep any concrete from splattering or spilling on your existing concrete.
Be sure to level the top and bring the “cream” to the top with a trowel. Let the concrete set and cure a few days.
Concrete “cream” is top layer of concrete that is primary smoother cement with no gravel aggregate visible. Bringing it to the top gives you a really nice looking finish and helps the surface strength.
Step 2: Prepare and Stain Lumber
While the concrete footings are curing, it’s a good time to prep and stain the lumber, beginning with the posts.
Stain All Parts
I stained all the timbers with two coats of exterior wood stain. I chose Woodscapes by Sherwin-Williams in a dark brown color called Spicewood.
Before staining, make sure the wood is dry and dust free. Patch any chipped wood with wood glue, and sweep the wood well before staining – use a thick 3/4″nap “shaggy” roller.
It took about a gallon and a half for the 7 posts with two coats each and about 6 hours of painting rolling and brushing. Plus more time later for the beams and other parts! I cut the pieces as I built, so I stained them as needed in the process.
The stain dried really fast in the sun on sawhorses. Make sure your saw horses are really strong to hold the weight of the posts.
In order to fit the concealed post bracket bases, each 8×8 post needs to have a vertical slot cut in the bottom (for the fin) and 3 holes (for the metal pin dowels) drilled through the sides. Check the manufacturer specs for your specific brackets.
I cut the slot for the fin, then marked the holes for the pin dowels and set the posts in the brackets to double check and fine tune the location of the holes before drilling.
Step 3: Install Post Anchors
After the concrete footing has cured a few days, you can install the post anchor base brackets.
About This Concealed Post Base
I decided to use the Simpson Strong Tie Concealed Post Base. These post bases are installed by drilling into the concrete footing after it is cured, versus placing the post bracket in the wet concrete before it cures. I like this option because it gives me more control over the final location since there’s less time crunch.
The thing that I like about this base is that it looks great AND it elevates the post off the ground an inch from the concrete. This will keep the post from wicking up moisture, so the posts will last a long time with that extra protection from rot.
Mark Bracket Locations and Drill Holes
To install these base post brackets, I found it’s best to first mark out where the brackets will be anchored down, and have them leveled and ready. I oriented them all the same direction with the fin perpendicular to the house. This was going to make it easier to level the post in one direction.
I waited a few days for the footings to cure, then I drilled with a hammer drill (2) ½” holes at 6” deep on top of each footing. Then I cleaned out the hole with a wire pipe cleaner I attached to my drill and an air compressor. You want to clean it out the hole as best as you can before the next step.
Attach Brackets with Epoxy and Bolts
Next I filled the hole halfway with a two part epoxy. Once you open the epoxy and it gets mixed you need to use it quickly. How do I know? Well, I wasn’t quite ready and didn’t have a powerful enough drill for the bolts so I wasted a whole tube of epoxy and an hour trying to borrow the right tools.
Once you have the epoxy in the holes, attach the 6” bolts and make sure the bracket is level. There was one hole on the bracket I had to make wider in order for the bracket to sit square with the house. It was nice to have a little bit of wiggle room in case your holes are not drilled in the perfect spot.
Step 4: Install Posts
Installing the pergola posts is a big job, so it helps to have a helper or two around. Be sure to use the 2x4s as bracing to keep the posts secure and keep you (and your helpers) safe.
Drill Post Attachment Holes
In order to make sure the posts were level with the various slopes of the patio, I waited to drill the horizontal holes for the pin dowels until I could place the posts on the brackets. This allowed me to set the post level and fine tune the hole locations.
I used a long ⅝”spade bit to drill out the holes and only drilled through 75% of the wood base to set the pins in.
Attach Posts to Brackets
There are three pins to anchor the post to the base and the footing.
After the pins are set use plastic shims to do the final leveling of the post.
Cut Posts to Level
Measure one post’s length, then carefully cut off the extra with a chainsaw.
From the first post, then use a string and bubble level to mark the rest of the posts level and trim them to length.
Note that for this design, the 4 corner posts are shorter (to hold the shorter side beams) and the 4 center posts are taller (to hold the longer beams).
Notch Posts for Beams
In the top of each post, use the chainsaw to cut out a 5 inch deep notch a bit wider than the beam. Stain all the notches before installing the beams.
Step 5: Install Beams
Cut the Beam Ends
I cut the ends of the beams with a simple 45 degree cut half way down the end of the beam. If you prefer a different style, you could round the ends like on our garden arbor wedding arch or cut a curve like the gothic arch arbor. (On the 2″ rafters, you can use a jigsaw, but to round the 4″ beams you’ll need to use a band saw or a chainsaw.)
Stain after cutting the beam ends.
Place and Attach The Beams
After the stain has dried, place the beams on top of the posts. Install the 2 shorter side beams, then the long beams on top of those.
Once the beams are square to the post, attach the beams with two 5” timber screws on both sides of each post.
Step 6: Install Diagonal Supports
Before installing the rafters, you need to prep and install the diagonal support brackets.
Cut the Supports
Cut 8 diagonal supports from the 4×10 timber and stain them. The printable woodworking plan includes the specific dimensions.
Install the Brackets
Clamp a block of wood at the bottom of the bracket to the post to hold the bracket while screwing it in place. You could attach the bracket several ways. I pre drilled a 1⁄2” wide countersunk hole, then drilled in two 10” long lag screws on top and two on the bottom. Drilling them in at a slight angle into the top beam or post helps them fit securely.
Step 7: Install Rafters (Crossbeams)
Once the supports are installed, the structure will be much more stable to install the rafters on top of the beams. I’ll call them rafters here but they are often called crossbeams as well.
You can remove some of the 2×4 braces to give room for the ladder you’ll need to install the rafters. (Be sure to patch any holes left from bracing.)
Cut Rafter Ends
For the rafters, I cut the ends exactly like the beams with a simple diagonal cut at each end. (Again, you can do a decorative rounded end like this or cut a classic curve like this instead.) Stain before installing.
Determine Rafter Placement
Offset the first rafter 3 ½” from the end of the beam on each side of the pergola, then measure to the center of the pergola and divide up the space equally. Mine are about 9 ⅝” apart.
Attach each rafter to the top of the beam with 3 ½” deck screws at an angle into the beam.
Tip: Set up a string along the front of the pergola for each end of the rafters to have a reference line to keep them straight.
Step 8: Install Shade Runners (Purlins)
You can leave the pergola with just the rafters if you prefer. I like the added shade and stability from the extra layer of shade runners (also called purlins). Some people like to add a trellis to one side and use the runners as an extension trellis for the climbing plants or vines, too.
Determine Runner Placement
Similar to the process of the rafters, attach one runner at the front and one at the back, then calculate the distance between boards to keep them evenly spaced.
The length of my runners put the ends of the first board on top of the center of a rafter, so I didn’t have to cut the first half of the runners to length. This also hid the seams of the shade runners above, which was perfect!
Attach the Runners
Use deck screws to attach the runners to the rafters. Attach the first set, then attach the second set (to span the full length of the pergola) and cut them to length.
Don’t forget to stain the newly cut runner ends!
Step 9: Wrap Posts with Base Trim
I like the classic look of a straight post, but the slits and holes from the bracket attachment would have taken a lot of work to make it look seamless. So, I decided to trim the base of the post using the extra rafter scraps.
Install (Removeable) Trim
Just in case the post bracket or the post needs attention in the future, I wanted to make the trim easy to remove.
Attach 3 of the mitered pieces together and slide them over the base of the posts. Slide in the last mitered piece and attach it to the post and the other pieces of trim. Caulk the edges and stain over the caulk.
Step 10: Finish Work
This last step is what makes the difference between “I did it myself…” and “You did THAT yourself?!” The details make a difference!
Remove any remaining bracing, then patch any holes. Caulk any cracks on the posts (or visible cracks elsewhere). Touch up the stain where you’ve caulked or anywhere else it needs it.
Adding Lights & Irrigated Planters to the DIY Pergola
I finished up this job by adding string lights and self-watering planters that are part of the drip watering system attached to the adjacent drip sprinkler system.
The landscaper was able to get a funny pipe in place in the hole next to the grass, so I could tie into the drip irrigation that was going to water hanging backets and pots around the pergola. That was great timing to get that in. Now they don’t have to have a hose over the patio to water the plants. (See what I mean in the video here.)
The lights are attached directly to the pergola rafters with screws through the little mounting holes on the light string. This required 2x 50-foot (?) strands of lights to make 5 rows of light.
The pergola lights are plugged in to a 30-foot extension cord attached to the pergola, so they just have to plug in the lights to enjoy them. (This strand of smart lights would be a super cool upgrade, though!)
Here are some other pergola lighting ideas and planter options we like:
The owners also added an outdoor furniture entertaining set from Costco to make the space amazing.
This DIY pergola looks amazing and it makes the yard seem even bigger — they are using it every night to hang out and enjoy!
Custom DIY Pergola FAQs
Can a beginner build this pergola?
Because of the extra work and precision cuts required to build this DIY pergola, I’d recommend getting a few bigger projects under your belt before building — and some experience cutting with a chainsaw!
For a beginner DIY pergola, our modern deck pergola is a great option.
How long does it take to build a pergola myself?
I spent the better part of 3 weeks working most days to build this LARGE pergola. Pouring the footings and staining the boards was the most time-consuming part, but you can’t skip it!
If you are building a smaller pergola, the staining won’t take as long. If you are attaching a pergola to a deck like this, the time will be less since you don’t have to dig holes and wait for concrete to set. I built our smaller modern deck pergola in less than a week of work.
How much does a custom wood pergola cost?
Building this LARGE 20’x13′ pergola cost about $6900 in materials and about 3x or more of that in labor (including the design). Local rates will vary for both materials and labor. Remember that when you hire out the work, you’ll be hiring at least a couple of craftsmen, and possibly a small team of laborers, for many days of work. Look for a contractor with similar experience who is licensed and insured.
Is it cheaper to build a pergola from scratch or buy a kit?
A pergola kit will generally cost less than building a custom pergola from scratch — BUT you don’t get the same quality of lumber and you’re limited by the size of the pergola kits on the market.
Wood pergola kits, especially the more affordable ones, are typically limited in height to around 8 feet. This saves money since 8 foot posts are less expensive than 12 foot posts cut to size, but you don’t get the same head clearance and spacious feeling.
The most affordable pergola kits are also usually limited to 10-12 feet, with the 20 foot pergola kits going up in price (and often in delivery fees, too).
Pergola kit posts are also commonly hollow instead of solid wood, so they won’t last as long or be as strong. Often the wood used is a less expensive wood or an engineered wood rather than solid timber — this can be an advantage depending on what you want, though.
The beams, rafters, and supports, are also typically smaller than I used here, which means they are lighter to ship and easier for a DIY install, but they don’t have the same longevity and style for a large pergola built to scale nicely.
It is easier and more convenient to order a pergola and have all the supplies shipped to you (and the parts are usually pre-finished which will save you a ton of time!) so if you can find a pergola kit that fits your needs, it can be a good option, especially if you’re not yet confident with your construction skills.
Wood Pergola DIY Kits
If you’re interested in building a pergola from a kit, here are some highly-rated options we like that you can buy online and have shipped to your door.
Can I build a pergola with 4×4 or 6×6 posts?
The use of 4-inch posts is only recommended for a very small pergola with 4-6 feet between posts. They just can’t withstand the same weight and wind durability as a 6×6 (or 8×8 like I used) pergola frame. Yes, you’ll pay more for a 6-inch post or an 8-inch post, but the added strength is worth it — and you can have a larger span between posts which means you’ll need fewer posts.
If you want to save some money on pergola posts, see how to make your own posts from deck lumber.
Could I add shade fabric to the pergola to block more sunlight?
Yes, if you want to have deeper shade in the pergola, you could add shade fabric above the rafters. Heather added screen above the lattice on top of her pergola, which will likely be more weather resistant than fabric.
Depending on the frame of the pergola, you could also use this budget trick to add shade sails made from painter’s drop cloths.
Cassity Kmetzsch started Remodelaholic after graduating from Utah State University with a degree in Interior Design. Remodelaholic is the place to share her love for knocking out walls, and building everything back up again to not only add function but beauty to her home. Together with her husband Justin, they have remodeled 6 homes and are working on a seventh. She is a mother of four amazing girls. Making a house a home is her favorite hobby.