Pergola at the Lake Cabin

Many years back, in the summer of 2009, I was asked if I could build a decorative pergola at the family’s lake cabin. Of course, I offered to tackle it immediately without a second thought.

I had a rough idea of how they were built and what I might want to do, so I fired up SketchUp and created a quick approximation to make sure that the scale and structure were going to look right.

I don’t recall any of the dimensions as I’m writing this except that the uprights are all treated 6×6 posts. I believe the doubled beams are 2x8s and the rafters running perpendicular are 2x6s.

Once I finalized the complete dimensions, I was ready to get to work. Since I lived over an hour’s drive from the cabin at the time, I had set myself the goal of completing the entire project over two adjacent weekends.

On the first weekend, I laid out the site and located where my footings were going to be located. I dug the holes as close to two feet deep as I could manage and roughly 1 foot in diameter. I knew that I was going to use metal anchors at the base of the posts, but I didn’t yet know exactly which style of anchor I was going to use, so I ended up simply smoothing the tops of my footings.

Coming back a week later, I brought all of the tools and materials I though I would need. I started by finding the exact centers of all of my posts on their respective footings, then drilling them out with a masonry bit to accept expansion style anchor bolts. I used the bolts to attach galvanized standoff post anchors.

Before raising the huge posts, I located where the carriage bolts for the 2×8 beams were going to pass through the posts and drilled those holes. I also notched the bottom corners of my beams for a clean and simple look.

I then used some spare wood to help me hold the posts level while I attached them to the anchors. Once they were standing, I was able to add the long beams and bolt them together into pairs. Getting the total of eight galvanized carriage bolts through all of that material while they were overhead was exhausting!

The last thing to do before slapping on a coat of paint was to get the rafters attached. These also got the 45 degree notch on the bottom, but as an added wrinkle, they all need to be notched to fit over top of the beams as well. Each rafter has 4 notches, half of their depth, to allow them to fit over the beams. They are then secured using 4″ screws from the top into the beams.

And that’s really all there is to it. It’s certainly not the best or only way to do it – in fact I wouldn’t recommend that anyone else do it exactly this way! In retrospect, I regret not adding any bracing between the vertical posts and the horizontal members.






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