Our backyard was a total disaster.  I loved being outside, but I didn’t love our backyard.  I’d always dreamed of dining under a vine covered pergola, so our pergola was the first project we began.

We got estimates to have a custom built pergola and they were outrageous, well over $3,000!  We shopped pergola kits to build but they were not the size I wanted and still cost at least over $1,000.  Brian decided one day just to build it himself.  By doing this we saved a ton of money and got exactly what we wanted.  Going the DIY route spent around $500, that’s a substantial savings!  Plus the quality is much better than and pergola kits we’ve seen on display.

I didn’t include the cost of the concrete in our $500, because some may already have a concrete slab, or be attaching it to a deck or even the ground.   Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you I had a hard time deciding what size our concrete should be!   My OCD decided to order the table and chairs first.  This way I could comfortably sit at the table and see how far out I liked pulling the chairs, etc.  So after a few outdoor dinners in the grass we committed to a concrete size & marked it off.

I’m so glad we did it this way.  I know that it would be just our luck that we would pour concrete and build the pergola and then have an impossible time finding a table to fit in it.  So by getting the table first we were able to make the concrete and pergola exactly the right size.

We began this project on a nice warm 100-degree Labor Day Weekend, Labor Day was going to be labor day alright.  Once the concrete was poured, we wanted to protect the surface from stains so we first covered it in plastic.  Brian then grabbed his engineer scale and mitre saw and got to work.

Of course we chose cedar wood for the pergola, its more weather resistant and pest resistant, plus it just looks the best.  After each piece was cut to size, he passed it over to me where I applied the stain.  We debated whether we should stain the pieces before putting it together or after.  I originally thought applying stain would be easiest once all put together so we put down plastic. However it didn’t take long for me to realize staining on the ground was much much easier.  In the heat the stain dried fast so I was able to stain all four sides of the wood very quickly.

The four 4×4 corner posts went up first, and then were braced with the 2×6 cross pieces.  I’m sure they have an official name, like girders, or beams, or rafters, or something like that, but I don’t know what it is.  When we had the concrete poured, we made sure that the guys placed four bolts in the corners to secure the post anchors to.  Then using the post anchors we secured the posts to the concrete.

Here we laid out the rafters to be stained, and then they went up too.  Since our plan is to have the pergola covered with a flowery vine, we decided at the end that we needed to add one more layer of 2×4’s to the top.

I’ve always loved wisteria, but heard horror stories, like how it can eat your structure, I decided to pass.  So far the crossvine has worked well.  It bloomed right after we planted it too!

The husband initially thought that if he double bolted the top it would be enough to keep the structure steady (see above).  After it was up, though, we felt like it was still too wobbly, so he added these diagonal pieces in the corners, and that did the trick.  You can also see here how we made a simple 45 degree cut to the ends of the top pieces to give it a little better finished look.

All done.  I can’t believe it! Cue the wine…

Now all I need to do is patiently wait on the vine to grow.

Then we added outdoor string lights, I just love them… they really add ambience.

Day or night I could stare at our new pergola all day.  A dreamy dinner under the pergola lights while listening to Frank Sinatra is coming soon!  This was one of the best backyard decisions we ever made!


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    1. Hi! I did mention in the first paragraph that we had outrageous estimates to have a pergola custom built. At least 3k and store bought kits were not the correct size we wanted, plus still expensive. Spending about $500 total we saved money by going the DIY route. Anytime you do it yourself you save!

  1. These must have been built a few years ago you can’t get cedar to build one now and stay under 0r at 500.oo one end post cost 174.00 for a 6 x 6

    1. Hi Gloria, yes, you are correct this was written in 2017, costs have certainly gone up. I had to go back and read it again and I see no mention of using 6×6 wood. We did use as stated 4×4 wood, I verified that was correct with my husband and they are currently priced at $49.98 where we live now (Maine). Best of luck on current projects!

  2. Hi Michelle! If you’re talking about the structural beams that are attached to the corner posts, we used 1/2” bolts with nuts and washers. All the other boards that just appear to be sitting on top of the cross pieces below them, we used regular wood screws to attach them. It’s been a while so I don’t remember exactly if we used long 4-1/2” screws into the tops, or if we used shorter screws angled in at the bottom, but either way will do the trick. These aren’t structural, so just about anything will work.