How To Build A Pergola For Your Patio

It’s finally the time of year when you can kick back and relax on your patio! 

Having a patio means you have a lot of opportunities to entertain and personalize your space, and a pergola makes for an attractive addition to any patio. A pergola provides some shade, gives you space to gather with friends and family, adds lasting value to your home, and — possibly best of all — is fairly simple to build yourself. 

Here’s what you need to know about how to build a pergola for your patio.  


Before you can start building your pergola, make sure you have permission from your homeowner’s association and county building department. It’s always a good idea to check if you need any permits before you start a project. 

Then, spend some time selecting where exactly you want your pergola to be, what you want it to look like, and what size you’d like it to be. Determine if you want to set up your pergola from a kit or if you want to do everything yourself. There are many pergola design layouts you can find and follow online. 


Now it’s time to gather your materials. You’ll need lumber, concrete, post saddles or anchor plates, and tools like a hammer, drill, saw, shovel, bolts, and a screwdriver, just to name a few.

Don’t forget the extras, like outdoor plant hooks that can be a nice addition to the corners of a pergola. Use treated lumber for the structure, and consider using composite materials for the decking area and handrails, posts, and spindles— our experts at Big C Lumber can help you determine what’s best! 

Keep in mind that a pergola is made up of posts to support the structure, beams to go on top of the posts, rafters that make up the top of the pergola, and optional purlins to go across the top. How many of each you’ll need depends on how big you want your pergola to be.


If you’re placing your pergola directly on your patio, you can skip this step.

If the pergola will go around your patio structure, make sure to level the area if it isn’t flat. To make the building process go smoothly, make some sort of markings where you want your pergola. If it’s being built on grass that surrounds your patio, spray paint will work well for this. 


Cut your posts, beams, and rafters to your desired size. Once you have your pieces cut to the correct size, you can get started on the assembly.

If you’ll be securing your pergola to your patio, you can use anchor plates to attach the posts to the concrete. If not, you’ll need to dig holes for the posts. Be cautious and use all tools safely and properly. 


In Indiana, the law requires you to call 811 before you dig so you know where utility lines and any underground pipes are. In other areas, be sure to check with your local officials to make sure you are following all laws and codes.

Now, dig holes in each corner of your outlined area. Each hole you dig should be at least a foot in diameter and as deep as one third the height of your posts. You’ll need to dig below the frost line for your concrete footers. Again, be sure you know what’s below the surface before you get to digging. Add three to four inches of gravel for drainage. 


Next, mix concrete per the instructions it comes with and fill the holes. Insert a post saddle in the middle before the concrete completely dries. 


Now that the concrete has dried, set the posts in the post saddles. Or, if your pergola is going directly onto your patio, put the posts in the anchors. Make sure they’re plumb and secure. Drill screws into the anchor or saddle at the bottom of each post. 


Bolt the beams to the posts and make sure they’re level. Then, lay the rafters perpendicular across the beams and make sure the overhangs are even on both sides. Measure the distance between each rafter to evenly space them. Fasten using screws. 

Add plant hooks and plants to the corners or string lights along your pergola to create a beautiful space! 


Are you ready to get started on your very own pergola? At Big C Lumber, we have the lumber you need to get the job done. Our experts can help you select the proper materials, and we’ll even deliver everything at no extra cost. Estimates are free too. Request a free quote today.