Pergola

This wood project started out as a way to provide some shade for our 14' x 14' deck that faced West. The deck was unusable for the 3 months of the year that the Iowa weather might be suitable for outdoor entertainment, due to facing West. The deck was typical 2" x 6" construction with 2" x 10" joists and 2" x 2" uprights with a vertical 2" x 6" top for the rails.

I had just received my Wood Magazine, Issue 141, April, 2002, and there on the cover was a Pergola Project Plan. Perfect! I quickly drafted up the plans for my Pergola in AutoCAD, and estimated the lumber I would need. I fabricated the corner posts out of 2" x 6" x 10' CCA lumber with Gorilla Glue, pocket holes to hide the screw holes where I could, and plugs for the screw holes that I couldn't hide. I routed a ½" round over on the corners. I then fabricated the crossover beams and added round overs to all edges. Once all the pieces and parts were fabricated, I was ready to start construction on the actual deck. I through bolted the posts on the inside of the ribbon boards around the deck. I added the 2" x 6" rafters, as suggested by the Wood Magazine Project Planner, bow side up, and then added the cross beams to create the Pergola. Finished at last, or so I thought.

The shade wasn't near as awesome as I had imagined it would be, so back to the drawing board. The 2" x 6" rafters, as suggested by the Wood Magazine Project Planner, were also starting to sag under the weight of the crossover beams. I knew better almost from the start that the 2" x 6" rafters were undersized, but I convinced myself that Wood Magazine had built these structures and I hadn't, so I acquiesced and followed the plan as designed. With the rafters sagging and the shade inadequate, I began to formulate a plan to address both issues. I added some 1"x6" pieces at a 45 degree angle to the crossover beams in between the partitions to address the shade issue. I attached the 1" x 6" pieces with pocket hole screws on the top side so that they would not be visible from below. I also developed a jig that would hold all three 1"x6" pieces at the same time while I screwed them in. I then designed some posts in the middle to bolster the rafters. I fabricated the six center posts out of 1"x6" CCA lumber using the same technique for the corner posts. The project took on somewhat of a Parthenon look to it. I decided hanging the additional center posts on the ribbon board, as I had the corner posts, would be too much for the structure of the deck, so I decided to sink the 6 center posts into the ground. I installed the center posts and through bolted the posts to the ribbon board. I then corrected the sag in the rafters using my reversible Irwin pipe clamps and a 10' section of black pipe. Once the sag was corrected, I through bolted the rafters to the new center posts. Finished at last, or so I thought.

Did I mention we were on a corner lot and the City had just finished a multi lane street project on the adjoining street along with several new houses further down the road? Our deck and Pergola, which now resembled the Parthenon, were now on display 24/7. After much pondering, I decided to add some rails and partitions in between the posts. Not content with something simple, I decided a herringbone pattern would be just the ticket. I proceeded to layout the herringbone pattern in AutoCAD and came up with a design that would work for each opening and create a consistent pattern all the way around the deck. I fabricated the herringbone pattern with 2" x 2" CCA lumber using a combination of pocket hole screws and countersunk screws to hide the fasteners as much as possible. I added a tabletop drop edge feature on the top of the 2" x 4" CCA lumber partition frame in order to shed water. I then added the partitions to the Pergola and it looked less like the Parthenon. Finished at last, or so I thought.

I now had nine blank spaces approximately 6' x 4'. What to do, what to do? In what I can only describe as a self induced delusion, I randomly came up with why not add operating arched cathedral windows in those spaces using the same herringbone pattern in the web of the windows as the partitions had? Back to the design board. I fabricated the seven windows using 2" x 4" CCA lumber for the frame and 2" x 2" CCA lumber for the webbing using the same construction methods as the partitions. I built the arch portion of the window frame by cutting short sections of 2" x 4" lumber at 11-1/4 degrees. Using Gorilla Glue and pocket hole screws I assembled the arch and sanded to form using a PC Oscillating Spindle sander. I installed the seven windows in the spaces above the partitions with SS door hinges and added butterfly catches cut from some 5/4" x 6" CCA stock I had laying around. Finished at last, or so I thought.

I now just had 2 blank spaces left, the two openings for ingress and egress to the deck. I had such luck with the operating arched cathedral windows; why not fabricate some doors to match? I had already gone beyond any reasonable definition of self-abuse and was entering into a whole other realm of mental insanity. I fabricated the doors using the same technique as the windows and installed them with the same SS door hinges. Finished at last. Yes, finished. Shortly after this I was divorced and the house was sold. I was left with my tools, a BBQ grill, and a bed.

In the beginning, if I had known how large this project would become, I would have scrapped the existing CCA deck and rebuilt it using better lumber such as Ipe, Redwood, or something other than CCA. Every piece/part of the Pergola was machined at least 6 times, with a router, jointer, table saw, jigsaw, or something else that made dust. A lot of the fabrication was done in my basement. For the fabrication of the partitions, windows, and doors, I built a 10' x 4' rolling table that I would shuttle in and out of my 3rd car garage as I worked on the various pieces. At each point in the construction, the project looked "finished" to the casual observer from the street. This was important to me as I had observed several projects over time that seemed to linger on and never looked finished until a couple of years had passed.

The deck is the only part of this project that is attached to the house. Every part of the Pergola is either attached to the deck or free standing. I replaced the siding where the original rail attached to the house. This was another important aspect of any project for me; I never want a project to look like a remodel where you can see evidence of the original construction. I hope you enjoy my trip down memory / mental insanity lane.

14' x 14' x10'
CCA Lumber
SS deck screws, SS hardware, or Galvanized Bolts throughout

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