How to Build a Japanese Pergola


Create a gracious entrance or focal point for your garden with a 6-by-4-foot Japanese pergola. The most pronounced, consistent element to a Japanese pergola is gently scrolled beams within its open roof. Lattice work sometimes makes an appearance. And, with an eye for minimalism, frosted glass panels and steel supports can even be seen in Japanese pergolas.

Step 1

Stake off the 6-by-4-foot area where you want to place your pergola. Check to be sure the ground is level. Open your tape measure and lay it down between stakes. Get eye level with it. Use a shovel to add or remove dirt where needed.

Step 2

Dig four holes that are 10 inches deep for your colonnades. Use your tape measure to be certain they are positioned perfectly to form a 6-by-4-foot pergola.

Step 3

Mix mortar in a 5-gallon bucket. Fill each hole halfway with mortar.

Step 4

Position a colonnade in each hole, then use your shovel to fill the remaining space with dirt. Firmly pack down the dirt. Use your level to be certain the colonnades are vertically straight. Let the mortar set up.

Step 5

Put on your safety goggles and gloves.

Step 6

Attach a cross rafter between the colonnades at each end of the structure, using a nail gun. The cross rafters should be flush to the tops of the two colonnades. The cross rafters, combined with the colonnades, will support the girders.

Step 7

Draw a gently sloped curve, such as a slightly winged shape, that is no taller than 4 inches and no wider than 6 inches on a sheet of paper. When you are pleased with the results, cut the pattern of the curve with scissors. Trace the curve onto the ends of each 2-by-4-inch girder.

Step 8

Use your router to cut the ends on all seven girders to match the pattern.

Step 9

Attach the girders, using a nail gun, across the 6-foot width of the pergola frame. Start at the upper outside edge and stand the girders on the narrow edge of the 2-by-4s. Heavy-duty nails will provide the necessary support, since it is a small structure. Allow a 6 1/4-inch space between each girder. When complete, 6 inches of girder will extend off each side of the pergola.

Step 10

Paint or stain your pergola if you like.

Tips and Warnings

  • You will need a helper to assemble your pergola.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood stakes
  • Four round 4-inch diameter colonnades in 90-inch lengths
  • Tape measure
  • Post digger
  • Mortar
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Shovel
  • Level
  • Safety goggles and gloves
  • Two round 4-inch-diameter cross rafters, 4 feet long
  • Nails
  • Nail gun
  • Paper and pencil
  • Scissors
  • Seven 2-by-4-inch girders cut in 7-foot lengths
  • Router
  • Wood filler (optional)
  • Paint or stain (optional)


  • Build a Japanese Garden: Oriental Pergola
  • Garden Resources: Adding to Your Garden's Mood with a Lovely Japanese Pergola
  • Fine House: Garden Structures

Who Can Help

  • Backyard Landscape Ideas: Pergola Design Tips and Ideas
Keywords: Japenese pergola construction, building Japanese pergolas, garden gazebo

About this Author

Linda Marie was first published in 1969 while a feature news writer for the "Selfridge Flyer". She has held positions in broadcast copywriting, trade magazine publications, retail advertising and medical marketing. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Oakland University, Rochester, Mich.

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