How to Build a Pergola for Shade


Pergolas are an ancient form of patio created independent of any building and meant to add shade a beauty to a garden. Place a pergola anywhere in a garden. The structure may feature either a natural or concrete floor. When creating a pergola for shade, add extra top boards to the structure.

Step 1

Choose the desired location for the pergola. Ideally the pergola should stand at least 2 feet from any structures. This will allow you the freedom to avoid having to match colors and decorative pieces with the existing structures.

Step 2

Dig four, 12-inch diameter holes where the feet of the pergola will sit. Set the posts in the holes. Pour concrete into the holes, up to the surface. Check the holes with a level before and after pouring the concrete to verify that the base is level. If you live in a cold climate, dig the holes 3 feet deep to make room for possible concrete expansion. In warmer climates, dig the holes 2 feet deep. Let the concrete harden for two days.

Step 3

Cut the outer fitting 2-by-10 beams and columns so that they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Create a 2-inch-wide by 3-inch-deep cut into the column tops and remove all but that amount from the center of the outer boards.

Step 4

Fasten the beams to the columns and attach them securely with steel brackets.

Step 5

Cut the ledger design out of the 2-by-8 boards with a jigsaw and screw them into position at the ends of the beams. The ledger design is the shaped wood pieces placed at the end of each beam on the pergola. The typical design, and the simplest to sketch and cut, is a sliding curve. Two ledgers are required for each roof beam.

Step 6

Cut the desired amount of beam placements along the outside beams using a similar jigsaw technique as was used on the pillars. For optimal shade, place a beam every 6 inches.

Step 7

Slide the roof beams into position and nail them into place. Nail the ledger pieces onto the ends of each beam.

Tips and Warnings

  • Before digging holes deeper than 2 feet, contact the utility companies and have them mark any utility lines.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 columns measuring 4-by-4 at the top
  • Pressure-treated 2-by-8 and 2-by-10 beams
  • Concrete
  • Steel brackets
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Jigsaw


  • Reader's Digest: How to Build a Classic Pergola
Keywords: pergola, pergola shade, garden shade

About this Author

Ann White is a freelance journalist with prior experience as a Corporate and Business Attorney and Family Law Mediator. She has written for multiple university newspapers and has published over 300 articles for publishers such as EHow and Garden Guides. White earned her Juris Doctor from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.