How to build a Chinese pergola

Updated July 19, 2017

An eye-catching architectural element for any Chinese-inspired garden is a 1.8 by 1.2 metre (6-by-4-foot) Chinese pergola. While many different styles can be found to represent a Chinese pergola, an open-lattice work roof is often its most distinctive feature. While a Japanese garden is known for stark minimalism and simplicity, the Chinese garden is dense with a wide variety of plantings, ornamentation and water features. This Chinese pergola has lines to complement any Chinese garden.

Stake off and rope the 1.8 by 1.2 metre (6-by-4-foot) area you have selected for your pergola. Ensure that the ground is level. Use a level against the ropes. Use a shovel and/or rake to add or remove dirt as needed.

Dig four holes that are 25 cm (10 inches) deep for your colonnades with a post digger. Use your tape measure to be certain they are positioned to form a 1.8 by 1.2 metre (6-by-4-foot) pergola.

Mix mortar in a 25-litre bucket. Fill each hole halfway with mortar.

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

Put on safety goggles and gloves.

Cut lap joints into cross rafters and girders using the sliding compound meter saw. On the cross rafters, put a 2.5-by-4-cm (1-by-1.5-inch) notch at each end, with 2.5-by-4-cm (1-by-1.5-inch) cutouts every 28 cm (11 inches). On the girders, put a 2.5-by-4-cm (1-by-1.5-inch) notch at each end, with 2.5-by-4-cm (1-by-1.5-inch) cutouts every 28 cm (11 inches). The cross rafters and girders should slide together perfectly squared when the joints are complete.

Apply wood glue to each joint using a small paintbrush. Assemble the roof on the ground. Use bar clamps to hold the joints together until the glue dries. Nail all end joints with a nail gun.

Attach the roof to the colonnades, using a nail gun.

Use a stain or sealer specified for outdoor use to protect the pergola's wood.


Cedar and redwood are both good choices for exterior use. Rent a post digger, nail gun and sliding compound mitre saw if you don't have access to them.


You will need a helper to assemble your pergola.

Things You'll Need

  • Stakes
  • Lightweight rope
  • Level
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • 4 square 10-by-10-cm (4-by-4-inch) colonnades in 2.3-metre (90-inch) lengths
  • Tape measure
  • Post digger
  • Mortar
  • 25-litre bucket
  • Five 2.5-by-7.5-cm (1-by-3-inch) cross rafters, 1.2 metres (4 feet) long
  • Seven 2.5-by-7.5-cm (1-by-3-inch) girders, 1.8 metres (6 feet) long
  • Safety gloves and goggles
  • Sliding compound mitre saw
  • Small paint brush
  • Yellow wood glue
  • Bar clamps
  • Nails
  • Nail gun
  • Exterior stain or sealer
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About the 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.