How to Build a Rustic Pergola

Written by nat fondell
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How to Build a Rustic Pergola
The basic pergola design is easily adaptable. (pergola image by titi 78430 from

A rustic pergola is a great project, whether as a humble addition to a backyard or as the centrepiece to an outdoor wedding. A rustic pergola is easy to assemble, fun to design and can cost next to nothing if you have easy access to natural wood. They can be a perfect location to hang planters, grow vine plants like tomatoes or grapes or stage a photoshoot.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Drill
  • Screws
  • Drill bit
  • Saw
  • Branches

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  1. 1

    Collect a large amount of straight, attractive sticks in various lengths and diameters. You will need at least four long, thick sticks the height of your pergola, and two long, thick sticks that are the width of your pergola. Collect a dozen more of various lengths to give you some creative freedom.

  2. 2

    Saw the smaller branches and leaves off the trunks of your sticks, cutting very close to the trunk so that you have many long, straight sticks to use for assembly. Make a sketch on paper of the design that you would like.

  3. 3

    Lay out one side of the pergola on the ground, with two long sticks parallel to each other, and one stick running across the top of them for your roof. The sticks should overlap a few inches. Join the sticks together with long screws. Pre-drill your holes to avoid splitting your sticks.

  4. 4

    Assemble the other side of the pergola opposite the first one, and then stand them both up and join them together with a shorter stick in one of the corners as a crossbar. Join the two sides with at least three more sticks to ensure stability.

  5. 5

    Attach as many other sticks and branches as you would like. Have some branches bracket the corners for stability and design. Attach leaves and other natural decoration if you wish.

Tips and warnings

  • The larger the diameter of your sticks, the more weight it will be able to hold and the longer it will last. Only your main framing sticks need to have large diameter, however.
  • Never use your pergola to support the weight of children or adults, unless you have specifically constructed it to do so and have experience with the engineering principals required.

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