How to Build a Cheap Pergola

Written by nat fondell
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How to Build a Cheap Pergola
The basic design of a pergola can be easily modified. (pergola image by titi 78430 from

A garden pergola is a very simple and effective way to add a focal point to your garden or backyard, and making one yourself is a surprisingly easy project. After completing the basic design of a pergola using inexpensive materials, the pergola itself becomes a blank canvas on which you can decorate to match your own yard. A pergola is also an ideal place to grow and display vine plants such as grapes or tomatoes.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • 4 long wooden supports
  • 2 medium wooden supports
  • 2 small wooden supports
  • Drill
  • Drill bit
  • Galvanised screws
  • Saw

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  1. 1

    Find inexpensive wooden supports. These supports are the most expensive part of your pergola. If you can repurpose used lumber or even gather large sticks from a forest, you can effectively build yourself a free pergola.

  2. 2

    Determine the dimensions of your pergola. You will need four long supports which will be the height, two medium supports which will be the width, and at least four small supports which will be the depth. A good standard size for your pergola would be six feet tall, four feet wide and two feet deep.

  3. 3

    Assemble one half of your pergola on the ground. Lay two long supports parallel to each other, and lay a medium length support across them at the top. Allow a few inches of overlap on either side to fit your taste.

  4. 4

    Pre-drill the holes where you will be screwing the supports together. This will prevent splitting, and is essential in working with your smaller supports. Screw these three supports together to complete one half of your frame. Use galvanised screws to prevent rusting.

  5. 5

    Assemble the second half of the pergola by building a mirror image of the first half. When both halves are complete, stand them up and join them together at the corners using the smaller supports. Attach the two halves with at least one support in each corner and one along each longer side. The more extra supports you add, the more stable your pergola will be.

Tips and warnings

  • Bolting your pergola together will add much greater stability, but also increase cost. Use galvanised washers on each side of the bolt to avoid wear on the wooden supports.
  • Pound your pergola into the ground if you desire. Sharpening the bottoms of the wooden supports makes this more effective.
  • Install wooden braces on the corners of the pergola to make it more stable.
  • Never use your pergola to support children or adults unless you have specifically designed it to do so.

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