How to Design a Pergola Roof

Written by brandon salo
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How to Design a Pergola Roof
Pergola roofs come in a variety of sizes and provide comfortable shade during hot days. (pergola image by Andrea Todeschini from

Pergolas are used to provide a little shade during hot summer days. They are similar to gazebos but provide more air flow and will not provide protection from the rain. All pergola roofs are similar in design. They all involve notching wood so that boards can fit together with a grid-like pattern, and the ends are commonly cut at an angle. Cedar and treated pine are common lumber choices for pergola roofs, although hardwoods sometimes are used as well. Whatever wood is chosen, the builder must be sure that the wood can withstand nature's elements.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • 4 Wood stock, 2-inch-by-6-inch
  • Wood stock, 1-inch-by-8-inch
  • Wood stock, 1-inch-by-4-inch
  • Chop saw
  • Hand saw
  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Wood screws, 3-inch

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  1. 1

    Measure out a square area where you would like your pergola to be and decide how big of a pergola you will build.

  2. 2

    Cut all of your wood stock so it is 1 foot longer than the length you would like your pergola to be. If you are using construction lumber, such as treated pine or cedar, be aware that the thicknesses are off by a 1/2-inch. Measure the thickness of all your boards to correctly cut the notches in this project.

  3. 3

    Notch your 8-inch-wide boards so they fit over the 2-by-6 boards.The 2-by-6 boards must be positioned in the notches so they can fit over the posts. There usually are two pairs of 2-by-6 boards attached to a pair of posts between them. If you are using 4-by-4-inch supports, the notches in the 1-by-8-inch boards should be spaced 4 inches apart, and the outer notches should be 4 inches from the end of the board. Use your hand saw and chisel to cut the notches so they are 4 inches deep. You will need a 1-by-8-inch board for each foot of the pergola. Space the boards so they are 11 inches apart.

  4. 4

    Notch the 1-by-4-inch boards so they can fit over the 1-by-8-inch boards. These boards should be perpendicular to each other. The 1-by-4 boards should have an overhang at both ends, so cut the first notch 5 inches away from the end; this will provide a 6-inch overhang. Space the notches 11 inches apart to fit the boards over the 1-by-8-inch boards.

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