How to make a shade cover for a pergola

Updated July 20, 2017

A pergola provides partial shade over your backyard deck or patio, but sometime more coverage is necessary. Adding a removable cover to the top is one way to gain more protection from the sun when needed, while reserving the option to let more sun in for a bit of warmth in cooler weather. Removable panels made of wood and covered by woven reed or bamboo fencing are easy to construct and inexpensive. With the fencing material, purchased from your local garden centre, and a few simple tools you can make a shade cover for your pergola in a weekend.

Measure the distance along the inside of a rafter, between the front and back beams, using the measuring tape. Make note of the measurement.

Cut a 1-by-2 board to the length equal to the measurement obtained in Step 1, using the power saw.

Repeat this step until you cut enough boards to attach one to the inside of each rafter, as a cleat.

Drill a pilot hole every six inches along the length of each cleat, using the power drill and drill bit.

Position a cleat on the inside of a rafter and align it with the bottom edge. Clamp it in place with the wood clamps.

Insert a 3-inch wood screw into each hole and tighten it firmly with the power drill and Phillips head screwdriver bit. Remove the wood clamps.

Repeat this process to attach a cleat to each rafter.

Measure the width and length of the space between a set of rafters, using the measuring tape, and make note of the dimensions.

Cut a front and back frame piece from a 2-by-2 board, equal to the width of the space obtained in Step 1.

Subtract the total width of two 2-by-2 boards from the length obtained in Step 1 and cut two side frame pieces from a 2-by-2 board equal to that final length, using the power saw.

Repeat this process to obtain enough pieces to construct a frame for each space between the rafters.

Assemble a rectangle with a front, back and two side pieces. Cover the ends of the side pieces with the front and back pieces, aligning all ends flush at the corners.

Repeat this step for all frames.

Drill two pilot holes through the front and back pieces where they overlap the ends of the side pieces. Insert a wood screw in each hole and tighten it firmly, using the power drill and screwdriver bit.

Repeat this step for all frames.

Lay a roll of wood fencing over a 2-by-2 frame, aligning one side and the top edge with the same edges on the frame.

Staple the fencing along the perimeter of the frame, using the 1/2-inch copper-plated staples and staple gun. Space the staples two inches apart.

Trim away any excess material that extends beyond the edge of the frame, using the jigsaw.

Repeat all steps in this section for each panel.

Insert a finished frame from the top down into each of the spaces between the rafters. Using the hammer, tap each one firmly in place until it rests on the cleats attached to the rafters.


Secure the frames to the cleats in windy areas by inserting screw eyes into the underside of the frames and screw hooks into the cleats. Remove and store the frames away during snowy conditions and whenever you wish to allow more sun beneath the canopy.

Things You'll Need

  • Woven reed or bamboo
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Power saw
  • Wood clamps
  • Power drill
  • Drill bit
  • 3-inch wood screws
  • Phillips screwdriver bit
  • Staple gun
  • 1/2-inch copper-plated staples
  • Jigsaw
  • Hammer
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About the Author

Based in Washington, Mariah Elaine has been a freelance writer since 2010. She has professional writing experience in a variety of media including Navy correspondence, business documents and research reports. Elaine holds a Bachelor of Arts in natural science/mathematics from Thomas Edison State College.