A number of patio covers are available in kit form from patio stores, home and garden stores and warehouse discount stores. As a do-it-yourself project, installing a free-standing patio cover requires a few tools, materials and probably an extra pair of hands. The effort and time anchoring are well spent because you want your patio cover to withstand the weather.
Post Piers, Bare Ground
You can build post piers or buy them precast. One way to build your own is to use a drainage pipe made of plastic. The diameter might be 6, 8 or 10 inches depending on the weight each post will carry. Dig a post hold to the desired depth and about 16 inches in diameter. Pour about 6 inches of concrete into the bottom. It will act as a footing for your pier. Cut a length of plastic pipe and work it into the concrete footing so it protrudes about 4 to 6 inches above the ground. Insert a piece of reinforcing steel. Level. Install a post anchor in the wet concrete. Allow the concrete to set. After the concrete is set you can cut away exposed plastic pipe for a neater look.
Your local climate will dictate depth for your post pier anchoring system. Colder climates require greater depth. Check with your local building regulatory agency to make sure you are in compliance.
Post Spikes, Bare Ground
Post spikes enable you to fix your posts into your dirt or gravel patio without having to dig or pour concrete. The spikes are available at hardware and home improvement stores in a variety of lengths so you can embed them solidly in the ground. Post spikes are available fitted for posts 4 by 4 inches. These usually provide adequate support for free-standing patios such as pergolas, Ramadas or trellises. They are not intended for use with a structure that is likely to carry a solid roof or walk-on deck.
The process requires a sledge hammer, screws and a spare cut-off post end to prevent damage to the post holder. Insert the short post segment into the post holder, and hammer the cut-off to drive the spike into the ground. When the spike is seated, insert the post and attach it to the post holder with screws.
When you have one post in place and level, you can pound in the three other spikes. A straight edge and a level from one spike to the next spike will enable you to render them acceptably level. As a test, you can seat posts in the spikes on a temporary basis. Check post tops for level. Minor adjustments will be possible, so levelling does not need to perfect, but it does need to be close.
In the event you are building a large free-standing patio cover, you can combine anchoring methods by using post spikes and concrete. Simply dig an area around the post spike, and pour in concrete to increase support.
Post Anchors, Concrete Slab
You can anchor your free-standing patio cover to a slab provided you use the proper hardware. You will need to drill holes to secure post anchors with expandable anchor bolts. It is important to secure your posts to the concrete slab while also providing a standoff of an inch. The standoff keeps the post away from lingering moisture after snow or rain.
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