Single Girl's DIY
Single Girl's DIY
  • Hometalker
  • Bothell, WA

How to Make a Basic DIY Pergola

3 Materials
4 Hours

Want a simple structure for climbing plants? You can add a little privacy to your yard, and create a pretty spot for outdoor living.

Follow these steps to make your own basic pergola.
how to make a basic diy pergola
Pergolas don't have to be too fancy. Let your climbing plants be the real star. Use the structure to create a cozy spot for a swing, or your outdoor dining set.

  1. Two 10′ treated 4″ x 4″s for upright posts
  2. One 8′ treated 4″ x 4″ for top beam
  3. Two brackets to attach top beam to posts
  4. Seven 2′ sections of 2″ x 2″ for cross pieces
  5. Small pieces of 1/2″ x 4″ to cover brackets (optional)
  6. One bag of concrete mix
  7. Post hole digger
  8. Post level
  9. Measuring tape
  10. Circular saw
  11. Screwdriver and screws
  12. Hammer and nails
Use a posthole digger (or dog) to make holes.
Use a posthole digger (or dog) to make holes.
1. Dig post holes
Using your posthole digger, dig two holes 6' apart. The holes should be 2' deep.

Once you stand your 10' support posts into the holes, your final pergola height will be about 8' tall.
how to make a basic diy pergola
2. Level the side supports
Use a post level to make your support posts plumb in both directions. Attach some scrap lumber to help hold it in place.

Now, to make sure the top beam will be level:
  • Make a pencil mark on one of the posts. The location of the mark doesn't really matter. I made mine about waist height.
  • Hold a board up between the two posts. Put one end of the board on the pencil mark. Hold the board level using a bubble level. Make a corresponding mark on the other post.
  • Measure from the pencil marks to the top of each post. For example, say one distance is 57.5", and the other is 59". You can either cut 1.5" off the longer post, or dig out the hole a little more and recheck.
  • Once your posts are the same height above your level mark, the top beam will be guaranteed to be level as well.
how to make a basic diy pergola
3. Add concrete
Mix up a bag of concrete according to the package directions. Use half of the mix in each hole, making sure your posts stay plumb.

Fill in the rest of the hole with dirt, once the concrete has set.
how to make a basic diy pergola
4. Attach cross boards to top beam
While you're waiting for the concrete to set, attach your cross boards to the top beam. I used seven 2 x 2's, each cut to two feet long.

Use your measuring tape and pencil to mark the top beam at 1' intervals. Put a cross board on each mark, and screw it in place.
how to make a basic diy pergola
5. Install the top beam
The cross beam can be easily held in place using a bracket.

Put the bracket on each top post, and then just set the cross beam into the other end of the bracket on each end. Measure from the outside edge of each side post to the ends of the cross beam to make sure its even on both ends.

Nail through the holes in the bracket to hold it all in place.
how to make a basic diy pergola
I cut small pieces from a 1/2" x 4" board to cover the metal brackets. Use nails to secure the pieces to the posts.
how to make a basic diy pergola
Enjoy your outdoor living space!
I made two pergolas in my yard. Under one, I have a small bistro set, and a hanging lantern. The other is the perfect spot for a hanging swing.

Download your free copy of the Single Girl's DIY Outdoor Living Idea Guide to get more ideas for your outdoor living space. Transform your yard into your sanctuary.
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Single Girl's DIY

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Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Talk2cathy
    on May 20, 2018

    How does it support the weight and motion of a bench swing with only two posts? Should it have four posts for balance and to prevent tipping? I can’t tell from the photo if there are more than two posts. Thank you.

    • Single Girl's DIY
      on May 20, 2018

      Hi Cathy,

      Yes, Kelly-n-Tony is correct. I sunk the posts deep into the ground (two feet), and put half a bag of concrete in each hole. It supports the swing with no trouble at all. In fact, the swing is the reason I used a single top beam, instead of attaching a board on either side of the side posts, as is done in many pergola designs.

Join the conversation

2 of 20 comments
  • Toolpro
    on Jun 3, 2018

    clever, by us a "pergola" needs a permit, swings do not, nor do grape arbors . NICE! I was Just gifted a hammock, I think I'll ditch the metal stand for a "grape arbor!"

  • Toolpro
    on Jun 3, 2018

    I really like the pea gravel patio. I need something ground level for my "retirement house".

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