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Rustic Pergolas

Posted on 27 April 2011



If you are not a Type A personality, a rustic Pergola could be just the project for you to engage in this summer. Besides it is cost effective, fun and adds dimension to you yard. They can be a perfect location to hang planters, grow vine plants like tomatoes or wine grapes, read or stage a photo shoot.

Much like a good recipe, you will only need about five items:

  1. A saw
  2. Screws
  3. Drill
  4. Drill bit
  5. Branches

 Begin by, sketching out the design you are intending. Make sure you have enough materials before you start.

 Start by collecting a large amount of fairly straight, attractive branches in various lengths and diameters. You will need at least four long, thick sticks measuring the height of your pergola, and two long, thick sticks that are the width of your pergola. Collect a dozen more of various lengths, for good measure. You may feel like you are making a plan to get off Gilligan’s island, but it is not actually that dire.

Trim off any small growths, leaves, and sticks from each of the branches using your saw.

Lay out one side of the pergola on the ground, with two long branches parallel to each other, and one stick running across the top of them for your roof. The branches should overlap a few inches. Join the sticks together with long screws. Pre-drill your holes to avoid splitting your branches.

Assemble the other side of the pergola opposite the first one, and then stand them both up together.  This is a good time to ask a neighbor, spouse or friend to lend a hand. Join the two sides together with a shorter stick in each of the corners as a crossbar. Join the two sides with at least three more branches to ensure stability. Some rustic pergola experts use twine for a very island look.

Attach other natural fibers, metal stars, wreaths and birdhouses, if you like. Keep the look natural and not too cluttered. Hang a few flowering plants along the roof of the pergola. For added shade, you can attach pre-cut plexi-glass or other light material to the roof as well.  A glider might be a nice addition to tuck inside your hand-made, Colorado rustic, pergola. It will be a nice oasis to read in, listen to music and enjoy the great outdoors. Many rustic pergolas have only a bench or seating area in them as their focal point. The simpler, the better.

If you have a Type A personality, I apologize. You may want all the lines straight, the wood to be level, and not warped or rustic at all. In this case, pergola kits are available where the same basic assembly principles apply. Your materials would be more standard 2 x 4 boards.  These commercially made style pergolas tend to encompass an entire patio area as well. They often attach right to the house rather than serve as a small seating area in the yard.  Maybe Bob Villa would visit to make sure your pergola will measure exactly to your specifications. 

Either pergola option is a matter of taste. Both have their own style and add to your outdoor living space. The idea is to build it yourself and then enjoy it all summer long.

 Written by: Janine Buchal


1 Response to Rustic Pergolas

  • Jackie Lipton says:

    Thank you for the great article. I have been collecting branches from pruning and cutting down dead and weather related injuries of different trees for the past 2 years. Now I’m ready to do something with the wood other than use it has firewood. I have some questions related to the wood.
    1.Do you have to treat the branches? If so can you recommend what and how to accomplish this.
    2. Also, I have heard that the wood will rot eventually if you don’t remove the bark and apply a varnish, lacquer or something.
    3. And, I have read that the wood needs to be green and not dry or have been on the ground and that bugs will get into the wood immediately if left on the ground. Can you provide advise?

    Thank you,
    Jackie Lipton

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