Choosing the site for the pergola
We will start off this discussion assuming you have already covered the 5 steps to follow before building your own pergola. You’ve learned that there are limits to where you can dig, if digging is necessary. The next potential limitation is either home owner’s association rules or permitting rules. You might need to limit the height of the pergola roof due to site line regulations or provide a minimum setback from a fence or wall. Again, we will assume you’ve cleared through all that and identified potential spaces to build. The bottom line now is – will YOU like the placement of the pergola? If there is no obvious place in your landscape design for it such as an existing seating or barbecue area that you want to cover, then where will it go?
Staking out your pergola site
It’s always a good idea to get some basic planter or construction stakes and some construction line and lay out your proposed post placement and dimensions of your pergola. Prop up a post or any other piece of wood temporally to the height you want for your roof. Look at the visual impact from all sight lines and angles – ground level and roof level. Make sure the shade provided is where you want it depending on how the sun hits your yard. Make sure you are not blocking any view of your own that you want to preserve. Check to see if your new seating area will be right in view of your neighbors’ windows. If you have a second story to your house, look out onto the imaginary pergola roof from above and make sure none of your favorite trees or flowering shrubs are blocked from view. It’s the old wood cutting rule – measure twice, cut once. Only in this case, it is check sight lines twice, build a pergola once!
Getting your pergola design proportions right
An appealing pergola design all depends on proportions. You need to eye it properly so that you don’t end up with a pergola that’s too skinny & tall or low and squat. Correct proportions will also ensure stability. A pretty standard pergola height to length ratio of 1:1.618 is a good place to start. For example, if the desired height for the top of the pergola roof is the typical 8 ft or 96 inches, then start off with a length of 155 inches or 96 x 1.618 = 155. This is quite easy to draw out on graph paper or with a basic computer program. The interior drop down height should be no lower than 80 inches which is a standard doorway height so that is a good place to start. How much over 80 inches do you want? That will help you determine the height and number of the beam and rafter layers you add.
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If you’ve decided that you really want to add a pergola to your property, then your next step is to check out our Guide to Building a Pergola in One Weekend.
- Introduction to Building a Pergola
- 5 Tips Before You Build a Pergola
- Do I Need a Permit to Build a Pergola?