Pergola with Planters

This airy, yet sturdy, structure is a terrific way to finish off a concrete slab, making a wonderful trellis for climbing plants and a perfect place for enjoying the outdoors.
This airy, sturdy stucture can be built in just a few weekends.

These plans will build a 16 x 20-foot pergola. Use rot-resistant lumber, either pressure-treated or the heartwood of cedar or redwood.

What You Need:

  • Eight 4x4 posts, 10 feet long
  • Two 2x6 framing members, 20 feet long
  • Four 2x6 framing members, 12 feet long
  • Three 2x6 framing members, 8 feet long
  • Thirty-one 2x6 rafters, 16 feet long
  • 2x4 braces, 8 feet long
  • Thirty-two 1x4 pieces, 8 feet long (for planter boxes)
  • Two 2x2 pieces, 12 feet long (for planter-box frames)
  • 4 galvanized U-brackets
  • 1/4x3-inch galvanized lag screws with shields
  • 2 pounds of 3-inch galvanized deck screws
  • 2 pounds of 1-5/8-inch galvanized deck screws
  • 1 pound of 1-inch galvanized deck screws
  • Wood preservative
  • Hurricane ties
  • Galvanized 3-sided corner brackets
  • Hammer drill for boring into concrete (optional, but it will make the job easier)
  • Handheld power drill
  • Two 12-foot stepladders (While you are building, the structure will be unsteady, with nothing solid on which to lean an extension ladder.)
  • 1 or 2 helpers
  • Level
  • Miter saw (a power model will make the job easier)
  • 4 mm plastic sheeting
  • Soil (for planters)
  • Plants as desired
  • Large sheet of fabric (optional)


Step 1

1. Cut, soak, and position the 4 corner posts. Trim 4 of the 4x4 posts to 10 feet. Soak the bottom 18 inches of each post in wood preservative. Set the corner posts in position and temporarily brace them. On paved areas, anchor the braces with concrete blocks; otherwise, stake them in place. Check that each post is plumb. [see diagram, next page]

Step 2

2. Construct the overhead framing and set it in place. With the help of a friend or two, construct the top frame in place with the 20-foot-, 12-foot-, and 8-foot-long 2x6s. Use 3-inch galvanized screws. Fasten the frame to the corner posts with angled 3-inch deck screws or 3-sided corner brackets. [see diagram, next page]

Step 3

3. Cut and position the remaining 4 posts. Mark the position of the remaining 4 posts. Drill holes in the concrete for the shields and securely attach U-brackets with lag screw [see diagram, next page]. Trim each of the remaining 4x4 posts to size. (Take into account how high the anchors will hold them off the slab. Also, the posts may differ in length due to variations in the slab.) Drill a hole in the bottom of each post to fit over the lag screw head. Set each in place, check for plumb, and attach to the frame with angle-driven screws or corner brackets. [see diagram, next page]

Step 4

4. Cut and attach braces. On the overhead 2x6 frame, mark the halfway point between each pair of posts along the sides (not the front) of the structure. Measure and mark the same distance down from the top of each post. Measure between the two marks to determine the length of the long side of each 2x4 angled brace. Cut both ends of each brace at a 45-degree angle and attach with 3-inch deck screws [see diagram, next page].

Step 5

5. Cut, position, and attach rafters. Cut one 2x6 and use it as a template for the others. Evenly spaced, 31 rafters will be 8 inches apart. You can experiment with different spacings: Closer together, the rafters create more shade. Attach with hurricane ties and 1-inch screws [see diagram, next page].

Step 6

6. Build a planter box around each corner post. Attach the 1x4s to 2x2 framing with 1-5/8-inch screws. Butt-join the corners, line with 4 mm plastic sheeting held in place with staples, and cover with 1x4 trim pieces. Top it off with a 1x4 ledge and fill with soil [see diagram, next page].

Step 7

7. Add plants and shade as desired. Plant climbing plants and creepers to increase the shade your pergola provides, or top the rafters with a large sheet of fabric to ensure a shady spot.

Use this diagram for reference when building your pergola.


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