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Let’s Build a Pergola!

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

This post is sponsored by Lowe’s.

Here in Chicago, real estate can come at a pretty significant premium. A typical residential lot is long and narrow, usually measuring in at 25′ wide by 125′ long. This slightly cramped footprint (I mean, it’s all relative, really) leads to some pretty creative ways to maximize outdoor living space, and homeowners often find themselves building up since building out is not an option!

Example: Our neighbors Josh and Liz had a great rooftop deck built on top of their garage when they moved into their home 5 years ago, and since then, we’ve celebrated many birthdays and holidays with them up there! But without shade, it can get really toasty in the midst of a summer heatwave. They had mentioned to us awhile back that they’d love to find a way to add some shade and additional privacy to the space, and that conversation got us thinking – what about a pergola?! As it was, they had a few railing baskets of annuals, and there was a mix-n-match of chairs with a table. Not sure which direction they wanted to take it, things sat like this for a while:

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

Building a pergola from scratch seemed like a tall order, but once we took the time to look around on Lowe’s website, we realized that pergolas don’t have to be outlandishly priced or custom built. Rather, they can be purchased as a kit, ready to be assembled in a day or so!

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home ImprovementA DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

As you can see, there is no shade to speak of, so the space is exposed to direct sunlight for almost the entire day. Enter the pergola kit! (Note: the model currently available is slightly different than the kit we used, but it is the same size and basic shape.) Josh and I got to work unpacking the two large boxes that held all of the pieces and laid everything out neatly to keep the space as organized as possible. There are a lot of pieces, but everything is very well labeled, and each wood section is stamped with a part number that corresponds with the instructions.

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

The kit bolted together almost entirely with long torx head bolts and barrel nuts. It even included a few of the appropriate torx bits so we could utilize multiple drills at the same time, which was a time saver! Our DeWalt XR impact driver made super short work of everything we threw at it. Hot tip! The impact driver kit we used here is currently on sale, so be sure to visit a store or Lowes.com to start checking off your spring to-do lists.

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

As the pieces started coming together, we frequently checked to make sure that everything was at a perfect 90 degree angle using a carpenter’s square.

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

Once the main structure of the pergola was complete and tightened up, Josh used a tall ladder to fasten down the decorative slats that provide additional shade and visual interest.

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

For an element of privacy and a place for vertical climbing greenery to thrive, we picked up a handful of cedar 2″ x 4″ x 8′ lumber and ripped them in half on the table saw to mimic the ‘roof’ slats. We then carefully measured our spacing, fastened the cedar boards to the back of the pergola with deck screws, and stained our modern trellis to match the pergola and existing deck.

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

All in a day’s work!

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

Now that the pergola was assembled and we’d allowed the stain on the cedar slats to dry, we carefully measured for the final placement and secured the plastic footers to the decking with the included lag bolts. We then screwed the legs into the footers with hardware (also included in the kit) to keep it from shifting. While the whole setup feels very intentional and permanent, it could easily be moved in about 5 minutes by removing a few screws and bolts. It’s a very clever design and incredibly sturdy!

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home ImprovementA DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

Once the completed pergola was fastened to the deck surface, we played around with the spacing of planters so that we could start making a greenery wish list. The varying sizes of our resin planters should create interest once filled with color (you can see them below, to the left of the pergola), and that cute faux cement plant stand will act as a handy end table!

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home ImprovementA DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home ImprovementA DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

And see those six squat black planters? They’re self-watering boxes that will keep plants thriving with very little effort! We plan to fill those handsome planters up with a few evergreen varieties to add year-round color to the space and provide even more privacy and shade.

A DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home ImprovementA DIY pergola for a rooftop patio | via Yellow Brick Home, in partnership with Lowe's Home Improvement

The start-to-finish assembly process took the two of us about 5-6 hours, with an extra hour for the trellis. A few of the steps (lifting the pergola into the resin footers, for example) required heavy lifting, so make sure you’ve got a friend or two around! For safety’s sake, this project would be fairly tricky for one person to accomplish alone.

We’ll be sharing the fully finished rooftop patio in a handful of weeks! It’ll be looking more green and ready for a party, and we can’t wait to reveal our final plans. Josh and Liz, we hope we’re invited to the inaugural celebration!

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  • JaneS3.29.19 - 7:09 AM

    It looks great and ads visual interest, but where’s the shade? That’s a lot of money and expense for so little shade return. You could add more slats to the top to fill it in. I love the color.ReplyCancel

    • Scott3.29.19 - 8:09 AM

      Hi Jane! It’s surprising how much cooler it feels in the grid of shade under the pergola! In addition to pergola structure, we’ll also be adding lots of greenery that will increase the shade and privacy factors quite a bit! Be sure to check back in a few weeks for the final reveal!ReplyCancel

  • Danielle3.29.19 - 7:54 AM

    It’s so neat to see you guys helping friends with projects!ReplyCancel

    • Scott3.29.19 - 8:10 AM

      Thanks Danielle! We absolutely love helping our friends maximize the potential of their homes. We feel very lucky that we get to lend a hand!ReplyCancel

  • susan3.29.19 - 8:24 AM

    I’ve always wondered the same thing..my honey wants a pergola but the ones I’ve been under really don’t provide enough shade. I still think this deck is going to look so much better than its previous look.ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.29.19 - 8:39 AM

      A pergola is definitely a great choice for partial privacy as-is, but it’s a great starting point to add shade sails, canvas ceilings or outdoor drapery. It’s really going to depend on how private you want to get! This was a happy balance for Josh and Liz – it gives them a little bit of shade, while still providing the warmth and sun that chicagoans eat up every summer. :)ReplyCancel

  • Ann3.29.19 - 9:06 AM

    I hope I’m invited to see this the next time we visit ?ReplyCancel

  • southern gal3.29.19 - 9:11 AM

    just curious as to placement… why over against one side and not centered along that long edge?

    also for something like this does the homeowner have to get city planning approval?ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.29.19 - 9:14 AM

      The homeowners wanted space to the side for additional seating and planters eventually, so we off centered it for that reason. If we had centered it, both sides would have been completely unusable. We also have some fun plans that will make more sense in the reveal! :)ReplyCancel

  • Roxie3.29.19 - 11:31 PM

    Can’t read the post in Feedly beyond the first two sentences and can’t read it on the mobile site because the font size is for ants! Of course I can zoom in but then have to scroll left to right and up/down. I always read on my phone and this has never been an issue…ReplyCancel

    • Scott3.30.19 - 2:30 PM

      Thank you so much for bearing with us! We’re sooooo close to our 100% new and improved site going live and we can’t wait for everyone to see it!ReplyCancel

  • Greg Lesniak3.30.19 - 2:08 PM

    Great sheltering but breezable addition to the simple deck. The furniture, planters, and greenery will make it an inviting place to chill during the balmy months to come. I’m, particularly, taken by the addition of the trellis. Their horizontal nature calms the eye as it harmonizes with the flatness of the city’s terrain as it meets the sky.(insert appropriate flw comment here)
    Kim, I have a question. Do you have any ideas for improving the appearance of the spindly vertical railing slats? I see them used everywhere for deck and porch enclosure. I understand they’re economical in cost and materials, but they look thin and too plain for their surroundings. Or is it just my own overly critical design bugaboo at work??ReplyCancel

    • Scott3.30.19 - 2:42 PM

      Hi Greg! In this case, we did what we could do to play off of the vertical railing slats and make sure we weren’t competing with the existing structural elements. While this is the most common railing style, we’ve definitely seen the standard 2″ x 2″ slats used in more unique designs.ReplyCancel

  • Aaron Hawes4.2.19 - 9:01 PM

    Hopefully I don’t make you kick yourself but did you look at the Toja Grid system at all? We’re about to do a 20’x13′ pergola/outdoor dining room using it. So versatile and customizable with shade or not if you don’t want.ReplyCancel

    • Kim4.2.19 - 10:21 PM

      Ooooh that’s gorgeous! Can’t wait to see how yours turns out!ReplyCancel

  • Catherine5.10.19 - 12:39 AM

    Does this structure have to fix to a wooden base? We have stone flagstones Many Many thanksReplyCancel

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